Voice search is becoming a category of its own in the SEO world. In order to understand how to cater to new and evolving voice search technologies, you need to understand more about how the technology works and how each voice search assistant performs differently, just as different search engines do.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 324 million people in the United States today and among those, 77% use smartphones that have voice search assistant technology. The biggest tech companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Samsung are reshaping the search landscape with voice search technology that acts as artificial intelligence extensions to their current search engines.
In this post, we’ll summarize some of the most popular and prevalent voice search technologies, highlighting each’s capabilities and opportunities for search optimization.
Amazon Alexa Voice Search
Amazon’s Alexa is a voice-enabled technology that uses intelligent natural voice control to recognize and respond to voice search requests instantly. It works on Amazon’s Echo, Echo Dot, or Fire TV devices. API updates have helped make the technology smarter and smarter over time. The API updates are available for companies to purchase so they can merge their technology with the Alexa technology. Doing this allows brands to create user friendly products and build better brand recognition with association to Amazon’s Alexa. Building a product using the Alexa API technology is one way to drive revenue, but it’s not the only way. Alexa has its own search algorithm based on Bing, which it uses to pull answers for queries. You can drive voice search traffic by creating landing pages that cater to Alexa’s users.
Alexa works best by asking it questions like:
- Trivia: “Who is [position] of [company]?”
- Education: “How many [units] are in a [units]?”
- Live News: “What is the score of the [team] game?”
- General Information: “How do you make a [topic]?”
Search results that cater to these types of questions help Alexa pull specific answers quickly. It answers questions it’s programmed to answer in a specific way. Using commands for simple tasks and simple questions give the best results. This video of senior citizens interacting with the technology highlights some of Alexa’s limitations and strengths. Even with its current limitations, there are opportunities for optimization. And, since the Alexa technology is ever-evolving, there are likely to be even more opportunities in the future. In fact, Alexa recently launched its new functionality Arcadia that allows customers to invoke skills that haven’t been enabled.
Google Voice Search
Google Voice Search technology has been developing since its release in 2011. It works by first using NLP (natural language processing) and TTS (text to speech) to understand the voice search request. Requests are then processed through Google’s search engine database to match user intent to an outcome in a search result. Google voice search reports the top results from Google’s search engine. There isn’t a fact checking process unless the result falls under Google News. Amazon’s Alexa won’t answer a question with a result that is not proven accurate, but Google will deliver whatever the top result is regardless of if it’s been proven correct. Given this, there is ample opportunity to create a landing page giving users a better and more accurate answer.
Using several types of commands to assist with user intent, there are other ways to provide content that is compatible for Google Voice Assistant technology:
- To Get Answers: You can provide simple questions and answers on your website that your site has authority to answer.
- To Entertain: You can provide content using different formats like video, pictures, articles, blog post, etc. to engage your potential customers by entertaining them.
- To Help Keep Tabs on Travel: Google Voice search works well with Google Maps for guiding people in travel. It also has potential for other marketing initiatives. Marketers in the travel industry can provide travel tips and tricks to grab search traffic. This is especially useful for OTAs (online travel agencies).
Microsoft Cortana Voice Search
Microsoft’s Cortana technology works similarly to Amazon’s Alexa in that it’s powered by Bing, but Cortana can work on other search engines like Google, and it can work on all devices using Windows (not just the Echo devices). With Cortana you can also either talk or type to get search assistance. Cortana is essentially an intelligent text-analyzer that can interpret requests however they come.
Cortana technology is trying to break into other industries to improve integration with search and devices. For example, Windows is partnering with Nissan and BMW to help create built-in search capabilities to revolutionize the car industry.
Voice search using Bluetooth capabilities has already made driving safer, but what if your car could have Cortana or another voice assistant already built in that could prevent a lot of car accidents? It would prevent you from having to touch anything except the wheel to drive while still being able to use a technology assistant. Voice search technology has potential to change more than just SEO.
Apple Siri Voice Search
Siri technology uses many processing systems to create the best outcome for a voice request. It uses NLP speech recognition, question analysis, data mashups, and machine artificial intelligence learning. Siri interprets requests by communicating with cloud servers to retrieve information, then filters that data through Google.
Siri’s answers are limited like all voice search technologies thus far, and to prompt Siri you have to touch a button. Siri works best when you use human language based queries like: “Find the closest gas station near me.” Integration with Google maps is pretty seamless, so if your business has local search presence in close proximity to a user there is potential for search traffic.
Upcoming: Samsung ‘Bixby’ Voice Search
Samsung has started to follow in the footsteps of the other mega tech companies and invest energy and resources into voice search technology. In late 2016, Samsung bought Viv, an AI voice assistant technology.
Fun fact: The co-founder of Viv was also the co-founder of Siri Voice technology.
Rumor has it that Samsung is creating its own voice search assistant and that it will be called Bixby. The technology will probably be largely integrated within their products, especially the Samsung Galaxy 8. Samsung has been tight-lipped about Viv, making its goal and use of the technology unclear. However, unofficial statements have rumored that this new technology will have an integrated system for very easy conversion buying. For example, if you ask it to ”Book a hotel room in Maui under $250 for 4 days starting April 17,” it will deliver a relevant result and then, with a simple voice confirmation, the technology will use your saved financial information to make the reservation. You could book a room in a matter of seconds. With a smaller amount of search real estate, competition will be high, but it can be very profitable if optimized wisely.
How To Optimize Voice Search Technologies
As voice search technology stands today, despite data limitations, there are 4 valuable things you can do to capitalize on this emerging SEO category.
- Optimize Your Local Search Presence
Many voice requests are about asking for the best place or business to visit or use, but users typically don’t know exactly where they want to go when searching. This creates an opportunity for marketers.
For example, it’s dinner time and a person is on the road. They pick up their phone and say something like, “Find the best Italian restaurant in Boston. Or “Find a burger place near me”. Each voice request has a SERP where relevant businesses should try to gain visibility.
Local search is largely about proximity, so make sure that your business is updated in Google and other search engines to help users find directions or look up your business hours. For more local search help, local SEO experts from Search Engine Watch have provided a guide to boost your local search listings with best practices.
- Use Humanized Language in Content
When people search on a desktop or mobile device, users typically type a search query like: “George Clooney age,” but if they were speaking a voice search request, then they would probably use a more natural way of phrasing it like, “What is George Clooney’s age?”
People talk to their voice assistant technology like it’s a human. They use natural language that they would use as if they were asking a friend or a family member that same question. Although a voice assistant is made out of metal and has an artificial encyclopedia for a brain, it will try to respond like a human.
Asking your voice assistant questions using: who, what, why, how, where, which, produces the best results. Marketers should account for this in their content optimizations and provide users with answers to all kinds of questions. Answer the Public is a great way to research what kind of questions people are asking.
- Add Schema Markup
Schema markup has been shown to make the voice search experience better because you help search engines better understand what is on a page and relay that information to users. You can use different schema markup depending on your website and its CRM editing capabilities, along with which search engine you are optimizing for. To help direct you on which schema you can use, Structured Data Markup Helper can help guide you to success.
- Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
The majority of people use their mobile device for voice search requests. This makes it important for your website to be mobile-friendly in order to maximize voice search traffic. To get started, the Google Mobile-Friendly Test or Google Search Console can help you get a sense of whether your site needs improvement in this area.
In its current state, voice search can provide helpful assistance for simple questions and tasks, but as it evolves, it will become more sophisticated and capable of addressing more advanced and complex tasks. It will create new types of SERPs that search marketers will have to adapt to, so they can capitalize on voice queries and traffic. The evolution of voice search will also help deliver better consumers experiences. Voice search technology will collect vast amounts of information, allowing it to know what you want before you even ask for it. It will help condense all the noise on the Internet and relay the best possible result for the best personal experience. SEO targeting will have to be more personalized to keep up with voice search technology.
Interest in learning more about how marketers need to adapt in the age of voice search? Check out Andrew Ruegger’s latest Marketing Land article for additional insight and perspective on how voice search is changing the search landscape.