Okay Google, why is voice search so important in 2021?

13 January, 2021

20 mins read

Google voice search

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Voice search is tipped to be one of the biggest trends in SEO for 2021, thanks to the increased popularity of digital assistants like Google, Alexa, Cortana and Siri. In fact, it’s predicted 55% of households will own a smart speaker by 2022.  

However voice search has many search engine optimisation specialists (or SEOs) concerned. The problem with voice search is only one search result matters — the featured snippet. You may know this as the box showing you part of a recipe, tips or a quote from a web page at the some of some search results. And the race for it has never been more crucial. The race for the top spot has never been more crucial.

So, how do you get the feature snippet on Google? The short answer is optimise your website. Google rewards the website which it deems to have the most relevant and informative content to its users query the top spot. Discover why voice search is so important in 2021, how to optimise for it and our predictions of where it will be beyond 2021.

Photo by Dan Farrell on Unsplash

What is voice search? 

Voice search allows a user to speak to a smart device, like a phone or home assistant, and receive answers to their query. The device uses information from the internet.

Voice search is not a new phenomenon, with the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon integrating the technology into their devices for close to a decade. Apple first introduced its users to voice search in 2011 with the introduction of Siri. Since then, voice search has seen turbulent popularity with the general public slow to adapt the new tech. Now, in 2021, voice search has become a widely adopted feature in Australian homes, with 25.9% of households now having a smart home.

History of voice search.

Smart home assistants have also gotten smarter over time. The initial Google Assistant debuted in May of 2016 as part of Google’s messaging system, Allo, in conjunction with the very first Google Home. 

The main features of Allo were voice commands, which allowed music to be played, syncing with Google calendars, controlling smart home lighting, messaging and general search queries. Now, in 2021, Google Assistant links with multiple streaming services, online image galleries, smart home devices and has integrated a large touch screen for better user experience. 

As for smartphone users, according to ComScore, at least half of users have begun engaging with their phones inbuilt voice search technology in 2020. 52% of users claim they are most likely to use voice search whilst driving. Almost all new cars have Apple CarPlay or another inbuilt smartphone integration technology allowing drivers to access internet browsers safely while driving using voice search. 

What is voice search mostly used for? 

To accommodate the increased use of voice search, Google, Bing and other search engines are adapting for conversational tones and slang. Last year, Google released the BERT update to enable even clearer understanding of language.


What is Google’s BERT update? 

In October 2019, Google announced the BERT update, claiming it was the biggest update in Google search since 2014. But, what is BERT and what can it do? 

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. What BERT does is provide natural language processing (NLP) for Google, so they can understand context and intent of a search query.

Before the BERT update, Google would interpret search queries at their most basic level, treating each word with equal importance and ignoring context. For example a search query for ‘math practise books for adults’ would return a result featuring a children’s text book as Google would underestimate the importance of the phrase ‘for adults.’ BERT has taught Google to better understand the context of ‘for adults,’ therefore returning results featuring adult math books, a stronger, more relevant search result. 

This means BERT is a big deal for voice search. It means when you ask your Google Assistant or Google device a question, it can give a more accurate answer than ever before. As a result, people will begin to use voice search even more in the future.

5 Ways to Optimise Your Website for Voice Search 

1. Focus on FAQ.  

Add a Q&A or FAQ page, as well as FAQ sections to product pages and blogs can help greatly in optimising your content for voice search. 

People using voice search are after quick and precise answers. In fact, research has shown voice search results come from FAQ pages, 1.7x more than desktop browser search results. This means FAQ pages have a higher chance of ranking with voice search results than desktop browsers. 

According to Baclinkco’s Google Home study, a strong correlation can be made between a 61% growth in question keywords and increased voice searches. In fact, 20% of Google searches are now made via a digital assistant.

2. Optimise your Google My Business listing. 

If your business doesn’t have a Google My Business (GMB) listing, it’s time to get one. If you’re unsure of how to create your own profile, get in contact with one of our digital marketing specialists at Localsearch. As one of the first two Google My Business Partners in Australia, we can help you start and optimise your GMB.

76% of people using digital assistants search for “local” or “near me” at least once a week, but where are most of these voice search results pulled from. You guessed it — business Google My Business and other online profiles such as Localsearch.com.au.

Tips for getting the most out of your Google My Business profile: 

  • Include a bio.
  • Keep your opening hours up-to-date.
  • Ensure your business name, phone number and address are consistent with how they’re displayed elsewhere online.
  • Publish posts several times a week.
  • Encourage your customers to leave reviews.

As with browser searches, voice searches will only tell the user the top three businesses within the category they are searching. Google determines which businesses to show based on proximity to the searcher (or search destination), regular positive reviews and frequent website links. 

However, depending on your digital assistant of choice, the results you get may differ. For example, Siri pulls it’s local business data from Apple Maps Connect. So, in order to target Siri fans, businesses should optimise their Apple Maps Connect profile.

3. Use conversational language.

Traditionally, to optimise SEO, you’d focus on a target keyword per page to get Google’s attention and gain relevance in search results. Now, with voice search on the rise, SEOs must target both traditional browser users and voice searchers. The trouble is both search very differently. 

So, how do you target voice searches with SEO? Try creating more conversation content. Common phrases such as “can dogs eat carrots?” are more likely to match a voice search due to their length and tendency to be more specific therefore creating a better match to the users search query.  

Another thing to consider when writing for voice search is complexity. Ensure your content is easily readable, the average Australian cannot read beyond a grade 9 level. By integrating these tips into your content strategy you’ll have a better chance of reaching your targeted voice-searching audience.

4.  Implement schema.

Implementing schema markup is a great way to increase your chances of appearing in a voice search. But, what is schema? 

Put simply, schema markup acts as a shortcut for Google. It allows SEOs to tell Google what certain content is, such as FAQs, articles and more. The best part is using schema can also help increase your website’s authority. 

Allowing businesses to select the most relevant information about their business to be read by a virtual assistant in a voice search result. The average voice search answer is 29 words, so when selecting content, ensure you pick the most succinct and relevant content.

5. Ensure your website is hosted through local reputable providers.

Website hosting is when a website provider, such as Localsearch, allocates space on its web server to hold the website’s files and data. Without a hosting provider, a website cannot be seen. 

Ensuring your website is hosted by reputable and local providers will help increase your chance of appearing in a voice search. Naturally, security is important to Google. In fact, Google favours websites, which are secured and certified with SSL for voice search. HTTPS signals to both your website’s visitors and the Google bot that your website is safe and contains trusted information. 

Good hosting also leads to increased website speed, something incredibly important for voice search. If you have a slow website, it will not be used in a voice search result; Google simply doesn’t have time for that.

Reputable hosting providers, such as Localsearch, can ensure your website is both fast and secure, therefore increasing your chances of appearing in voice searches.

What is the future of voice search?

Personalised Experiences 

As it stands now, most virtual assistants can differentiate between voices to understand who they are communicating with. However, in the near future it is predicted our digital assistants could be capable of a back and forth conversation about almost anything, including product purchases. 

Google published via Think with Google how we may communicate with digital assistants in the near future:

User: “OK, Google. What’s the best brand of running shoes?”

Google Assistant: “Good question. Are you looking for yourself, Sheila, or the kids?”

User: “For me.”

Google Assistant: “Based on your workout patterns, it looks like you like trail running more than asphalt. Is that right?”

User: “Yep, mainly trail running.”

Google Assistant: “Based on popular ratings, reviews, and product purchases, here are the top three brands for you. Would you rather buy online or in a store?”

User: “I want to go look at some today.”

Google Assistant: “OK, there’s a sporting goods store on 5th Street with these shoes available, and there are even some size 10s in stock. Would you like me to hold them for you in the store?”

User: “Yep. I’ll swing by there this afternoon.”

Google Assistant: “I’ll put it on your to-do list and remind you when you are downtown.”

But what does this mean for consumer behaviour? In short, our conversations with digital assistants are likely to become more meaningful and solution orientated. Rather than the likes of Google, Siri, Cortana and Alexa simply being able to show restaurants “near me,” they’ll likely be able to follow the query through and make a booking at the chosen venue. 

Consumers online reviews will likely take higher priority when making purchasing decisions, therefore increasing the importance of businesses to be present online. To go digital businesses will have to be online or risk not being seen by their potential customers. 

Now the question on every SEOs lips is, if and when will we move to voice first indexing? 

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