Why Voice Search Optimization Is a Must for Small Businesses

Jerod Morris / September 30, 2019

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The voice search revolution is coming. In fact, you could argue it’s already here.

While it remains to be seen whether Andrew Ng is right in his oft-cited assertion that by 2019, “at least 50 percent of all searches are going to be either through images or speech,” it is true that as of 2018, 13 percent of Google searches were voice queries.

Either way, the trend is clear: voice search optimization is having a monumental impact on content and information discovery, which means that all small business owners need to actively plan to survive in an environment where voice search is becoming ever more dominant.

In this article, we’ll discuss what voice search is and how it works, and then highlight the benefits of voice search optimization.

How voice search works

For a long time, search engines worked one way, by manually typing a search query, with ordered results subsequently delivered on a search engine results page. Developments in language processing, voice recognition, and device variety have changed that.

Now, users are able to speak their search queries into a microphone and have those spoken queries recognized and translated. Results are then delivered either in text on a page or with spoken replies via apps like Siri and Alexa.

This is game-changing for a few reasons, especially for anyone concerned about the SEO implications:

  1. The way that people speak search queries is often different from how they type them — voice searches are usually phrased as questions.
  2. The way search engines compile and display results from voice searches also varies, often due to the differences in devices (i.e. the limited space on a mobile screen versus a desktop).
  3. The way that people then process the results is different.

Simply put, voice search has a few pivotal differences from traditional text search that makes voice search optimization a distinct discipline within general SEO. Optimizing your site for desktop search is not the same as optimizing your site for voice search.

But is it worth the trouble? The answer is an unequivocal yes.

The benefits of optimizing for voice search

Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal sums up the importance of voice search well.

“According to studies, the first organic search result on Google’s SERP gets up to 35.35 percent of clicks,” writes Baker. “In voice search, there is an even smaller window. There are only top three results for mobile and one result for smart speakers. Ranking at the top means everything.”

Search engine optimization has always been competitive, especially for high-volume keywords, but voice search takes this competitiveness to a new level. And while optimizing for voice search may not guarantee you results, because others will surely be doing the same, the reality is that ignoring voice search will guarantee that you receive less and less exposure from search engines as more and more searches are conducted via voice.

Get the early-bird advantage

Now for the exciting part: more and more search users may be conducting searches via voice, but the vast majority of website owners are slow to react to trends like voice search. Doing so requires an understanding of the landscape and technology as well as a willingness to put in the work to update a site’s optimization strategy.

But voice search is here, it’s growing, and it shouldn’t be ignored.

If you’re willing to put in the work to get your site properly optimized for voice search, you’ll find yourself miles ahead of most of your competition.

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