How does voice search work?

How does voice search work?
3rd March 2020

OK, Google: How do I optimise my company website for voice search?

Google processes over 40,000 search queries per second. Internet searches have evolved from desktop, mobile and now voice assistant devices. Voice assistants such as Apple Siri, Amazon Echo or Google Home, are increasing in popularity. The possibilities for the future of voice search technology are exciting for digital marketers and digitally ambitious organisations. Users are going hands-free and organisations need to be taking steps now to optimise their websites.

Voice search is specifically growing in popularity with consumers, with nearly 60% using voice to find information about a local business. Voice search drastically improves user experience, because of that, Gartner predicts that this year, 30% of all browsing sessions will include voice search SEO.  Voice search technology has evolved and we’re seeing platforms becoming more comprehensive with language recognition. To benefit from voice search, organisations must identify emerging digital trends and technology advancements.

The growth of voice search technology

Voice search was introduced by Google in 2011. It combines speech recognition technology with search engine keyword queries. This enables users to ask questions rather than type them. Voice search works by reading the first result pulled from the featured snippet of search engine results pages (SERPs). When asking your voice assistant a question, it will use the information in the featured snippet to answer your question. This means optimising for a featured snippet is essential.

Voice search technology is improving all the time, with Google increasing its word recognition accuracy rate from below 80% to over 90%. Both Alexa and Google Assistant can differentiate between voices. This can lead to greater personalisation and improve the overall customer experience. Amazon Alexa can now seamlessly search through Spotify’s music library, scan Wikipedia and shop on Amazon – all at a user’s command.

Five tips businesses need to know for voice search optimisation

Adopting voice search into your digital marketing strategy creates an optimised user experience, that drives traffic and conversions. There are several ways organisations can optimise their content for voice search, it includes:

1. Website speed

On average, website pages that take five seconds to load have a bounce rate of 38%, whereas pages that load within two seconds have a bounce rate of 9%. Google uses a range of factors to rank websites in its SERPs. Like traditional SEO practices, Google voice search favours fast websites. People use voice search to get faster search results. Google’s Page Speed Insights tool can be used to check your organisation’s website load time and evaluate how to improve the page speed. Implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) can drastically improve mobile website speed and help display quality content on mobile devices. 73% of mobile users have encountered websites that take too long to load. Attaining fast website speed means achieving voice search optimisation.

2. Featured snippets

One of the key aspects of successful voice SEO, is featured snippets. A featured snippet is a summary that Google highlights at the top of page one in SERPs to answer a user’s query. It usually includes the name of the website and url where the extract was taken from. Featured snippets are often referred to as position 0. This is a direct answer at the top of SERPs box.

If search results include a featured snippet, voice assistants will pull an answer from there.  An Ahref’s study found using the following words ‘Recipe’, ‘Best’, ‘Vs’, ‘Make’, ‘Definition’ have a higher chance of gaining a featured snippet. Nearly 30% of 1.4 million Google search queries now show featured snippets. This means updating your organisation’s voice search strategy to optimise for featured snippets is essential.

Google only shows a small snippet of your answer. Optimising your content in the following way:

  • Answer questions directly
  • Q&A format
  • Use different images

This will improve the likelihood of gaining position 0 in SERPs.

3. Natural Language Processing (NLP)

The rise of voice search means Google has gotten really good at understanding websites. Due to big data and machine learning, Google no longer relies on keywords to help index content. Users now have the ability to search with natural language, as Google relies on syntax and the sentiment of content instead. With the help of big data, Natural Language Processing (NLP) has the capability if analysing the syntax of a page to understand a sentence content and context phrasing. It can also determine whether content is well written, from a grammar point of view. This means it’s crucial for content editors to create content for the user and not the search engine. In the new world of NLP, it’s crucial to optimise for voice search as its triggered by natural language.

Implementing factors such as:

  • Long tail keywords
  • Conversational syntax
  • Ask questions: ‘Ok Google, where’s the best Italian in Manchester?’
  • Answer questions in the content

4. User’s intent

Understanding the user’s intent tells us the reason why a person is typing a query into a search engine. Often a user’s intent is clear. Using search queries such as ‘buy’, ‘how to’, ‘what is’ or ‘price’. Sometimes user intent is unclear. However, thanks to the Hummingbird update and NLP, Google uses semantic search to match appropriate SERP results to the language of user queries beyond the meanings of individual keywords.

If your main aim is optimising for a featured snippet, your main aim should be understanding user intent and providing your audience with an immediate answer.

5. Local SEO

58% of consumers use voice search to find local businesses. Voice search reveals Google My Business profiles, which similar to featured snippets, can be read out loud by mobile devices and voice assistants. People who search ‘Best car dealership in Manchester’ are looking to find the best car dealerships near them. Voice searchers will also use the phrase ‘near me’. To appear in relevant search queries, you won’t need to add ‘near me’ into the content. As long as Google My Business details are up to date, Google will use current locations to match best suited car dealerships.

How can voice search work for your organisation?

Search marketing is one the most influential and effective marketing strategies. At Kagool, we’ve got over 20 years’ experience delivering innovative projects to drive businesses forward. Our specialist Sitecore search marketing team of SEO and PPC marketers, copywriters and digital strategists ensure you get the most from your investment and most visible to your target audience. Contact us today to book a digital marketing audit.