Ok Google, what is voice search?

maxence tabankia

Maxence Tabankia

Digital Marketing Consultant

Voice search, the new search engine

“Siri, what’s the nearest Lebanese restaurant?”

“Alexa, play the last album of Beyoncé”

Ten years ago, if you were asking something from your cell phone, people might have looked at you weirdly. Today probably not, as it has become something quite usual. Initiated first by Google but made popular by Apple’s Siri, it is now a feature on a lot of devices. But what does it mean for marketers? How can your SEO be “voice search fit”? Let’s figure out exactly what it is and if it’s worth your time.

What is voice search?

Glad you asked! Voice search is when a user asks a vocal query to a virtual assistant on a device. The assistant then recognizes the voice command, analyzes the user intent and gives an appropriate response to that query from results provided by a specific search engine.

Voice search is huge now but is used to be a 2001 humble patent from Google for its search engine. Users could call a number provided by Google, ask a question and then got a link to check the answer on their browser. We’ve come a long way, right? It is only a few years later, in 2010, that a start-up launched a free voice-recognition app. It didn’t take long before Apple acquired the app and presented it as Siri. Today we have four major voice search services, each owned by a different company, yet sometimes using the same search engine.

source: hubspot.com

Is voice search on the rise?

You bet! If we take time to crunch the numbers, voice search definitely looks like the new super hyped marketing trend. According to Bing, 25% of all searches are voice searches. From Google’s perspective, 20% of all searches are voice searches. Furthermore, Google says 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search more than once a day. Both teens and adults are asking their phones for directions and using it to help skip the hassle of typing in phone numbers. In this graph from KPCB, voice search seems to be on an ongoing rise since 2013.

Fifty percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, according to comScore.

If you think about it, voice search isn’t the next big thing, it already is the new way for people to search for information. And if you think voice search is only available on mobile phones or computer, you’ll be mistaken. As you might know, Amazon offers Alexa, a voice search service that can be accessed from a speaker. But this technology will soon be accessible on household supplies like refrigerators or even cars.

What does it change in terms of SEO?

As you could have guessed with voice search, you don’t type words anymore, you pronounce them (duh!). So what does it change in terms of SEO? Well, a lot actually. With voice search, the way we search and what we search is quite different from regular search. So it’s obvious that marketers need to take that into account when working on their SEO.

Voice-based searches aren’t exactly suited for long and deep research sessions. It’s rather used for quick queries that require instant answers. The examples we gave at the top of the article are representative of what we look for with voice search. Interactions with search engines grow shorter, meaning fewer opportunities to make a strong first impression.

However (and surprisingly), voice queries are often longer and more complex than regular search. Maybe it’s because we don’t have to type our research but we definitely change our behavior when using voice search. Search queries are already becoming more complex with regular search. Therefore, the traditional approach to select keywords for SEO will need to change, favoring longer keyword queries and targeting more general topics, rather than specific terms.

If you remember the graph of KPCB above, one of the top queries is GPS-based. As you see on this graph from Google, local searches have grown by 150% over the last two years.


So many voice queries have a local intent. Users rely on voice search especially when they’re on the go, looking for the place they need to go or directions. So keep in mind that voice search will drive the percentage of locally-focused queries up, as search engines will provide a better ranking to local results.

What can I do ?

As of today, you cannot know your voice search rankings yet. So you can’t really make sure your website’s SEO is voice search fit. But in the meantime, here’s Forbes’s top 4 tips and tricks that can surely help optimize your voice search ranking:

  1. Ensure Your Website Loads Quickly
  2. Write The Way That You Speak
  3. Include Featured Blocks Of Content
  4. Concentrate On Local Searches

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