Mobile web search has radically altered the landscape of search engine optimization. Today, voice search may be about to do the exact same thing. Customers are increasingly using the voice search on their mobile devices and IOT devices, such as smart speakers, to find and order products. For retail websites, Voice Search SEO offers some tremendous opportunities to best the competition.
What is Voice Search
Whenever someone asks their phone “Where is the closest Mexican restaurant?” they are conducting a voice search. Voice searches rely upon natural language processing, to determine what the user is saying and turn it into something that the device can understand. The device then parses the search looking for keywords to build out the query results. Finally, it sends along the query results to a search engine, similar to how text-based searches are performed.
Voice searches are usually filtered through the default search engine of the device. A Microsoft phone will search through Bing, and Android phone will search through Google, and an Apple phone will search through Safari. This is also true for Amazon smart speakers, Apple HomePods, and Google Home. Regardless of where the search is being conducted, it’s happening behind the scenes and after some amount of natural language processing. Most voice searches are going to be tailored to the context of the search itself. Consequently, it may return results differently than a text-based search.
How Voice Search Works for Retail Websites
Voice search is most notably changing the way that retail websites work. If a customer asks their phone, “Where can I buy a leather sofa?” the phone is going to respond with a locally generated list of where the customer can purchase sofas. This is going to be a geographically-targeted list; most customers, when using voice search, are trying to find a place that is local to them.
These aren’t just brick-and-mortar locations, but also eCommerce storefronts. Voice search will respond not only with the location of these items, but with their price, and whether they’re in stock. Google’s search, for instance, relies heavily upon their Google Shopping results. These results are separate from traditional “Web” search results, in that they come from marketplaces that are registered with Google’s search engine.
If you ask “Where can I buy a leather sofa online?” you’ll get a slightly different experience — the voice search will almost always try to give you the top result of one of its marketplace listings, regardless of location. However, you may still note that these search results are going to rely upon listings that have been registered as “product” listings. The question begs, “How does Voice Search and SEO change my strategy online?” Learn how to optimize for voice search later. Let’s dive into the details.
Transition of SEO Strategy with Voice Search
Search results are becoming tailored to each individual user. User input is decreasing, while contextual input is increasing. As searches gradually shift more from text-input towards voice-input, here are a few notable changes we’ll see when it comes to voice search and organic search behavior:
- Long tail keywords are getting longer, to compensate for contextual portions of a query. A long-tail keyword is a keyword with extra modifiers, related to a very specific item. A “leather couch” is a regular keyword, but a long-tail keyword might be “leather couch with built-in cup holders.” When searching through voice search, a customer may say “Where can I buy a leather couch?” but what they really mean is “Where can I buy a leather couch in Encinitas, CA?” The latter part of the query is not spoken or typed, but it’s implied, through the context of the customer being in that location.
- Voice queries themselves are quite short. Text-based queries will be fairly long, such as typing in “movie showtimes in Louisville, KY.” A voice query, on the other hand, could be as short as just “movies.” This is interesting because it means that the input from the user can actually be quite low, with the majority of the query being built by the device or the application instead. Understanding this is going to be critical to targeting queries, as the users are no longer in control of the full content of their queries.
- Many of the longer voice queries come in the form of natural language questions. These are questions such as “Who was Henrietta Lacks?” or “Where is the largest ball of twine stored?” Natural language processing is becoming a very important interface for all types of device. As natural language processing becomes better, it’s likely that queries will be seen such as “Where did I eat last night?” or “When did that happen?”
In short, the way that customers interact with their devices has changed. Customers are now using more intuitive interfaces for their devices — and the devices themselves are doing the heavy lifting based on the perception of the customer’s needs. Regardless of what type of phone or smart home device you have, your searches are being tailored to you and your needs.
How to optimize for Voice Search
When developing an SEO strategy, the customer always comes first. In marketing terms, that means that whatever the customer wants is the product that you should sell. In SEO terms, it means that whatever the customer is searching for is what you should provide.
So how should you optimize your retail site?
- Focus more on local content. In fact, even if a user isn’t specifically geo-targeting their phrasing, it’s likely that their query is going to be geo-targeted regardless. Retail stores, in particular, need to consider this and need to perform additional local SEO. This is actually a boon to retail businesses; suddenly, a retail business doesn’t have to compete with global or national SEO. Instead, they can focus on optimizing their SEO solely for their audience.
- Try to answer questions and search queries. The vast majority of questions going through voice search are in the form of a regular, natural language question. You can give yourself an SEO boost by preemptively answering many of these questions on your blogs. This is a good way to build content and authority for your website.
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Voice searches are primarily coming from mobile phones and tablets. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, not only will it not provide a solid user-experience, but it may not even show up on the search ranking. Search engines like Google have automated methods of telling whether a website is “mobile-friendly,” and won’t promote websites that aren’t responsive on a mobile platform.
- Update your profiles. Your business profiles on Google, Bing, and social media platforms are now more important than ever, as search engines are pulling a lot of your information from them. Things like “where is the closest place to buy furniture?” aren’t going to work for your furniture store if your address, hours, and contact information aren’t logged correctly.
Mobile traffic now accounts for 51% of all web traffic. Despite this, far more search queries are being done on mobile devices than desktop platforms, with double the mobile search queries being performed. The use of voice search is only going to increase with time — and as it does, search engine optimization is going to change. Users are now conducting web searches for everything from their televisions to their refrigerators, and each of these searches is going to be a little different in terms of their results. Retailers are going to need to understand the way that SEO is evolving in order to better reach their customers.
At the same time, this type of SEO disruption offers tremendous opportunities for those who are willing to learn and adapt. Businesses that can build into their niche and develop out their local, mobile-optimized content are going to be able to leap ahead of the competition. It will simply be a race to see who can adapt to the changes first. Subscribe to our newsletter or follow our blog to stay on top of the shifting trends before they happen to your website.