“The future of SEO is here: understanding and marketing to specific and defined audiences through search engines.”
– Adam Audette, senior vice-president of organic search at Merkle
This statement may have been true at one time, but in today’s world, the future of SEO is still coming — and it’s coming fast.
Google, Siri, and Cortana are currently in the midst of permanently altering the way people search online.
As these voice activated personal assistants continue to proliferate digital technology and people’s daily lives, folks are realizing that searching in this manner is faster and easier than typing in queries; especially on mobile devices.
One year ago, Google engineer Behshad Behzadi gave a keynote speech at SMX West indicating that voice search is the fastest growing form of search.
This seems to be a fair assessment considering that just two months later Google CEO Sundar Pichai said voice search accounted for 20 percent of the queries posed through its mobile app; and this number is steadily growing.
ComScore has predicted that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be initiated by voice commands.
MediaPost believes that by that same year, 30 percent of searches will happen without a screen.
A report from Technavio indicates the possibility of voice recognition becoming a $601 million industry by 2019.
What all of this points to is a major transformation in the way people search online. And with a massive alteration in search patterns, SEO is sure to be altered forever.
So how exactly will SEO change? Let’s explore.
The (Potential) Death of Short Tail Keywords
There has been some debate as of late about if Google is actively trying to kill keyword research through its algorithm updates.
The prominence of voice search might just deal the death knell to short-tailed keywords.
As conversational queries are typically longer than typed questions, short-tail keywords are beginning to lose their potency.
This means that brands must begin to optimize their sites for long-tailed conversational keywords by incorporating these phrases into content and on-site materials.
While short tailed keywords are not likely to die off completely, they surely will be playing a much smaller role in the voice-activated Web.
Mobile Search Rules the Roost
Mobile has already toppled desktop when it comes to searches. A recent report from Hitwise claims that mobile searches in the U.S. have reached a staggering 58 percent of search query volume.
This information, coupled with the sizable increase of Smartphone adoption or upgrades year-over-year, means that millions upon millions are purchasing devices preloaded with these types of virtual assistants. In fact, one VoiceLabs report shows that in 2017 “. . . 25 million devices will be shipped, bringing the total number of voice-first devices to 33 million in circulation.”
Back in 2014, Google released a blog detailing that 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults use voice search multiple times per day. Since then, the number has skyrocketed in correlation with the number of voice-driven devices.
What all of this means, in conjunction with Google’s mobile-first index, is that small screen devices are where the future of search lies.
Marketers should be prioritizing this format above all others.
Love for Locals
Considering that mobile voice searches are three times more likely to relate to local solutions than text-based queries, brick-and-mortar business owners have massive opportunities ahead of them.
In order for local shops to capitalize on the evolution of search, they must optimize keyword strategies to top the mobile SERPs and be found by customers.
Local businesses can begin to see a mobile rankings boost by including any notable landmarks in their copy, incorporating neighborhood descriptions in natural language, and including intent based keywords.
These types of indicators will help drive mobile searchers to find local businesses with greater ease.
Plus, this information ties in to the next major shift to the SEO landscape:
Intent is likely the most significant change to come to SEO via the voice search movement because natural language communicates an individual’s intentions much more clearly.
People who search on desktop versus those who search on mobile are often asking two entirely different things. For instance, a person who types their query into an engine from a desktop computer is likely in some sort of research phase. Those who are speaking their question into a mobile device, however, are far more likely to be searching for an instant answer or a local solution to the quandary.
For now, businesses still need to cater to both crowds, while placing higher importance on mobile for action-oriented queries.
Ultimately, this will have a significant impact on ad bids and content production.
The key to achieving higher rankings for mobile voice commands is to establish which questions and phrases are of highest value to your organization. Afterwards, begin optimizing for those keywords.
It is also recommended to include filler words in the questions you seek to answer; words like “to,” “the,” “me,” “for,” and other commonly used words when asking questions.
These need to be as conversational as possible considering this is how mobile voice users will present their questions.
Voice search is not going away anytime soon. The longer this technology exists, the more prominent it will become in society and the more impactful it will be on the SERPs.
As more and more personal assistants like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa are introduced into the consumer marketplace, the more controlling long-tailed, conversational queries will become.
Don’t wait until the movement has already taken effect. Begin implementing these changes to your keyword strategy, on-site copy, blogs, ads, and other digital creatives immediately because the change is already underway.