Technology   |   March 5, 2019

The Future of Voice Search and SEO

A 4 minute read by Doug Cooper, Sr. SEO Manager

It’s 2019 but Voice Search is still considered to be in its infancy. There are a lot of statistics out there and the role it will play in SEO as well as digital marketing as a whole. Here’s some of the more popular ones:

  1. In the year 2020, 50% of all searches will be conducted by voice (per ComScore)
  2. 55% of all households will own a smart speaker by 2022 (per OC&C Strategy Consultants)
  3. 30% of all search will be done without a screen by 2020 (per Gartner)

Two out of the three stats above are less than 12 months away. Even if these hold to be true, should marketers change their digital marketing strategy? Probably not. Voice search lends itself to results that are short and concise. So it can easily handle queries such as “Alexa, order more dog food” or “Hey Google, how many teams are in the NFL?”. Simple, quick, and to the point. It’s also useful if you want to order a pizza or find five restaurants near you when you’re out and about.

Will someone in the market for a new TV or vehicle use voice search for their research? Not likely. When users need to research things more thoroughly, they will still turn to traditional search. This will usually include queries when cost is a consideration.

We gathered some local digital marketing professionals’ thoughts on voice search (including some of our very own). Here’s what was said:

I own an Alexa and a Google Home. I don’t think voice search can fully replace traditional search anytime soon. I admit I might be slightly biased. However, voice search only provides me with one result and that one result may not always be correct depending on the query.
- Doug Cooper, Sr. SEO Manager at Swarm Agency

Voice search is an exciting new frontier, especially for users who want to figure out information quickly - like ‘who’s the lead singer of [insert band name]?’ But when it comes to lead generation, I think there’s still a lot to learn for users and brands alike.”
- Erin Hill, SEO Specialist at Swarm Agency

Voice search marketing is best suited for service-oriented brands that can accept the user’s request in a matter of seconds, i.e. order a pizza for delivery, set up an appointment with a plumber or a pest service. It all comes down to relevancy and usefulness at that very moment.
- Karim Hirani, Media Manager at Swarm Agency

The biopharm industry has yet to embrace voice search but it needs to. It’s becoming the way our nation receives information. Without a presence in the space, we might as well be non-existent.
- Cynthia Dubose, Digital Marketing Manager at a Biopharm company

My industry is embracing it more and more. Consumers who use voice search love it and have no desire to turn back. More publishers are trying to figure out how to capitalize on this opportunity.
- Sakinah Sanders, Programmatic Product Manager at Cox Media Group

I work for a large entertainment brand that uses traditional search in marketing campaigns. Voice search is definitely the wave of the future but our brand hasn’t started including it to reach potential customers. 
- Whitney Miner, Analytics Manager at an Atlanta entertainment brand

I think the rise of virtual assistants and our growing dependency on them have affected the questions we now include in optimization as well as the way we look at relevancy in general.
- Trishawn Brown, SEO Specialist at CallRail

However, voice search does have its place and should be incorporated into your content strategy where applicable. So how do you optimize for voice search? Backlinko analyzed 10,000 voice search results in a study and here are five factors they found:

  1. Page speed is a major factor. The voice search result is usually 52% faster than the average page.
  2. 70% of voice search results are HTTPS.
  3. The average voice search is only 29 words on average. So answers should be short and concise.
  4. Authority matters. Authoritative domains produce voice search results significantly more compared to non-authoritative domains. The mean Ahrefs (our favorite SEO tool here at Swarm) domain rating is 77.
  5. Desktop ranking - 75% of voice search results rank in the top three of desktop results for the query.

Regardless of how anyone feels about voice search, it’s definitely not going anywhere.