What is voice search?
For those of you who don’t know, voice search is anything to do with the use of voice recognition devices to search for something on the internet. The big players in this market are Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Echo, Cortana by Microsoft and last, but not least, Ok Google (it’s fairly self-explanatory who makes that one).

Voice search is changing the way we look for things on the internet. Who doesn’t love just asking a question and being told the answer? No typing, no clicking, just talking.

And just like the devices, the stats speak for themselves. Currently, 40% of adults in the UK use voice search at least once a day. ComScore has predicted that by 2020, 50% of all web searches will be carried out using voice search technology (just let that sink in!). That being said, Gartner is slightly less optimistic with a prediction of 30% in the same period. Needless to say, voice search is on the rise, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

So, it all sounds great, right? Well, there is a catch to this convenience. The big question is, do the results differ from good old-fashioned text-based searches? The short answer is YES, voice search does change things for both consumers and businesses – but how exactly?
How does voice search change things?
Firstly, as the majority of voice searches come from smartphones, websites need to pass Google’s mobile-friendly test to even rank on a search result. If you do the maths, the more we use voice search, more mobile device searches are carried out, and the need for businesses to ensure their websites are mobile-friendly increases. Otherwise, pages won’t rank at all when consumers carry out a search via voice.

The consumer perspective:

But what about the most important thing, the consumer experience? Google’s algorithm works to provide the best user experience possible by producing relevant search results that help the consumer find exactly what they’re looking for. This poses a slight conflict in the context of voice search however. Mobile voice-related searches are 3x more likely to produce local-based results than text-based search methods. Great for local businesses, not so great for global enterprises. But is this what the consumer wants? Well, in fact just 13% of voice search users use this method of search to find a local business. So, are consumers getting the information they’re looking for?

The search result:

This question becomes more intriguing when we think about the fact that smart speakers (Alexa and Echo for example) don’t have a screen, and so consumer choice is very limited in terms of the website we land on. These platforms chose the top-ranking search result. This has implications for both consumers and businesses. Are consumers receiving the result they want? And for businesses, SEO efforts become more important than ever. Serious effort needs to be made to make sure your website is ranking highly in search results as the voice search option becomes more popular.

Final thoughts:

So, there’s lots to think about, and we’ve only scratched the surface here. I think it will be interesting to see just how much voice search increases, and how Google and other search engines will continue to cater for more conversational based search queries.

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