Posted on 18/01/2021 in Digital Marketing

How Voice Search Will Affect Businesses in 2021 and Beyond

How Voice Search Will Affect Businesses in 2021 and Beyond

With the rise of smart speaker technology and advanced AI, voice search is poised to shape the future of business 


Once upon a time, voice search was little more than film and television fodder, like flying cars or time travel. Watching a starship captain speak to a computer as he cruised through space seemed as many lightyears away from reality as the vessel itself. But behind the scenes, computer scientists and programmers were working hard to bring technology to life. By the closing stages of the 1960’s, systems existed that could examine phonemes and consequently recognise four vowels and nine consonants – a monumental achievement in the field of computing. 


Voice technology continued to improve at breakneck speed in the years that followed. A few years after Star Trek: Enterprise ended its television run, Google released Voice Search and suddenly, the show’s voice-activated computer seemed closer to reality than ever. (5)


This system, just a decade old, looks positively primitive compared to the advanced capabilities of today’s smart assistants. While Google is hardly the only major player in the game, its speech recognition technology boasts a staggering 95% accuracy rate for English. Chinese IT giant iFlytek’s system claims to have 98% accuracy. (1) (2)


So, with upwards of 40% of adults using voice search every day and one in four American’s in possession of a smart speaker, how will this shift to hands-free browsing impact businesses in 2021 and beyond? Experts predict: exponentially. (5)


How does voice search work?


Modern-day voice search technology is incredibly sophisticated. Systems are designed to understand spoken requests and respond verbally, eliminating the need for physical browsing on a laptop or mobile. 


Many use their smart home devices to set timers or play music, but their functionality is far more sophisticated than most people know. For instance, Alexa is – perhaps unsurprisingly – able to place orders in the Amazon online store without the press of a button. You can even enlist the help of a digital assistant to order groceries. As the cliche goes, the possibilities are endless. 


How will voice search affect my business? 


Search engines always aim to present users with the most accurate and relevant information possible. To do this via traditional search, their algorithms look at a number of different indicators to determine quality, like mobile-friendliness and user experience. But voice search is different. As more and more people choose to verbalise their search engine queries, the results predominantly come from content optimised for voice search. In other words, from websites that Google – or whichever engine you’re using – have crawled and determined to closely and accurately meet the search.


Additionally, people are reportedly three times more likely to seek local results via mobile voice search compared to typing. (7) 


What does this mean for you? Well, if your website isn’t optimised for search, you’re doing it a disservice. There’s no point investing thousands in your digital presence if no one can ever find you.  


In all likelihood, voice search has been impacting your business for years – you just may not have noticed.


Three ways to optimise your website for voice search in 2021 and beyond


1. Consider phrasing and keyword length


Imagine you’re conducting a voice search for the current weather forecast using a Google Home device. Are you going to say ‘weather forecast, Brisbane,’ or are you more likely to ask ‘what is the current weather in Brisbane?’ The latter is far more natural. Verbal searches are more often phrased as questions and typically longer than when typed. Luckily, the brainstrust at the world’s top tech companies know this and systems are programmed to understand typical human phrasing. When optimising your content for voice search, experiment with short and long-tail keywords relevant to your business, such as those linked to your location or the area you serve. 


Along with phrasing, another related consideration is keyword length. Google states in their guidelines that voice search results – the answers their smart home assistants give when prompted – should be brief and concise. A study by Backlinko found that, on average, voice search results are just 29 words long and almost 41% of all answers are taken from featured snippets. Spend some time optimising your site for featured snippets and you’ll likely enhance it for voice search in the process. (6)


2. Improve page load speed


Voice search tends to favour information from fast-loading sites due to the need for efficiency. Google, in particular, is far more likely to prioritise sites that load efficiently. Many different factors can impact load speed, but the most common are the hosting server, website design and code, image size, location and device. The faster your site loads, the better your chances of being featured in a voice search. (6)


3. Boost your backlink profile


A solid backlink profile is your website’s ticket to popularity. Or at least, to page one of Google. Search engines consider links to be key indicators of trust. They prove your information is reliable and engaging, therefore making it a reputable source and more likely to rank. Conversely, if your website has no backlinks and has been live for quite a long time, this signals that it’s not trustworthy, nor is it a valuable source. Of course, this may not be true, but with well over one billion websites on the internet, search engines rely on these factors to manage their results pages. 


The same applies to voice search; Google Home devices are thought to favour well-linked pages. (6)


The most organic way to gain backlinks is by producing unique content. If you work in a metric-driven industry, compile key data into charts or colourful graphics. Send out surveys that you can turn into ebooks or PDFs. Make interesting content to differentiate you from your competitors and your chances of attracting natural backlinks will skyrocket. 


The future of search


The long-term impact of voice search on ecommerce is still uncertain. Rather than worrying about how your business will fare, spend your valuable time upskilling in the fields of search and marketing and ride the digital wave wherever it takes you. 


Article by: Digital Marketing Directory Australia


Key Sources:

  1. Voice Recognition Still Has Significant Race and Gender Biases.’ URL: https://hbr.org/2019/05/voice-recognition-still-has-significant-race-and-gender-biases

  2. iFlytek: The voice of AI.’ URL: https://www.huawei.com/au/publications/winwin-magazine/31/iflytek-ai#:~:text=iFlytek's%20system%20has%20an%20accuracy,supports%2022%20different%20Chinese%20dialects.

  3. ‘1 in 4 Americans Own a Smart Speaker. What Does That Mean for News?’ URL:

https://open.nytimes.com/how-might-the-new-york-times-sound-on-smart-speakers-3b59a6a78ae3

  1. Okay Google: Voice Search Technology And The Rise Of Voice Commerce.’

https://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2018/08/28/okay-google-voice-search-technology-and-the-rise-of-voice-commerce/?sh=7595e7ef4e29

  1. ‘Google Search by Voice: A case study.’ URL: https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/research.google.com/en//pubs/archive/36340.pdf

  2. 45 SUPER Interesting Voice Search Statistics.’ URL: https://backlinko.com/voice-search-stats

  3. Type No More: How Voice Search is Going to Impact the SEO Landscape.’ URL:

https://neilpatel.com/blog/type-no-more-how-voice-search-is-going-to-impact-the-seo-landscape/

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