You may well have seen that recently we sent two of our digital experts along to Search Leeds, to find out what’s hot right now in the SEO industry. One of the topics that dominated the event was voice search; the latest phenomenon that’s gearing up to rock the industry. With that in mind, we thought it worth giving you a quick inside peek on how voice search is about to change the world.
The future is officially here. Instead of silently typing queries into our devices, we’re now asking them questions. Put like that, it sounds like a very simple and natural change – but it’s having some dramatic and fascinating implications for the world of SEO.
Voice search accounted for what was termed a ‘negligible’ amount of search queries as recently as 2014. Today though, over half of all Google searches are made on a smartphone, and of those, 20% are voice commands. We’ve done the maths for you; basically, around 1 in 10 searches are now voice searches, making them impossible to ignore in modern SEO. So, how did we get here?
There are a couple of reasons, of course, but a big one is the rise of digital personal assistants. We’re sure you can name a couple off the top of your head; there’s Google’s “OK Google” Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon Echo’s Alexa. These – and others like them – have been credited with popularising voice search globally, and it’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing.
Another reason for the rapid growth is partially because of convenience; people like the idea of browsing the web at home when their hands are busy with, say, washing up or tidying. The technology is evolving rapidly too, helping people to feel more comfortable around them. Alexa can not only play music for you, but can read you the news, or help you identify an actor you vaguely recognise. It will even share pop culture jokes with you!
All these things are subtly designed to help you form an attachment to it (her), and think of her as almost as if she were alive. This then encourages the tendency to perform searches and commands using ‘natural language’, as you’d use with a human rather than a search engine.
Pay attention to those words ‘natural language’ – they’re pretty key in what we’ve got to say next!
As you’ve no doubt gathered, the SEO industry is already in the grip of some serious breaking waves from this emerging technology. Obviously there are lots of branching elements, but we’ll keep it simple for now. Mainly, it boils down to these two main points: the way people search is changing, and the way website structures will change in response.
Changes In Search
If you read our blog on Search Leeds you’ll already know about Micro Moments. They’re based around the idea that a user’s journey begins with a question, which is categorised by an intention, namely one of these: “I want to know”, “I want to do” or “I want to buy”.
But now, natural language is featuring far more heavily in these searches as they make the move into speech. Google reports that natural language is involved in 70% of the queries that Google Assistant fields. That means that people aren’t saying just “nearby shoe stores”, they’re saying “OK Google, are there any shoe stores near here?”
This poses an interesting challenge. Website owners and marketers are used to optimising for short keywords and phrases. Now though, searches are becoming more fluid and conversational, shifting the focus from short, single keywords onto longer, fuller sentences.
Changes In Site Structure
With such dramatic changes occurring in search, sites will eventually have to restructure themselves to keep up with this change. It’s likely going to involve inventing whole new sets of design principles and guidelines to reflect the natural language of human conversation, rather than the disjointed phrases and words that currently make up a lot of written searches.
As you might imagine though, that’s quite far down a very long road. Though the technology is far more advanced than it was as little as five or ten years ago, it’s important to remember that it’s still developing. It’s a good idea to start thinking about how your site could be optimised for voice search, but don’t panic if it’s not just yet – statistically, still very few sites are!
At Twentyone, we’re fully committed to staying abreast of the latest industry developments, especially something as game-changing as voice search. Keeping up to date is one of the main ways we’re able to continue delivering fantastic service to you, our customers. We offer a range of services including Web Development and Digital Consultancy, all aimed at helping you to make it on the web.
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