Google is the world’s biggest search engine. With the rise of virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, Google has woven its virtual assistant into the search engine in the form of Google Voice Search. Its goal is to make looking for information as easy as possible by removing the need for you to type to find answers to your questions.
In 2013 Google rolled out its Hummingbird update, which was a massive change to the algorithms within the search engine. This change was a complete overhaul to Google's search engine system. The purpose was to start interpreting user intent and what context users were posing questions. The Hummingbird update changed the way keywords are used in prioritizing how keywords are related to the core subject of the search—making the tactic or "keyword stuffing" obsolete.
With the addition of voice search, Google's algorithm had to adapt again. Google made more tweaks to further the importance of your keywords relating to the core subject and responding to the way people speak, instead of just type.
Google Voice Search is a self-learning tool, it learns your cadences and your accent the more you use it to boost your user experience. Tools like this use machine learning, where the program is given directives but is programmed to process the data itself and make decisions based on the results. For example, if you search for ‘plumbers in my area,’ but immediately re-specify your search, the tool will learn that and infer that whatever you re-specified is what you intend to search.
How Can It Help?
Adobe surveyed in 2019 and found that 48% of users used a voice assistant to conduct web searches. That number has only increased with the popularity of smart speakers and voice assistants. Optimizing your platform for how people “voice search” can directly impact the success of your website.
Knowing Your Audience
When looking at your website and how it can be optimized for voice search, it's essential to understand your audience. It's key to know how users may talk and their word choice because the more closely the keywords and phrasing line up with your website, the more hits you will get on searches. If you are having trouble finding wording that people might use, log into your Google Analytics account and from there, you can see what people are searching when they find your company. The data can be separated into search queries using a voice assistant or type to understand how language may change.
Pro Tip: Analyze the “open comments” field in your form submissions, listen to your calls and determine the wording people are using when they request different services. It can help you direct your content on your website.
Method of Delivery
When we look at voice search, the users are most likely using a mobile phone, which means that they are on the go and looking for quick answers. A typical search will be something like ‘HVAC company near me.’ So how can you make your website rank for this search?
A little bit of this will be purely geographical positioning because Google will give them results tiered off of physical distance from closest to furthest. However, Google will take into consideration the city they are located in when pulling up results. If you are based in Portland, by including Portland in your web title or description, you will boost the number of searches you appear high on because you have an immediate hit with a keyword as the destination.
The other method of delivery for voice assistants is smart speakers. Understanding the difference in delivery between a phone assistant and a smart speaker and accounting for both is vital. There is usually no screen with a smart speaker, meaning people will habitually tailor a question to get results that can be easily understood solely through audio. Instead of saying ‘HVAC companies near’ me, they may instead say ‘what is the best-reviewed HVAC company in my area.’ Making your online reviews as well as using keywords like ‘best-reviewed’ very crucial to reach this platform.
As Google continues to try to increase the simplicity and delivery methods for conducting online searches, optimizing your platform for them is critical. A trend that will continue to expand is voice search, and as it gains popularity, taking steps now to optimize your website will put you miles ahead of your competition.