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How voice search is to play an increasingly larger role in our search behaviour

Author: Jason van Alphen, SEO consultant at Expand Online

 The advent of voice search is expanding in a tearing rush. Within a year, virtual assistants such as GoogleNow, Siri (Apple) and Cortana (Microsoft) have managed to secure a 10% share in the worldwide search volume. This is the same as 50 billion queries per month that take place by means of voice search. Apple announced last week that, in the new macOS Siera update in September, it will be standard to include Siri in the operating systems on all iMac computers MacBooks. This will only accelerate the trend.

The focus on a specific search word is becoming a thing of the past

Search words that are normally used in queries are slowly being replaced by natural language with more context. Whereas the emphasis used to be on writing one landing page for a single search word, we now observe a shift to a selection of search words that enhance one another. The semantics between search words contributes to a better findability.

Google Rankbrain, with which most SEO specialists are familiar, is getting increasingly better at recognising the context between certain subjects. In a recent update of Google’s Keyword Planner, we saw that as of recently volumes of search words are being added up in single and plural form and other coherent forms.

What is the extent of voice search?

 Artificial intelligence will sort out what a user is trying to achieve and will see the advantage in a larger context. An example: Instead of visiting the website of Domino’s and New York Pizza to see where my pizza is cheapest, it will probably become possible to ask Siri which deal will get me my pizza at the lowest price on Friday. Siri will ask if I want additional toppings, it will confirm my order and will tell me at what time my pizza will be delivered.

Viv, a new virtual assistant from the designers of Siri, is able to interpret and answer long questions. During a public demonstration in New York, Viv demonstrated its ability to precisely respond to questions such as: “Was it raining in Seattle three weeks ago?” and “Will it be warmer than 25 degrees in the late afternoon on the day after tomorrow in Rotterdam?”.

It became evident during the demonstration of the Google Assistant during Google’s I/O event that follow-up questions can be posed without reformulating the context. And so I could ask the following question: “Who was the founder of Google?” with the next question “Which courses of study did he take?”.

Another virtual assistant that has come a long way in terms of technology is Hound. Hound responds much faster than Siri, GoogleNow or Cortana.

Local findability will become even more important 

Where mobile phones are concerned, local voice searches will quickly play a much bigger role. And so make sure that your company or restaurant can be found via Google My Business. Did you know that three times as many local searches are made on a mobile phone than on a desktop? An important aspect of this concerns the presence of (mainly good) reviews, so that I can use a voice command like “Show me the burger restaurants with the best reviews” of “Show me the burger restaurants with a score of 4 or higher”.

Anticipate on micro-moments

 Micro-moments are moments that can be divided into the following four moments:

  • I want to know something
  • I want to go somewhere (nearby)
  • I want to do something
  • I want to buy something

These four elements demonstrate a strong growth on the basis of the type and number of search commands. These mainly concern moments when you are on the road or working on something and you want to quickly look something up on your mobile phone. According to Google Trends, this is strongly expanding in the Netherlands as well:

Source: Google Trends

So think carefully about the questions your customers may and when before determining your strategy. Make sure that you can help them at the right time with the right answer.

Stay ahead of the competition

 It is clear that the manner in which we conduct searches is changing, our voice commands will definitely differ from the queries that we currently enter in Google.

At present, there is no way to find out which voice commands people use in order to access your website. Google has indicated that this functionality will become available in the Search Console. The present-day search commands that are used to reach your website may provide insight into how searches will roughly be conducted.

There is one tip that I would like to point out, namely that the focus should no longer be on specific search words. Shift your attention to a coherent whole, context is becoming increasingly important. Try to answer the various questions that visitors may have and combine these on one strong page!