When you hear the words ‘Search Engine Optimsation’, you probably only think of Google’s results pages. You probably think about searching for things by typing on your phone or tapping away at the keyboard.

But, Search Engines are not limited to just Google and aren’t just limited to typing. Search Engines can vary from your typical Google to searching on Spotify, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and in the past few years, through voice-enabled devices.

  • In recent years, voice-enabled devices have taken over homes with recent statistics showing that 41% of adults use voice search at least once per day.
  • Whilst Google recently reported that 27% of the online global population is using voice search on mobile.
  • And nearly 40 million Americans currently own a smart speaker.

What is Voice Search and What are Voice-Enabled Devices?

Voice search is simply speech recognition technology that allows a user to search by vocally saying phrases rather than manually typing them into a search engine. Due to the existential advances in technology, devices such as mobile phones, speakers and TV have the capabilities of changing what you say into text/information that it can read.

Voice search has been around for many years and voice recognition devices date back to 1952, with a machine named ‘Audrey’ being able to turn vocalised numbers into digits. Over half a century later, and voice search has advanced to offer easy to access information at the tip of the tongue with Google’s Android devices offering it and Apple’s iPhone with Siri.

It’s important to note that voice search and voice recognition isn’t the same thing, but voice search needs voice recognition to function. Voice recognition being the ability for a device to understand what a user is saying, whilst voice search making use of this information to retrieve a search result for the user.

What role does Voice Search play in SEO?

It’s clear with the statistics of device usage and the advances in technology that we’re moving into a world of technology where voice search is a big part of the digital age. And with this, comes the important question: If people are searching with their voice, how do I as an SEO specialist get to the top of that ‘results page’?

Recent updates from Google have steered the results page to one that favours voice dramatically. Google’s Hummingbird update saw a whole heap of changes in 2018, one of which included prioritising semantic search and the implied meaning of search queries.

Machines have a very hard time trying to determine the meaning of search queries. For example, a voice search for ‘How old was Tom Hanks in the movie The Terminal?’ and a voice search for ‘How old is the Tom Hanks movie The Terminal?’ are very similar search queries with very different meanings.

If you use Siri on iPhone devices today, you can see that these semantics are understood through Wolfgram Alpha technology.

This is exactly the technology that Google tried to achieve with it’s Hummingbird update, providing the most appropriate search results for the user’s query.

It’s obvious from these updates that long-tail search queries will be enhanced and adopted as the norm, where previously users would be taught to use important keywords only. For example, previously the search query ‘Tom Hanks Terminal Movie’ would be the recommended. This is however a thing of the past thanks to semantics updates and voice search.

How Do I Optimise for Voice Search?

Focus on User Intent

With semantics coming into play, it’s important to focus on what the user is actually asking and what result they’re seeking, rather than giving them content that is related but does not directly answer their query.

You should make sure you website’s content answers the questions you think your user has. For example, if your website is on the topic of holidays in Europe, a user may ask the question, “What is the best beach in Europe for swimming?”. This is where you want to generate content that answers the question e.g. “The best beach in Europe for swimming is …”.

Doing so will allow you to appear on featured snippets in search results which are likely to be read out by voice search devices.

Use Schema Metadata

Schema Metadata, as outlined in our glossary, allows site owners to provide more information to search engines outside of the information aleady on the website.

This allows you to, in more detail, describe what elements of your page actually mean and makes it easy for Google to comprehend, which provides increased visibility across your pages and therefore allow for ranking of more complex (semantically) search queries.

Focus on Long-Tail Keywords

This is pretty self-explanatory, focusing on long-tail keywords for ranking will help increase your chances of appearing on voice-enabled search results. This is because users tend to ask their voice-enabled device a coherent question, rather than a bunch of keywords mashed together.

Think about the topic you’re trying to promote and how people would actually search for the content if they were to ask it aloud. If someone is searching for a piece of clothing, maybe they ask for “what’s the latest style trends of 2022?”, and if you’re a retailer who sells clothing, you can present content that content in the form of a style guide.