How Does Voice Search Work?

Voice search is a fairly new technology, brought about by the likes of Siri and Alexa devices. Gone are the antiquated days of needing to type into search engines—now we can just talk into our phones or devices to get the information we need. People are using this tech more than ever. About 3.25 billion people use these voice-activated search devices around the globe, and we expect this number to grow even larger in the future.

How does voice search impact your business? Specifically, how does the advent of voice search affect your SEO marketing strategy?

How Do Voice Search Devices Work?

While it seems simple enough, many of us do not know how these devices work to bring us the information we request.

When you speak into your device microphone, smartphone or otherwise, your device records this command and sends it via the internet. Depending on your tech, your gadget may first send the recording over to a cloud service to interpret the request. The algorithms will then assess your words and tone to decide which search results to show you.

While this process works a lot of the time, you might sometimes receive responses that do not make sense. Luckily, search engines and devices have made a lot of progress in this area.

Voice vs. Text Search

The way we manually type our questions into Google is usually different from the way we make search requests through voice search. If we type a request into our phone, the search is usually a little more fragmented. For example, we might write “latin restaurant miami” instead of a full sentence.

But on average, voice searches are longer. Since we are talking aloud, our searches will be a little more natural—and the spoken word is often less concise than the written one. We might ask our search device, “Where is the nearest Latin restaurant in Miami?”

That is why voice recognition has been optimized to interpret natural and conversational language.

The Hummingbird Update

In September 2016, the Hummingbird update to Google essentially remodeled the entire search algorithm. This new version centered on semantic search. Semantic search focuses on contextualizing searches to understand user intent and find the most relevant results. Instead of focusing on the literal meaning of your search, Google will try to find out what you really mean. For example, if you search “sneakers,” you likely do not want to read about the history of sneakers or the process of creating them. You are probably looking to shop online. Google will determine this and bring you relevant shopping results.

This is also when Featured Snippets came into being. The algorithm can assume that you want a simple, clear answer—so it takes the best response from search results and places it at the top for you in a little box that doesn’t even require you to click. 

Why are semantics relevant to voice search? You can search or shop online more naturally instead of having to clarify exactly what you mean each and every time. That means fewer mishaps, better results, and less time wasted.

3 Ways to Create a Voice Search-Friendly Site

#1: Target Long-Tail Keywords

Since users use longer sentences to speak to their Alexa, Siri, or other device, you can adapt to voice search by using more long-tail keywords, many of which are in the form of questions.

#2: Answer Open-Ended Questions

Speaking of which, you need to distinguish between questions that require shorter answers and those that require longer ones. Featured snippets will likely give users the answer to simple questions—you need to target other open-ended queries that may require longer, in-depth information.

#3: Determine User Intent

While determining user intent was important before, it is even more critical now. If you want to persuade users to buy, be sure that you target keywords with purchase intent instead of queries where users only want information.

Voice search is an exciting development for both consumers and businesses. This technology will allow you to better serve your customers—and potentially give you a leg up on the competition.