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Voice Search Challenges: What It Needs to Be Able to Do

How to optimize for voice search? We know it's becoming increasingly popular and have prepared a list of challenges for easier implementation.

Voice Search Challenges: What It Needs to Be Able to Do

If 10 years ago someone would tell us that we’ll be searching for things online just by giving commands to the intelligent assistant inside our phones, we would probably never believe it. Now, the number of voice search devices just keeps on growing – we can search the internet through our voice on mobile phones, laptops, car devices, smart speakers, and even wearables. Whether we want to browse products or just looking for a quick answer to a question, voice search is currently the fastest and easiest way to do it.

Searching through voice is also becoming increasingly popular among businesses, especially those in the e‑commerce industry, as it can help them tremendously boost the user experience and customer satisfaction and also give them a significant competitive advantage. However, while trying to implement voice search technology in their own business, brands often get stuck and struggle with one or more challenges that come together with the technology.

How can you overcome those problems and why should you even try? And overall, how to optimize for voice searches for your content, website, and your business? We’ll tell you everything you need to know in this article.

Why is voice search growing in popularity?

First question – just what exactly makes searching with our voices so popular nowadays? Simply – convenience. Thanks to speech recognition technology, smart assistants can understand human speech and immediately perform a needed action. And as they are now a standard feature of mobile devices and wearables, we can use voice search assistants to find answers to questions or perform simple tasks wherever we are.

Think about it: you no longer need to use a regular search box, type your query and then browse dozens of results whenever you need something. Instead, you can just tell your virtual assistant what you are looking for and it will quickly find the product or information you need. That makes using voice queries much easier and faster than regular search – one command, and we know everything we want.

What’s even more convenient is that we no longer even need to touch our phone or keyboard to search for anything. The intelligent assistant in our phone or home device only needs a voice command and can understand us from a distance, so we can use it while cooking, cleaning, driving, or otherwise having our hands occupied.

We can now use voice search not only for looking for information but shopping as well. Amazon Alexa, for example, has a few skills connected to major supermarket brands through which users can browse and add products to their shopping carts and order them without using a mobile app or website store. By reducing the time and effort users need to find and purchase products they want, voice shopping can significantly improve customer satisfaction.

If you aren’t yet convinced, these statistics should show you how powerful voice search truly is:

  • It’s estimated that around 135.6 million people in the US use voice search features.
  • Globally, there are 320 million units of smart speakers installed.
  • 41% of adults use voice search at least once per day.
  • For mobile searches, searching through voice is the most popular search method.
  • The number of people making purchases through their smart speakers increased by 69% in 2021. More than 40% of smart home voice assistant users also said they regularly use voice search for purchases.
  • In 2024, the number of digital voice assistants is expected to reach 8.4 billion units – meaning there will be more voice assistants worldwide than humans.
  • 46% of users use voice search to find a local business (through Google my business page or similar) daily.

Top Voice search challenges to overcome

Currently, voice assistant users make 3.1 billion voice search queries each month. Do you want to appear in their online search results as well? We bet. Before you can start reaping the benefits of this technology though, there will be a few challenges your brand will have to address first. Let’s now look at some of those.

  • Privacy concerns

While voice assistants are definitely convenient, they come with quite a few privacy concerns. Those devices not only collect and store plenty of information on what the users were searching for or what they bought. In past years, those devices were also recording and storing voice recordings of the users’ voices – and it wasn’t clear who had access to those recordings.

When in 2019 it was revealed that Google and Amazon were sharing audio clips from their customers’ Google Home and Amazon Echo devices with human contractors, people were understandably disturbed. If their voice data fell into the wrong hands, the consequences could be unimaginable.

Another concern is that the devices might passively listen to phone calls or home conversations and then pass the gathered information to businesses. For some, that’s enough reason to keep their distance from voice-enabled devices or applications.

To ease some of the concerns, voice data is now classified as biometrical information and protected by all major privacy laws. Businesses that want to use this technology will need to meet those regulations. However, companies offering voice recognition or search tools also do their best to reassure customers their data is secure.

As an example, Google Assistant now allows users to choose whether or not their search data should be stored and collected by the device and also give them a way to delete their data at any time.

  • Search misunderstandings

The second thing that makes many people wary of using voice search technology is that this technology is still prone to errors and misunderstandings despite improving rapidly. In fact, Statista found out that accuracy (or, rather, lack of it) is seen as the main reason why voice search isn’t yet widespread for 73% of respondents.

Many applications are also struggling with understanding accents or less common languages. In a Life Science Centre study, 79% of people admitted that they are altering their voice to make sure that their digital assistants understand them. Statista also found that 66% of respondents cited dialect or accent recognition issues as a primary reason why they think this technology still has a lot of room for improvement.

Where does the problem lie? The voice recognition algorithms can only understand the languages, dialects, and accents they’ve been trained to understand – and teaching the AI to recognize different languages is a painstaking job.

That slowly changes though together with the growing voice search capabilities: Google Assistant can now understand 14 languages and 13 dialects (including 6 English ones), while Amazon Alexa supports 8 languages and 10 dialects (including 5 English ones). Siri meanwhile understands 21 languages, including Chinese.

  • Ranking high in voice search results just became more difficult.

So far, businesses have focused mainly on finding ways to appear on the first page of search results, preferably as high as possible.

With voice search though, the situation got a bit more complicated. Virtual assistants or intelligent search boxes no longer give users a long list of available search results from which they can pick the site they will visit. Instead, they are getting only one to three search results that the Google algorithm deems to match the voice queries the best.

The best chance to be found and have pages or websites marked as “featured snippets” – pages appearing at the top of the search results. The algorithm might meanwhile miss out on websites that are ranked lower, which means potential customers may never find out about them.

That means that as voice search becomes more widely used, the race for SEO’s top spots will only become more competitive. You can get a headstart though by updating your SEO strategy now.

Knowing how much tougher it might be to be found through voice search, the next question that appears is probably “so what can I do to rank higher?”

The first and most important thing to know before starting with voice search optimization is understanding that people use voice technology in a completely different way than traditional search engines. With a regular search engine, users simply type in a few keywords or phrases and click search. When they talk with a smart device like Alexa though, they ask Alexa questions or give commands to it in a conversational language instead, just like if they were asking a friend for help.

Let’s say someone is searching for a sushi restaurant. Using the search bar, they would most likely type “sushi restaurant near me.” To ask Alexa for help though, the same person would probably rather say, “Hey Alexa, where is a sushi restaurant near me?” to let the intelligent device know they are looking for the restaurant’s location.

So the first significant change is that people now ask “who,” “why,” “where,” “what,” and “how” questions rather than just rely on a set of keywords. Moreover, they’re asking the question in more natural language – meaning the search queries also got longer.

When typing, internet users tend to use short and general keywords – so for a long time, brands have been competing for the short keywords while not focusing much on the longer and far less often searched keywords. When searching by voice though, customers use much longer and more detailed search queries than they would when typing – and that makes spotting and using long-tail keywords now more important than ever.

To make your content rank for the voice search results, you will need to dig a bit into the analytics and look for conversational keywords, long tail phrases, or questions that you can use to promote your content – and then update your website to rank for those.

  • Updating your digital marketing strategy

Given the differences between traditional and voice search, you can see now that updating your current marketing strategy will probably be necessary. But where should you even start with voice search optimization?

As always, when it comes to marketing, good research is vital. What questions your target audience and customers could ask? What questions have you already answered, and what more should you add? A good tip here is to use a keyword research tool to look for what questions you are already ranking or for what common questions your competitors are ranking and then use those for the content for voice search.

Based on that, you can then write new content focused on answering the questions and then compile all the answers into a FAQ section where your users (and voice search engines) can quickly find them. While researching the questions, you should also look for long-tail keywords your audience (and competitors) are using.

Besides refreshing your content and adding relevant keywords, there are a few other things you should update on your website to ensure that Google algorithms will find your page easily. Here are they:

  • Update your local business information: The majority of voice search questions involve asking about the location or contact information of a given business, so make sure to place all those information in an easily accessible place.

Plus, having more contact information available makes your website more reliable in the eyes of the Google algorithm, and this way, it will be ranked higher. If you have a “Google my business” or any other business listing with your contact info, check whether the data is updated and change it if needed.

  • Write short and concise answers: An average voice search result is only 29 words long. This means that when creating content for those, it’s essential to keep it concise. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should write all your articles and posts within the 30 words limit. For a FAQ section, though, 29 words should be just enough for you to give a direct answer to a given question
  • Use schema markups: Using schema markups is a great way to make your website stand out from your SEO competitors. Schema creates structured data about what your page and content are about and that way, it makes it easier for search engines to understand and rank your content. The more SEO crawlers know about your page, the higher your page ranking will be – and it might even be promoted to the top of the search results as a “Rich snippet.”
  • Check your website’s mobile version for mobile-friendliness: Most people using voice search are mobile users, so making sure your mobile website is easy to use is crucial. Optimizing images, shortening loading times, and redesigning buttons and links for smaller mobile screens can give your users a much better experience and boost your SEO ranking simultaneously.
  • Focus on improving your domain authority: Did you know that sites with many links rank more often in voice search? Strong backlinks tell the Google crawlers that your brand is highly relevant to your targeted local audience, and that way, Google ranks your page higher.

Conclusion

Voice search is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for people to search for products online. It’s fast and effortless, people can use it even with their hands occupied. For businesses though, the popularity of this new technology means they have now to look at their content, website, and search rankings in a new way – and optimize it to be easily found by voice searchers.

Finding out the answer to “how to optimize for voice searches” for your e‑commerce store and website will probably take some time, research, and testing on your part. But with how many benefits to voice technology can give to businesses, working on overcoming the challenges and optimizing pages is definitely worth the effort. Besides, with apps like Luigi’s Box at your disposal, adding a voice search option to your website has never been easier. So if you want to have a headstart in the voice ranking race, our guide and Luigi’s Box software will surely come in handy.

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