Google released an amazing statistic last week – some 20% of searches on mobile are now by voice. Allowing for about 50% or more searches being mobile these days, we can conclude more than 10% of searches are voice searches.

Don’t listen to the doubters

Have you used Google Now (multi-platform), Siri (iOS) or Cortana (Windows mobile) to make a search? Or have you installed the Google app (the one you use for searches) on your mobile device? That offers mobile search, too.

Casting around my contacts the other day, I found just a few who were using voice search regularly. But we’re tied to our desktops and laptops most of the day. And for most of us, that’s our own desktops and laptops, not our employers’. So we make desktop searches, not even conventional mobile searches.

But several recent surveys such as this one commissioned by software company MindMeld (reported by Search Engine Land) have reported on the increased adoption of voice search recently.

Graph showing when people adopted voice search

Voice Search is being adopted rapidly

Think about the trends and the technologies

As smartphones have become many people’s primary way of using the Internet, mobile search has overtaken desktop search. Voice recognition is advancing by leaps and bounds. And the benefits of using your voice to interact with your phone are being sold hard by the phone brands and the networks.

And now Google is starting to promote awareness of the next stage in search evolution.

…and the practicalities

In many cases, people aren’t using voice because it’s easy – try making a voice search in a noisy environment – or because it’s new. It’s because it’s the easiest way to make a search. What do you do when you’re driving, riding a bike or even just overloaded with shopping?

What’s so different about voice searches?

As Google devotes its resources to providing results to spoken searches, the SEO community and webmasters need to keep up. That means we need to provide content that will attract those voice searchers.

If we are to provide a new or additional kind of content, we are assuming voice search is somehow different from regular search. Google thinks there’s something fundamentally different. But how do voice searches differ from regular searches?

As SEOs, writers and webmasters, we have to understand the nature of the voice searches people are making.

Typing vs speaking

A typical typed search will be quite terse and feature little more than keywords, say ‘fish and chips littlehampton’. Compare that to voice searches, which tend to be more exact – say ‘fish and chips open near me’.

Long tail search

Long tail search is not new. It’s being part of the armoury of most SEOs for some years. But now it’s coming into its own. Most voice searches are long tail searches.

Just as a recap, long time search is a specific search containing at least three or four words. So almost any expression that we use for voice search will fall into this category naturally – that is, very few things that we say are shorter then three or four words. No jokes, please!

How to write content for voice search

Here are a few hacks that will enable you to write well for voice search.

Write conversationally

Many are urging us to write conversationally. Frankly, I’m not keen on this advice. I’d say ‘write naturally’, as in make the tone and style informal and involving. You need at least two participants for a conversation. And conversation has its own rules and ideas of what is acceptable.

 

Example of conversational English

Conversational English just looks wrong in most writing

Although you’re looking to make your SEO effective for voice search, don’t try to make your copy read like actual speech or one side of a conversation. Readers usually react badly to what they see is bad writing.

Understand ‘user intent’

In English? Understand what the search really means. Google has been working on semantic search for some time. It has been drilling down through the surface of a search query into its meaning.

Make your content reflect the user’s intent, and Google voice search will match up the searchers with your page.

Look for key phrases that are questions

You need to extend the scope of your Key Phrase Research to cover questions. They’re the searches where the user is can be expressing their intent clearly and unequivocally.

That means they’re a powerful tool for your content strategy. My favourite ways to use them are in subheads and in FAQs. Once again, we find ourselves considering how to use what we go in the SEO domain naturally in content. Thankfully, in this case, it’s easy to apply questions naturally.

A great place to find customer questions is my old favourite, Keywordtool.io. When you research a keyword on the site, there is a second tab that shows questions that people have been asking. Just go through them and pick out the ones that fit a story that you’re trying to tell.

But don’t forget your Local SEO

Let’s pretend for a moment that you do own a fish and chip shop. It’s an archetypal local business. So don’t forget to support your content by setting up all the local SEO measures that I’ve talked about in The Writer’s Guide to Local SEO.

Associate your key phrase research with your local SEO needs and consider the kind of local searches that may be made by voice. When the searcher says ‘near here’, Google knows where ‘here’ is because it knows the position of the phone.

When you ask for the best ice cream using voice search on your mobile, Google fills in the gaps and concludes your intent is to find out where the best ice cream is close to you.

Few people are using voice search at the desktop, But even then Google would know that this was a static nor mobile search because of the data coming from your desktop.

Measurement

Here’s everyone’s Achilles’ Heel with SEO for voice search. There’s no clear-cut way of separating out voice search traffic that I’ve found. Instead, you need to look for the key phrases that you’ve chosen for voice search within your data.

Until Google (or any other search engine) labels voice searches, or a suitable SEO tool is launched, that’s all we can do. But the lack of specific data shouldn’t stop you thinking about how you can make your site and content more helpful to people who choose to use voice search.

So, there we are. The state of voice search for writers in June 2016. I’m sure I’ll be returning to this topic again, as voice search is evolving so fast.

How are you approaching voice search? Do you have any questions about this guide?

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