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How voice search will impact the SEO

25 November 2016 Olga Svetchkar Leave a comment ALL-HANDS SEO

Voice search is really interesting and very useful thing. As far as it is being improved this technology gains more and more fans.
how-voice-search-will-impact-the-seoJust a bit of history

The very first attempt to build a mechanism that would understand human speech was made in 1952. The project was named “Audrey”. Unfortunately, the first try wasn’t successful because Audrey could only understand numbers. Its main weak sides were a huge amount of conditions that users should stick to if they wanted to receive information.

For example:

  • it had to be a male voice
  • he had already used Audrey before
  • he had to make pauses between words about 0.35 second.

If those conditions weren’t adhered there was no answer.

Ten years later, in 1962 there was a switch from number search to word search. IBM represented Shoebox computer, that could understand 16 words. Ten years after that the world met the software that was able to perceive human speech. Vip-100 could perceive few hundred words and was available as a commercial product. Even though the system had lots of defects, for example, it couldn’t perceive continuous speech but separate words. At that time the term “system training” appeared. To make system perceive some words, they should be dictated first.

Starting from 1980th there were many attempts to use speech perception function in different commercial projects. Furthermore, the aim was wide public. For example, Julie Talking Doll could perceive kids speech. Different manufacturers tried to find an interesting purpose for speech perception.

In 2002 Google rolled out Voice Search. In the very beginning, users could find a phone number they wanted to call to. Such kind of search wasn’t convenient so users didn’t like it. The project was scrapped on the test stage. At last, in 2011 Apple released its iPhone 4s that had Siri. it was represented as a personal assistant.

Recently Google announced that its voice search Google Now should be a personal assistant as well. For the last two years, the voice search has significantly gained popularity.

Why voice search is so popular

Today the statistics of voice search usage is impressive. On the diagram, you can see that most of the young people use the voice search. As for the generation of older people, they actively become familiar with it.

Users who use mobile personal assistants

Nevertheless, this tendency has appeared only for the last years. In 2011 85% iOS users said that they used Siri. More than likely this tendency is related to the brisk growth of technology for the last few years. Computers and gadgets become smarter and now there is no necessity to fill the dictionary, modern assistants understand coherent human speech. Now they can be really used as actual assistants.

No doubt, it is simpler to give a task to your online assistant than type a message bending hands and eyes. Most of all the voice search is used from the mobile devices and such way of “communication” with a gadget may seem more convenient than using a keyboard.

Here is some statistics for requests made to Cortana which is a voice assistant of Windows 10. Users preferences, in this case, are obvious. Therefore, we have a new challenge how such tendency can influent SEO. Maybe it is the exact time when your website should be optimized for the voice search.

text queries vs voice queries to Cartana

What changes should be expected

If we consider the voice search, first of all, the formulation of requests is different. When we type our request using a keyboard, mostly, we try to make it the shortest and simplest the possible to use fewer symbols.

For instance, you would say “Who is the CEO of Microsoft?” but if you decide to type this query you would short it to “Microsoft CEO”. What you would firstly notice is the length that became less.


Mostly the query length differs because the text query is most simplified one. You don’t use prepositions, question words, such as who, how, where, when. It often happens that the articles are absent.

In the case of the voice choice, most likely the query will be built as a question because it is hard to avoid question words. Such kind of queries helps to detect exact user’s intentions. Compare these two queries: “digital camera” and “where can I buy a digital camera”. In the second phrase, the intention to buy is doubtless because of the longer query length. The longer query is the better the searcher’s wishes will be understood.

One more difference of the voice search is local search aiming. Most often the voice search is used by smartphone users when they need to find something on the exact moment or to get somewhere, or to know where and what they can buy. Therefore you will be able to make a decision quicker. What can be easier: you walk in the city and are hungry, you say “ok, Google, where is the nearest cafe?” and receive the answer to your question. Nowadays it is hard to imagine that you will wander around the town looking for some place where you will eat.

What SEOs should take into consideration

First of all, the main aim should be mobile devices. The voice search is mostly made from them. It means that you should optimize your website for this kind of devices. It is necessary because of many reasons. For example, Google announced that the mobile index will be separated from desktop one. Due to such news, it is important to pay attention to the mobile optimization.

Analyze and overview the keyword list. The way how a query may be made for the voice search is different from how it is made for the text one. You should consider this detail when creating a keyword list paying attention to more informative phrases. Don’t forget to add phrases with question words. All the phrases should look natural.

Hopefully, Google will not forget about its AdWords customers and will launch some tool for analyzing queries made for the voice search. But from the other side, there is a more important question: how the Google ads will work in the new realities when there won’t be any SERP where ads can be shown. The solution will be obviously found because Google wouldn’t want to lose the income from the paid search.

In this situation, we can see that Google wants to squeeze everything from the new tendency. The voice search has made only a few steps on the market and that’s why there are a lot of things that aren’t clear for now, but there are also perspectives that won’t pass by such giants as Google, Apple, Amazon. For instance, Google does its best to turn a simple search into a fully-featured voice assistant. As you know, the biggest search engine does everything to make internet users stay at the SERP as long as possible. For example, there are short answers on the top of SERP so a user doesn’t have to follow the link to another website.

short answers

Now, Google wants to implement voice answers to users questions. According to the Google statistics, about 19% of users receive the information they need in the SERP without visiting any of websites from the list.

The Hummingbird algorithm is aimed at the voice search, to be more specific – at perceiving of a query phrase and understanding of what users intentions are. The algorithm includes old methods and a wide range of innovations. Now the search engine tries to understand what a user told. In particular, Google said that Hummingbird notices the whole query or sentence but not separate words. For example, if you say “where is the nearest cafe with business lunches” you will be able to select the right place out of the list of the cafes situated closest to you. In this case, your location will be taken into account.

Google wants to understand what you have on your mind before you actually have any thoughts in your head.

Think about Google as a perfect small screw of this mechanism. Imagine that Google gives you answers to such queries:

Where can I find a specialist who is able to help with setting servers?
When was Boston Red Sox formed?
What is the forecast of gas rates for the next year?
What time will I have dinner on Thursday, where it will be and how to get there?

Of course, these queries don’t work right now but such examples give you some understanding where it will lead.

If you want to be among the results for those queries, you will need to make semantic analysis and work on collecting additional information, including your personal context.

The fourth query clearly demonstrates the following: most likely, Google doesn’t consider if the search is made among websites, your address book, or among both. But it is not only about Hummingbird, in fact, it is a part of the global project. To have any understanding how long this process will take, Google representative Amit Singhal made an application to receive the patent for “Search queries improved based on query semantic information” in March, 2003. In few words, the technology development will take a lot of time and work.

Focus on the local search

Development of the voice search may have significantly influence on promoting your business. If in SEO you focus on local search it may mean that you will be found with the voice search. For this, you need to take care of placing your business to the maps. It is necessary to pay attention to filling of contacts information. Also, don’t forget about having positions in Google Maps SERP.

In such case, you can work more on queries with such words as near, the nearest, not far etc. For example, “where is the nearest shop” is a typical question asked by a user who wants to buy something. If a user gets SERP with the address of your shop, he will definitely go there.

Specific results for the local search Google started to deliver since 2014 when Google Pigeon was rolled out. This algorithm is made specifically for delivering results that are the most relevant to the user’s location. To make this algorithm work correctly, it is necessary to detect user’s location with the highest accuracy. For this, Google uses GPS data. Also, the connection to the Google account is needed to provide personalized SERP. So, taking into consideration all these facts, users receive different answers to the same question.

This is what you should take care of to satisfy Google Pigeon:

  • Add your business to Google Places;
  • Have the information that points to the local focus of your web resource;
  • Be active in the social networks always mentioning your location.

Here are some facts about Google Pigeon that you should be aware of:

  1. It doesn’t lay search engines filters on those websites that have penalties and only ranks a website worse in the local SERP.
  2. Google Pigeon provides websites, that represent local business, with a possibility to forereach SEO “monsters” which are in the desktop SERP but didn’t pay enough attention about local optimization.
  3. The Google Pigeon algorithm guarantees huge gain of rankings and traffic for web-resources which thematics are relevant to local business with focused specialization, education, products, entertainment, food courts, healthcare.
  4. The most negative influence algorithm has on those niches which are relevant to insurance, movies, real estate. They can lose up to 60% of rankings.


For now, it is impossible to say that the voice search will make a revolution in the SEO world or in the search. But it definitely will have an impact on the way of the websites promoting especially in the niche specialization and geo-dependent industries.


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