Someday in the not-too-distant future, our homes will resemble the Starship Enterprise, with their residents barking out commands to an invisible, omnipresent computer to change the TV channel, turn up the heat and turn off the oven. Smart home technology is developing rapidly, with Apple Siri, Google Home and Amazon Echo pushing aggressively to replace buttons and keyboards with voice commands.
Voice command technology is already affecting the SEO industry, as more and more people begin using voice commands on their mobile devices when conducting searches. What are the implications of voice search for SEOs and their clients? Here are a few ideas and observations.
- Voice search is not going to change everything immediately. It will take time for dumb homes to become smart homes. No matter how sophisticated Apple Siri, Google Home and Amazon Echo are, these technologies still need smart appliances to connect to — smart TVs, smart HVAC systems, smart ovens, etc. In the meantime, as smart infrastructures develop, voice search will probably ramp up steadily. Though mobile users — and certainly desktop users — will still be ready, willing and able to type search queries the old-fashioned way.
- Voice phrasing patterns are different from written ones. Voice search queries tend to be longer tail, and frequently expressed as questions. As voice search grows, targeting voice-pattern keywords will become more important, especially for local search, which seems to attract the lion’s share of voice search.
- Voice search will affect more than local search. Right now, it stands to reason that most voice search is local search because most voice search is available on mobile devices, where local intent already predominates. But as smart homes and smart offices become the norm, people will search for anything and everything — with SERPs popping up on their mobile phones, TV screens, desktop monitors and refrigerator door panels. Thus, local retailers probably have the most immediate need to pay attention to voice search, but B2Bs and B2Cs with national SEO campaigns should not turn a blind eye to it by any means.
- Target audience demographics will become more important for SEO. Younger audiences are much more comfortable with voice commands than older ones. This means businesses targeting older audiences will need to target “written pattern” keywords, while businesses targeting younger audiences will look more and more to “voice pattern” keywords. Organizations targeting young and old audiences will probably need to expand their target keyword list, perhaps driving up the cost of their campaigns. Over time, though, this issue is sure to sputter out, as the time will come when digital natives comprise the vast majority of every target audience.
Over to You
How do you see voice search affecting SEO in the near term and long term?