You are probably relatively familiar with voice search. Most of us have it on our phones. Programs like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Echo, or even Google Assistant. All of these systems have the same basic features, you are able to speak to them and they will do something for you. Whether that is pull up search results, find you the nearest pizza shop, deliver directions to an address, or any other number of commands.
When first introduced these systems were not widely adopted, primarily because the systems really did not perform that well – especially in search. Well, that has changed, Google’s speech recognition error rate is down to only 8% and Microsoft leads the industry with a 6.3% recognition error rate.
Not only has accuracy increased but their abilities have also improved dramatically. Facebook’s M (which recently was released to integrate with their Messenger app) is able to perform actions on your behalf such as placing orders, booking a cab, or even suggesting payment options for those concert tickets your friend just bought you.
So how does the increased use of personal assistants change anything? Well, it is changing how people are finding websites and how they are searching. In fact between 2008 and 2016 our adoption of voice search grew by over 3500%. This has prompted many changes in how search engines are crawling, understanding, and indexing your website. Last year we wrote about How Virtual Assistants are Changing Search. Not much has really changed – we are simply further along our journey with increased adoption and integration.
Queries are becoming more natural. longer, and less keyword focused. Instead of being focused on specific keywords, searches are becoming more focused on the intent. Intent can be found through machine learning and an increase in data – the more data Google can gather on various searches, queries, and text strings the better it understands user intent.
All of this boils down to two points you, as a business owner, need to be aware of. First, keyword importance will diminish in the coming years, and according to Rand Fishkin, already has started happening. Some experiments within his own company, Moz, suggest that Rand may be overestimating the diminishing effect of keywords. However, the article authors do believe in the diminishing relevance of keywords and the transition to contextual relevancy based targeting is coming. Intent and user experience will become more important factors than just keywords.
As a business owner you need to tailor your SEO efforts to ideas, concepts, and phrases. Build your website around a couple of key ideas and concepts. If you are a coffee house your website should be built to show where you are located, who you are, why you are better than the competition, and what you offer. Use natural language and talk to the customer online, this will in turn be able to talk to the virtual assistants – the ones doing the voice searches, and get your business in front of the customer.
The second idea you should be aware of is the increased focus on local search. Local search will help you capture “near me” and other instant intent searches. By optimizing your various business listings you can build a cloud of location based information to feed the local search algorithm. Google My Business pages are a very good source of information that voice search can easily access without leaving the search results. Making sure your company name, phone number, address, postal code, hours of operation, and any other relevant details are all correct, identical, and up-to-date will go a long way to improving your local search results.
As voice search continues to improve so will it’s adoption. As it grows it will continue to shape and change the way search engines read, index, and serve webpages. This means we, as business owners and marketers, need to be willing to adapt. Content on our websites need to be continually revived and optimized. As of yet we are not at the point where keywords are irrelevant and still need to be given due time, however, when creating new content think about writing it as though you were speaking naturally and not just for search engines.