If you know anything about SEO, you know that voice search is where it’s at. Even if you aren’t an authority on the subject, chances are that voice search has become an increasingly regular, and perhaps even essential, part of your daily life. In fact, Google says that 72 percent of people who own voice-activated speakers use them every day.
Over the past few years, SEO experts have been observing this shift towards voice-enabled search and analyzing the effect it’s having on people’s habits and behaviors. Not only has voice search changed the way we communicate and seek information, it has also infiltrated and comfortably settled right into our personal surroundings — our homes, cars and pockets. Naturally, this is having a profound impact on companies that conduct business online. And I’m not just referring to local pizza shops and news providers: Voice search is growing within the business-to-business world, as well. The reality is, if you aren’t optimizing your B2B site for voice search, you’re doing your brand a major disservice.
The State of Voice Search
If you think the surge in voice search is just a fad, let’s review the facts:
- It’s estimated that more than one billion voice searches are conducted every month.
- 41 percent of adults use voice search at least once a day, and that figure is rising.
- One third of smartphone owners use their voice-activated personal assistants regularly.
- In a survey conducted GeoMarketing.com, 42 percent of respondents maintain that voice-activated devices are now essential to their lives.
- According to ComScore, one in two people use voice technology on their smartphones.
- Voice searches increased more than 35 times between 2008 and 2016, according to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2016 report.
- Voice recognition technology has improved drastically over the past five years — Google is now 95 percent accurate.
- Listen up, B2Bs! 90 percent of executives do research from their mobile devices before making a purchase decision. Given the statistics above, it’s safe to assume that a growing amount of that research is being conducted through voice assistance.
- By the year 2020, 50 percent of ALL online searches will be voice searches.
- 30 percent of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020.
How is Voice Search Different?
Thanks to advancements in digital technology, we live in a world where instant gratification is the name of the game and time is measured in seconds, not minutes or hours. We work faster and produce more than ever before. People expect instant, easier and simpler access to information, and voice search makes that possible.
Voice search helps users avoid navigating complex websites, and it’s faster than searching by text. According to Purna Virgi, senior training manager with Microsoft, we speak nearly four times as fast as we type.
“You can type 38-40 words per minute on a mobile device, but you can speak at least 150 words per minute.” -Purna Virgi
Speed is the primary reason people like voice search. And with voice recognition quickly approaching 100-percent accuracy, it’s no wonder more and more searchers are using speech as their preferred method of search.
Text vs. Voice Queries
The biggest difference between text and voice search is tone. Text queries tend to be terse and robotic in nature, while voice queries are more conversational and personal.
Text – “hiccups and bread”
Voice – “Why do I get the hiccups after eating bread?” (True story)
Text – “seo benefits”
Voice – “What are the benefits of SEO?” or “Should I invest in SEO?”
Voice search queries also tend to be longer than text queries. The average voice query length is 4.2 words, while the average text query is 3.2 words.
Additionally, our experience tells us that long-tail queries usually have less search volume, but greater intent. What this means is that they’re more likely to convert.
Voice search is available anywhere you are, as long as you have the necessary technology to power it. It’s typically mobile and conducted in private, but not always. In a recent study conducted by Stone Temple Consulting, 50 percent of respondents say that they use voice search in the office. And what’s really fascinating is that the study showed that while most people prefer to use voice search in the privacy of their own home or car, those who earn higher incomes are less shy about asking Cortana, Google, Siri or Alexa questions in public. Another win for B2B marketers!
What Does This Mean for SEO?
It means that all digital marketers should be optimizing for voice search. It doesn’t mean that you should ditch your current SEO best practices, but rather, make voice search an additional part of your overall SEO strategy.
Does Voice Search SEO Really Apply to B2B?
Yes! Don’t assume that just because your company doesn’t provide directions or weather updates, it doesn’t need to worry about voice SEO. B2B brands should absolutely integrate voice search optimization into their digital marketing plans.
Here are three ways to do this:
- Target long-tail, “ask” keywords. While it isn’t possible to parse out voice queries from text queries on most analytics platforms, it doesn’t take much to figure out which ones are which. Look for the “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how” keywords and see where they’re landing on your site. Then ask yourself, are you adequately answering their questions? If time-on-site and bounce rate metrics look bleak, the answer is probably “no.” Take the time to understand your audience, identify target long-tail keywords and deliver relevant content that’s conversational and natural in tone.
- Optimize for Answer Boxes (featured snippets). When a query returns a featured snippet, voice-enabled devices will read it aloud. And while featured snippets are less likely to lead to clicks, they do increase brand awareness and authority. Put it this way: If Google features your answer first, you must be the industry expert, right?
- Focus on the mobile UX. The vast majority of voice searches are conducted on mobile devices, so this should be a no-brainer. Number one, work towards improving load times. Remember my spiel in the beginning of this article about speed? Yeah. If your page takes more than two seconds to load, you’ve lost a huge chunk of your audience. And, as much as some developers love the “one-and-done” responsive design concept, it can often be detrimental to your mobile user experience. Make sure you test it out to ensure its user-friendliness.
There’s no escaping the fact that voice search is here to stay. For consumers, it’s becoming an essential part of how we shop, communicate and navigate. For professionals, the convenience of voice search is creeping its way into our offices and mobile devices. And for B2B marketers, it presents yet another opportunity to get in front of target audiences and build brand recognition, so don’t miss the boat!