One of the predictions I made in my blog “PREDICTING SEO TRENDS 2020 – 5 New Trends and What’s Out” was how voice search will dominate the search procedure in search engines, most especially Google. Now that it already rolled out BERT, which is user-focused, optimizing titles, keywords, content, and the meta to make them readable by the voice search robots of the search engines is the right thing to do.

Now that 2020 entered, we will start seeing content shifting to pleasing human users than search engine robots. In fact, this trend started early in 2019 and it will continue to be the rule as long as BERT is implemented. Who knows, the algorithm after BERT will place more emphasis on searches becoming more pro-human.

With the world quickly transitioning towards a hands-free digital world, mobile phone makers made it a point to integrate voice assistant capabilities in their phones. And to keep up with this trend, search engines want to make the tech useful so it is now favoring contents that are searchable through voice. 

Mobile devices equipped with AI tech make voice search possible rather than typing them. However, there seems to be a difference in showing results compared to their text-based counterparts. This is especially because people use natural speaking rather than using keywords when they search. It’s as if users are naturally speaking with a family or friend. And because of this fact, that search engine algorithms were changed. 

This is a clear sign that voice search integration is now a must-include in your SEO techniques this 2020. So in this article, I will help you delve into the current adoption and potential growth of voice search, how it changes your SEO strategies, the problems you might encounter, the opportunities it presents, and tips on how to optimize your content for voice search.

Current Adoption Status of Voice Search

Nearly 27% of 2,000 people surveyed use voice search at least once a week, and approximately 22% of these use it every single day – a number expected to grow as AI continues to improve and new devices reach the market every year.

Google trends – Voice Search Interest over time

Voice search is an easier way of searching for users. It is greatly advantageous to them as they can search the internet for answers while they are doing something else. This is especially useful when users can’t use any of their hands to type their queries on the search engine. As for content writers and digital marketers, voice search means writing direct answers to these naturally-spoken queries. 

If they asked Google “where is the best restaurant near me that’s within 1 kilometer radius?,” Then you should answer directly in your meta description or first paragraphs (before delving deeper into the topic), “The best restaurant in Singapore Orchard Road (which may be within 1 kilometer radius from the user) is the Chinese restaurant Crystal Jade Golden Place” before mentioning the reasons why it is the best. I will discuss more of this later.

When in doubt whether to optimize your content for voice search or not, consider the fact that almost all gadgets now have speakers, not just the smartphones. Tablets and iPads are with speakers already and even smartwatches and AR glasses. AI devices like Alexa is also voice-activated. So there’s no wonder that people are adopting this form of search more and more. 

With all these said, text-based commands may become fewer now while voice search takes over.

Voice Search Affects SEO

Text-based commands are still alive and won’t completely disappear. But digital marketers need to adapt to the new trend to rank on Google. Since BERT was introduced, rankings changed, giving favor to those who optimize their content for voice searches. Following this, SEO will change according to:

1. Length of queries

Since people are now speaking with the engine naturally, they now tend to ask questions in a more natural way or complete phrases and sentences. This is different from the text-based searches which are usually just 2-4 words long. This is why I added in my prediction about keywords being more natural. 

2. Question-based searches

Apart from being longer, user queries are now turning into questions rather than the usual keyword queries. The AI in devices are also being updated to improve user experience since many reported disappointment when their voice searches don’t show the right answers or when it can’t understand the question. So from “voice search and SEO” which is very vague now becomes “how will voice search affect SEO?” which is more specific. The results shown by these two queries differ since the first one is a very general query and will give results that aren’t useful, making users waste time from browsing through the results, while the latter is more specific, hence also giving specific results. This is why it’s important to look at keywords in a question form as part of your content strategy.

3. Queries with clear intent

The question that the user asks through voice search reveals the level of intent he has. This intent is highly important in identifying high- value questions to strategize not just for SEO but also for marketing. Hence, using natural language in your content to match consumer searches will help you rank higher.

Problems and Opportunities in Voice Search

Like any other change that happened in SEO, voice search also has its own set of unique opportunities and problems. 

I – Probable Issues

Now that voice search queries are in the form of questions, it is important to build your content very accurately to answer these questions. That said, marketers and content writers need to exert more effort in researching about what users may want to know and how they ask questions. 

Here’s a pro tip: Don’t focus on keywords in the form of questions that only require a one-word answer like yes or no. You’ll only lose out on traffic when you do. The users will be redirected, instead, to machine answers. Simply put, build content around queries that need in-depth explanation. Or answer questions with more details than just the query they have.. 

II – Opportunities to capitalize on

Google is becoming more intelligent that it is now interacting with users in a more natural way through its BERT algo and now the voice search. It can now interpret a huge variety of voice searches, so you no longer have to be stiff in writing your content. But quality is still a requirement so don’t just go on a typing spree and still work on giving substance to your content. Don’t just type anything you can think about. Make sure that your grammar and spelling are correct. 

Furthermore, voice search can now interpret queries based on context. Google looks into the depth of your content and ranks you according to how you answer natural queries and not keyword-based. So make sure you incorporate natural language in your content and use question keywords with slightly broader contextual ones and you will surely get a higher chance of ranking on search engines. 

Finally, location is at the forefront of voice search SEO. People usually search products and services based on geo locations so take advantage of this fact and focus on answers that point to local establishments. If you are a marketer and business owner, leveraging geolocation in your content will up your business listings. 

The Future of Voice Search in SEO

voice search

Voice search is here and it is here to stay. It’s very unlikely for it to go away in the future with search engines focusing on improving their users’ experience and users want convenience. In the coming years, the AI and machine learning in charge of voice search will continue to grow exponentially so your SEO techniques should be upgraded to keep up with the changes. 

Content remains to be the king in this SEO game. If you have blogs that are already raking on Google, you need to rewrite them so that they comply with the new voice search requirements. 

In addition to the above, people typing a query into a search engine and people undertaking a voice-activated command are often looking for different things. Remember my example earlier on asking search engines about voice search and SEO? The questions were different so the results are also different. The more specific query gives you the more relevant answers. But since text-based queries aren’t going to disappear soon, you need to write a content that will appeal to both. Challenging? I know, but that’s how you’ll rank on Google and other major search engines.

To help you out, I am leaving some tips on how you can adapt voice search in your content.

3 Steps on How to Optimize for Voice Search

After looking into the problems and opportunities you may meet in adapting voice search, let’s now check on how you implement techniques on your business. 

1. Focus on long-tail keywords with complete thought

You might have been settled with the thought that long-tail keywords mean phrases with 3-4 words. It’s party correct, but the definition isn’t enough. Long-tail keywords in this voice search era mean keywords that give direct answers to questions. In other words, they may already be in the form of a sentence and it should be conversational. Hence, focus on long-tail keywords that are in the form of conversational questions and queries.

Research on what specific words users are using in their queries to find products and services. And don’t forget to build your answer to complex questions that a machine cannot.

2. Capitalize on schema markup

Learn about schema markup and how it can add context to your existing content. Schema markup is used to help search engines better understand what your content or website is about. This will then help you rank higher than those neglect this technique. There’s, in fact, only 0.3% of all websites that are using schema markup today. So when you apply schema markup, you are capitalizing on a huge source of SEO.

3. Be mobile-friendly

As I said, mobile phones and other mobile devices now support voice search. Target the users of these kinds of devices since people are now less commonly using laptops or computers just to research on a nearby laundry shop or a restaurant to eat at. If your website is slow, doesn’t load, or isn’t optimized for mobile users, it’s likely consumers landing on your website will leave straight away. Optimize your content and website for all kinds of brands too like Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. Optimize for different types of gadgets too like smartphones, tablets, and computers.

One Final Tip: Use Voice Search Like Your Customers Do

There is no doubt that voice search is now on the rise and that it will soon dominate the way we tap search engines for our queries. As a marketer, you don’t be foolish and turn a blind eye to it. To be on top of the competition, you need to learn how to appear in voice searches. To do so, you should put yourself in the shoes of consumers. What could they possibly ask when looking for a dress shop? What questions do they ask when they are searching for SEO agencies? From there, you can now start building your content. 

The future of SEO is natural language processing. So stay ahead of your competitors and be conversational in your blogs.

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