How Voice Search is changing SEO

15 August 2016

The potential implications voice search can have on SEO practices

We know that a considerable percentage of Google searches, more than 50% to be precise, are performed on mobile phones.

However, the fact that a large percentage of Google Searches, especially local searches, are performed on mobile is an established fact in the SEO community. But what you may be less familiar with is the larger and larger role that voice searches are playing.

Earlier this year Google announced that 20% of these mobile searches are voice activated and again a large majority of these voice searches, unsurprisingly, is related to local search. For instance, Hitwise found that searches related to Food & Beverages were the highest (almost 72%) to be performed on mobile devices. This is not particularly surprising in terms of consumer behaviour… of course when people are out and about they’re going to search for a nearby restaurant on their phones.

So what does the rise of voice searches mean for the world of SEO?

Whilst it is too early on to say whether voice searches will result in any dramatic effect in the SEO landscape, there are some changes being attributed to voice searches that we should keep in mind.

Adjust for Long-tail keywords

Think about the difference between when you speak and when you type. When you type-search, you are most likely using computer-language. In other words, you are probably using only the necessary keywords because we know Google will understand what we mean. For instance, a typed search would look something like ‘best hotels London’ because its less words for you to type, and Google will get the idea of what you want.

However, when you’re speaking to a search engine, you most likely would use natural language: in other words, the way we naturally speak, with full sentences. Whereas in the past few years we’ve seen a drop in long-tail keywords as searches became more laconic, we are now seeing an uptick in longer searches. This is good news for smaller businesses who may be looking to rank higher in the more specific searches.

Specific Search Intent

This is specific to both local businesses and E-commerce websites (and especially so for the latter) as you need to make sure that if you’re selling various products, your webpage is optimised to answer their specific query. In other words, you need to make sure you’re targeting the long-tail keywords that are behind the source for the searches that are relevant for your business. Action words, like ‘where is’ ‘what is’ are immediately much lower down the consumer funnel, as customers are searching for an answer to a business query: whether it’s to eat at your favourite Mexican restaurant that happens to be near, or looking for the cheapest hotel rooms, meaning that it’s more important than ever that your webpages are optimised to answer that particular question.

Local businesses

As stated before, a considerable amount of voice searches are geographic ‘where are…’ searches. Then, if you’re a local business it is important that you ensure your website is optimised not only in terms of local organic search, but also local organic voice search.

So what are some of the things you can do to ensure your local business is successful on search pages.


Other than factoring in long-tail keywords, if you’re a local business owner, a crucial step is citations: ensure that your address and contact details are in every possible online listing and that they are all consistent, so that you have a much better chance of your business popping up for on instant results on Google. Here, we can see that the effects of voice searches on SEO are not game-changing, but their immense popularity (which is only growing) means that it is already having some effects on the search world. Hence, when you are optimising your website, voice search is something you definitely have in mind.