How Voice Search is Changing SEO

19 Jun, 2019

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From Siri to SEO

Voice search has been around for nearly a decade now: Siri first started talking back to iPhone owners in 2011. At the time, the general response from consumers was mixed, as were Siri's search results.

Whilst the appeal of having a personal assistant was thrilling, the unreliability of speech recognition leads to the feature being dismissed as a novelty. Fortunately for Siri and his siblings Alexa and Cortana, voice technology and search engines have come a long way since then. Speech recognition is no longer just a gimmicky feature for soon-to-be-defunct gadgets. It has grown to become a defining feature in its own right for a whole host of devices. By the end of this year, there will be 200 million smart speakers in use globally.

The recent hilarious viral hit of the angry Scottish lady battling to get her Alexa speaker to understand her may have shown that silicon valley still has a few bugs to work out but don't let this mislead you, In recent years, progress in the accuracy of speech recognition technology has improved at a staggering rate.  

A study from Loup Ventures found Google Assistant to give the correct response 86% of the time with a query understanding rate of 99%. Siri's response rate was slightly behind, getting it right 78.5% of the time. Regardless of which is best, we appear to be living in a time when speech recognition accuracy with an error rate comparable to humans, could be just around the corner. Even before we get there, this technology is radically changing the way we use the internet. These developments have huge implications for your digital marketing strategy.

Blade Runner 2013

The emergence of voice search was a key influence on Google's 2013 Hummingbird update. As users started using the feature more and more, SE inquiries became more conversational and less direct. The Hummingbird update was an attempt to understand these less explicit spoken inquiries by focusing more deeply on their syntactic meaning. The result was a smarter more nuanced search engine. Fans of science fiction might even argue that Google got a little bit closer to being human through this update.

It certainly made the search engine more able of differentiating between humans and content writing bots: The final nail in the coffin of keyword spamming SEO. This means that SMEs should strive to create content for their site that reads naturally.  Stay away from content-generating software, Google can tell the difference. Deckard would be proud. 

The Growth Of Near Me

Paying attention to search trends is more important than ever. The act of speaking rather than writing inquiries is changing the way we all search. The progress of speech recognition occurred in tandem with the emergence of smartphones as tools for navigation. Making impromptu shopping trips easier than ever.

This has lead to the rise of a whole new host of search terms related to the user's specific location. Between 2016-2018 use of the search term 'near me' increased by 500%. The growth of this term is a sign that many consumers are fully embracing the idea that their smartphone knows where they are. They are more than happy to use it to help them decide where they get their haircut, buy pet food, or even which sex therapist to use.

Search terms are becoming more and more focused on user location not store location. Generation Z no longer goes to the shops to find out what to buy. They know what they want and if they can’t find it online, they are not interested. Navigation with smartphones gives customers more confidence to travel a little further off the beaten track. This is a big opportunity for stores not in a mall or on the main shopping street. On the other hand, this represents a big risk to businesses who previously profited from this old location arrangement. They need to be visible online to stay ahead of this new competition. 

Local SEO

To take advantage of this 'near me' generation it is crucial that businesses are listed on the most important local directories for their industry. Directories like Google My Business and Bing Places for Business can be used to create listings on search engine maps to ensure a business can be found.It is also important to keep business details up to date: opening hours, events, offers. Customers will not make the journey twice if they find a store unexpectedly closed, no matter how good their smartphones are. A positive online review presence is also very important. Businesses with a better star rating are ranked higher by Google, and customers are more likely to visit.

Getting The Most Out of The 'Near Me' Generation

As you have seen. Voice recognition and smartphone navigation have created a whole range of new opportunities for SMEs to manage their digital marketing presence effectively.  

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