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Is Voice Search the Future of SEO?

Voice Search is Here: What you and your dealership need to know.

Every January I’m asked what the future of SEO will be. Some years the answers are simple. In the late 2000’s it was responsive web design, in 2013 it was contextual search with Hummingbird, and last year it was mobile-first indexing. The years between big changes the answer was, “Keep on following all established best practices.” But what about this year? Are there big algorithmic or behavioral changes on the horizon, or is 2020 another year of incremental growth?

My 9+ years in SEO has taught me to shy away from making bold statements, but in this case the evidence is clear: 2020 is the year where voice-search surpasses written searches and the era of smart everything offers major wins and some inevitable losses.

How did we get here so quickly? We didn’t. I’ll explain; it all starts with Hummingbird. In 2013 Google changed the game when its search engine introduced semantic search, using intent and contextual signals to alter results. This allowed Google to provide hyper-relevant information and real answers to broader, “less desirable” searches. All of a sudden we were able to search for something obscure like “the movie where kid sees dead people at the end” and Google was able to spit out The Sixth Sense as the top result instead of a bunch of articles that exactly matched “kid sees dead people” or “movie + kid.”

Semantic search leads the way for what now I believe will be the future of search. This is a future where we have conversations with our phone, it understands what we want, and finds the information on our behalf.

The benefit of this evolution is that the barrier to entry for searching for things on the internet becomes even lower. We’re inherently lazy creatures, so if we have to take an extra 2 minutes to read, or click through a few pages, or even type a long search, we end up just moving on with our day. This is the biggest upside to voice search. It solves all three of those problems, allowing more searches to be made and therefore more traffic to be had.

Problem 1. Too lazy to read an article for an answer? Voice-search is going to read you the exact piece of information you asked for, which eliminates the need to look for the answer in the article.

Problem 2. Don’t want to scroll through 10 pages with ads to know the top 10 pop songs? Voice-search will read the list out for you without you having to even look.

Problem 3. Don’t feel like typing out a 10-word question? Just say it out loud and your phone, smart speaker or smart device will do the typing for you.

According to a Google survey, voice activated devices “make life easier.” Here’s how, with the top 3 reasons users are using voice activated virtual assistants:

  1. It allows them to more easily multitask.
  2. It enables them to do things faster than other devices.
  3. It empowers them to instantly get answers and information.

That same survey also found that these same voice-activated speaker owners welcome brands as part of the experience, and they are open to receiving information that is helpful and relevant to their lifestyle. 52% of those surveyed would like to receive information about deals, sales, and promotions.

What does this mean for SEO?

What types of optimizations and new strategies are needed to take advantage of this emerging search type?

Be Mobile Friendly

Mobile-first came to be the standard shortly after mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic. This datapoint suggests a future where certain searches prefer or prioritize voice-first results once voice-search surpasses typed searches. Fortunately, optimizing for mobile devices overlaps with voice-search. The main things to concentrate on are: 1. Having a responsive website. 2. Improving your website’s load times. 3. Improving your site’s mobile friendliness.

Consider All Your New Keyword Opportunities

Voice-search technology opens up a whole new world of long tail and conversational keywords. If you were look for a guide on how to change your oil at home you might type “2019 Toyota Corolla Oil Change DYI” but using your phone’s voice-search that same query becomes “Ok Google, how do I change the oil on my 2019 Toyota Corolla in my garage?”

When typing isn’t a factor, the searcher tends to be more verbose. 6-10+ word queries are much more prevalent in voice-search, so you should be writing your content in a more conversational style.


Voice-search also tends to come in the form of a question. We speak to our devices, not at them, so optimizing your content for common problems and common questions surrounding your topics will help you capture these searches more effectively.

Clean Up Your Local Listings!

Voice-search’s rise in popularity correlates very well with the growth of “near me” searchers. For many, the default way of looking for directions on their phone is to simply ask Google. “Ok Google, Toyota dealership near me.” We talk about how important local listings are often (link to Wednesday Workshops or this one Wednesday Workshops) so you should already be implementing best practices when it comes to Google My Business or any other local listings. However, with voice-search becoming even more accessible the need to optimize your local listings is more important than ever.

Optimize for Rich Snippets! SEMRush’s Voice Search Study found that 70% of all answers returned from voice searches occupied a SERP feature (with 60% of those returning a Featured Snippet result). This makes acquiring rich snippets for popular searches a necessity. There are no guarantees when it comes to rich snippets but what we do know is that if you have properly integrated structured data you are more likely to be featured as a rich snippet. You can watch our video on structured data for more information.

What Is The Future Of SEO in 2020?

Thinking about the impact mobile phones and the mobile-first change in 2019, I expect that smart devices and a more voice-first change is likely to take place this year. The more comfortable we get with speaking to our smart devices and the more confident we are in their ability to answer us, the more likely we are to see a future where businesses are focused on voice search and its immense search potential.

What do you think? Is voice search the future of search? Or just another novelty destined to join the likes of Google Glass? Let us know in the comments below.'

Author Tony Soares

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