What is Voice Search

“Hey Google”: Tell Me About Voice Search

  ●   January 25, 2022 | Search Trends, Technology
Written by
January 25, 2022 | Search Trends, Technology

Since the millennium, how we consume content and interact with brands has changed dramatically. And now, with the rise of smart assistants, the marketing industry is evolving yet again.

The internet changed the way we found information and communicated with one another, and mobile did the same. Now, voice search is about to do the same thing again. Smart assistants have led us into a world where we can consume content on-demand and shop without lifting a finger.

But where does the future of voice search lie? Let’s find out.

Voice search devices

What is voice search?

Voice search enables users to perform a search on the internet by asking a question verbally, either on a smartphone, computer or smart speakers, such as Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod and Google Home, for example. The user’s query is then answered audibly by a virtual assistant (more commonly known as a smart assistant) using the SERPs.

In instances where search engine results serve a featured snippet (position zero), the virtual assistant will typically favour those results as answers. Google tries to provide the best possible experience for users, so there may be cases where the virtual assistant will serve information that better suits the user’s search intent, which isn’t a featured snippet result. 

Is voice search the same as virtual assistants?

Voice search and virtual assistants are not the same, however, they are related technologies. Many of the advanced capabilities of virtual assistants can be attributed to voice search technology.

Virtual assistants have the capability to perform additional tasks like calendar scheduling and managing home devices. Voice search generally functions within a virtual assistant, such as Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana.

How does voice search work?

Originally founded upon speech recognition technology dating back to the 1960s, voice search uses advanced natural language processing to interpret the context of words and how they are spoken to comprehend the meaning behind the query. Once it has connected the concept to the correct interpretation, it submits the question to a search engine, such as Google, and presents the answer or results to the user.

How does voice search work?

Does voice search work for B2B and B2C?

Firstly, there are various benefits for both B2B and B2C companies when it comes to voice search; however, it’s important to note that results depend on whether your company has obtained position zero. The most effective way to acquire featured snippets is to conduct a Featured Snippet Audit and strategise accordingly, taking into account both your KPIs and your target demographic.

Obtaining position zero can bring immediate benefits, such as:

  • An increase in organic traffic
  • Improved click-through rate (CTR)
  • Increased brand visibility

For more information on how you could benefit from an SEO strategy to secure Featured Snippets, get in touch today.

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, optimising for voice search is no different to SEO and UX. But is there enough opportunity for B2B and B2C to adopt voice search? According to a report by PwC, 65% of consumers aged 25-49 years old talk to their voice-enabled devices daily. Out of those surveyed, 50% of respondents made a purchase using voice search, while an additional 25% of respondents would consider it to make purchases in the future.

So, how can we use voice search to benefit both B2B and B2C sectors? 

Voice search for B2B markets

How relevant is voice search to the B2B sector? Voice search typically focuses on B2C due to the commercial opportunity available, especially as 58% of consumers use voice search to find local businesses online. Okay yes, it’s true. Voice search might not be contributing to a significant influx of traffic to your B2B site. It’s not exactly clear what impact voice search can have on the B2B sector, especially as B2B user journeys are typically longer with more touchpoints and decision-makers involved. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be optimising for voice search.

As we’ve seen with many other markets, B2B decision-makers are getting younger. A study by Global Web Index found that 74% of millennials are now involved in buying decisions within B2B companies, which only proves that digital natives are the new generation of B2B influencers. Their experiences with B2C brands, such as Airbnb and Uber, have shaped their expectations, which is reflected in how they engage with B2B brands. Having grown up with voice assistants, this new generation of digital natives will expect voice search to influence their B2B buying decisions in the future.

Smart speakers and mobile phones

Voice search optimisation also happens to significantly benefit SEO and UX. Catering to voice search will have a positive impact on the search visibility of your B2B website, as well as the usability. Preparing your site for voice search will benefit your site in the long term; although it may not have a huge impact on organic traffic, it will improve your SEO overall. There are several ways in which you can prepare your B2B website, including:

  • Improve your site speed – Voice search favours websites with a quick loading speed, so make sure to compress files and optimise images to increase your overall site speed. 
  • Optimise for mobile – The majority of website traffic comes from mobile devices, so your website should be optimised for mobile already; however, mobile optimisation is more than just ensuring mobile responsiveness. Format videos to play full screen when flipped horizontally for improved user experience, remove intrusive interstitials and eliminate drop-down menus from the navigation. 
  • Prioritise local search – Find ways to invest in local content, especially as a significant proportion of voice searches have location-based intent, with users searching for things “near me”. Users are three times more likely to search locally when using voice search, compared to manually typing searches in Google. Make sure your Google My Business profile is optimised for local searches and your website, advertising and content marketing are optimised for your location.
  • Target long-tail keywords – Your content should be optimised for long-tail keywords that reflect high volume search queries, and remember, voice searches are especially colloquial, so your content should read naturally and conversationally. This approach will help humanise your brand, which can be difficult to achieve for some B2B companies. When optimising your content for voice search, consider the who, what, where, when, why and how of your product or service. Ask yourself, does your content effectively address each one? 
  • Target featured snippets – When optimising your content for featured snippets, it’s important to include identifiable extracts that Google can easily read, such as H-tags, bullet lists or numbered lists. Once you have acquired featured snippets, your brand will start to be recognised as an expert in your field.

Ultimately, it’s about providing the best possible content that accurately addresses the users’ search intent. Understanding how your audience searches for your product or service will enable you to provide the best possible answers to their search queries. When it comes to B2B marketing, users will often start by searching for how to solve a broader issue, rather than looking for your specific product solution. Taking the time to understand your target audience and their search intent will pay off in the long term. 

Voice search for B2C markets

The voice search revolution is already well underway and B2C brands are already seeing the impact it can have on ROI. According to TechCrunch, UK and US voice-based shopping will be worth more than $40 billion this year, with the fashion industry accounting for £3.5bn in UK voice search sales alone. So, how exactly does voice search benefit eCommerce businesses?

  • Removes language barriers – Enabling your customers to search for products online without any manual input removes the ambiguity around misspelling a brand’s name or product. Voice search AI can identify mistakes in pronunciation and suggest what it thinks the customer actually means. 
  • Easier and faster searches – Voice search allows users to search for products with far less effort than is needed to manually type a search into Google, whether it’s on a computer or smartphone. Not only are voice-based purchases much faster, but they are also more convenient, which is a significant factor to consider when it comes to millennials in particular. Voice search is a natural progression as technology has evolved to make our busy lives that little bit easier. 
Voice search trends in 2022

If eCommerce brands readily adopt voice search, they can expect an increase of up to 30% in revenue. As voice commerce continues to grow, B2C brands can expect this figure to be even higher, providing the website is effectively optimised for voice search. Focus on maximising the traffic to your website and the increase in revenue will follow.

3 voice search trends to look out for in 2022

What voice search trends can we expect to see in the coming year? Let’s take a look at the top 3 voice search trends for 2022.

1. Local and hyperlocal searches

According to BrightLocal, 51% of consumers claim they would use voice search to find a local business near them. With voice search users on the rise and the volume of voice searches increasing, the emphasis on local and hyperlocal SEO is more prevalent than ever. 

2. AI and Machine Learning advancements in voice search

How users search the internet and interact with smart devices has largely been determined by advancements in AI and Machine Learning (ML). As AI-powered devices become more readily available, search algorithms are forced to evolve to accommodate the unique scenarios in which these devices are used in our everyday lives.

3. Smart speakers to drive adoption of voice search

With smart speakers set to outnumber tablets, the adoption of voice search is largely down to smart speakers becoming more commonplace in households across the world. Voice technologies have improved dramatically since the early days of Alexa and Siri, and now, tech giants are racing to release smarter integrations and technology to keep up with consumer demand. 

What is the future of voice search?

Voice search is set to change the digital marketing landscape by prioritising the semantics of search queries. Marketers will be forced to re-evaluate not just their content marketing and keyword research, but their overall digital marketing strategy as a whole. 

Start paying close attention to how your target audience speaks. You will need to think about their choice of words, tone and phrasing if you want to be successful in voice search. Adapt your content and make good use of long-tail keywords to directly answer common questions; it will help your site rank higher and obtain featured snippets.

As our lives get busier, voice search will continue to dominate the mobile environment as consumers turn to more convenient tools to improve their everyday lives. The hands-free capabilities of mobile devices encourage users to use voice search, especially those who are always on the go. 

Stay ahead of the game. Voice search will continue to grow the mobile-friendly environment, so B2B and B2C brands need to make sure their strategies are mobile-first. Develop mobile-friendly interfaces and set your business up for success.

If you don’t already have a voice search strategy in place, it’s important to remember that your content and SEO should integrate seamlessly in order to achieve your desired results. Get in touch with our team to find out how we can support your business’ voice search optimisation.

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