Google and Siri may have started voice search, but Amazon Echo really got the ball rolling. When it was launched in 2015, it was seen as a fun voice recognition gimmick that everyone would want for a few months before forgetting all about it.
Yet this turned out to be no Furby. In December 2016, Echo was Amazon's most popular product over the holiday period, and it seems that Alexa and her friends are here to stay.
No surprise, then that Google has been quick to join the fray, with the launch of Google Home, to build on Google Voice already on Android. And of course, there is the iPhone's Siri and Microsoft Cortana.
The Future Is Here
Voice recognition software is nothing new, but up till very recently, the practical applications have been limited to exercises in schoolboy humour, and shouting with increasing anger at a phone to try and make it understand that you wish to call your mother.
However, the success of Amazon Echo has shown that the technology has caught up with our expectations, and useful voice interaction is finally a reality.
Despite being touted as the “coming” technology, the truth is that 40% of adults already use voice search at least once per day.
60% of those using voice search only started to do so in the past year, and 40% in the past six months.
These statistics suggest that the “coming” technology has well and truly arrived, and with this level of take-up it is easy to believe some of the predictions. By the end of this year, more than 33 million voice-first devices will be in circulation, and in just two years’ time, voice-recognition be a $600 million industry.
Impact On SEO
If Voice is the future, does that really have such a large impact on SEO? As with most good questions, the answer is a guarded “yes and no.”
With a conventional search, the user types in a question, or more commonly some keywords, such as “Indian restaurant Wolverhampton” or “Cricket county scores” and is presented with a list of sites that might be able to help. SEO helps to ensure that your site is near the top of the list for a relevant search.
When the user asks his or her favourite digital assistant, however, two things happen. The first is that the search is more “journalistic.” You will not say “Indian restaurant Wolverhampton,” but will ask “What is a good Indian restaurant in Wolverhampton?”
The second difference is that the concept of the SERP becomes redundant. There is no list of results to think about, just a straight answer to a straight question.
This does not mean that SEO is no longer relevant. On the contrary, when a “search” elicits just one answer, it makes optimisation even more critical to ensure your business is the one that is chosen. But it does mean that we need to think in new ways, and consider the new paradigm that is voice search.
Central to this is ensuring that content is natural and conversational, so that it meets the “Q and A” style of voice search. Schema markup is a useful tool to ensure that Google has as much detail as possible.
Blogs have always been a perfect way to improve SEO by creating unique, engaging content with a “natural” voice, and will be even more important in order for your site to be successful in voice search.
It is also important to remember that voice search equates to mobile search, and rendering a mobile-friendly site is therefore more crucial than ever.