Years ago, the idea of using your voice to access Internet search would have been an unheard of concept.
But today it’s an increasingly more popular way for people to seek things out using simply their voice and a smart device.
“What we’re talking about is utilizing these artificial intelligence systems that various key players have in the market right now,” says Robin Eldred, director of digital marketing for Communicatto, a Calgary-based digital marketing company.
“It’s interacting with these systems and typically that’s done through a smartphone – sometimes a laptop – and now more commonly with these smart home devices, these smart home speakers,” says Eldred. “It’s the interaction with these AI systems to perform various different actions.
“It can range from search queries to controlling smart home devices . . . to getting more than just a web search done. There’s a whole swath of interactivity. It’s kind of like a personal assistant.”
But in this world of increasing use, the big question is how voice search will affect search engine optimization.
“Voice search is simply the next evolution of search. People are asking questions in a more natural, human way. And this aligns with the goals that search engines have always had – to provide the most human answers to human questions,” says Eldred.
One of the key challenges with today’s voice search technology is context – for a voice assistant to understand the context of a question.
“One of the key things that I think is going to be really the next evolution of these voice assistants is being able to string questions together in a conversation,” says Eldred. “So if I ask a question like what is the weather in Calgary today and it gives me an answer I can follow it up with a question like what about tomorrow. The question what about tomorrow on its own doesn’t mean anything . . . but when taken in context with the previous question it makes complete sense. That is coming.”
The big change that voice search will have on SEO is it will create the concept of the “only result.”
“With SEO and mobile/desktop searches, the goal is to be in the top 10 results – i.e. first page – or you won’t get noticed. With voice search, you will need to be the number one result. Second place will mean nothing. When asked a question, a digital assistant will only provide one answer, and this answer comes from the top spot in the search engines. So either you’re first, or you’re nowhere. You need to be the only result,” says Eldred.
If you’re going to optimize for voice search, there are two key considerations to make:
- Focus your content on answering a question; and
- Consider that the length of questions asked through digital assistants are longer than typed questions (typically around seven words compared to one to three words for typed). This is referred to as a “long tail” search.
Eldred says the first step is to identify what are the questions that if you were to provide an answer to that question would be beneficial to your business.
“So if you look at Communicatto for example. We may want to answer questions like ‘What is digital advertising? How much does it cost to run a blog?’ Or questions that our potential customers might answer. There’s potential value there to be the answer to that question. Because if we have a blog post and that blog post is very well indexed in the search engine and it talks about the value of digital marketing and someone asks the question ‘What is digital marketing?’ or ‘Why should I do digital marketing for my business?’, if the voice assistant polls its answer from our content, there’s potentially value there.”