We’ve all heard of voice search technology, and there’s a strong chance you’ve even used it. It’s projected to have an imminent impact, with forecasted figures highlighting an expected 8.4bn voice-activated devices worldwide by 2024 and voice-prompted ecommerce set to break £3.5bn in the UK by 2022. But what exactly are the benefits?

To help you understand, we’ve detailed what voice search actually is, the advantages it offers, the challenges it still faces, and how you can optimise your website for it.

Voice search technology allows a user to ask a question through spoken commands using a mobile device or smart speaker with a virtual assistant like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. While traditionally a user would type their question into a search engine query bar, voice search lets a user speak to their device.

After voicing a question, your speech-compatible device accesses relevant internet content to formulate a helpful response, similarly to Google’s featured snippet function. The device then reads this response out loud.

While it’s difficult to accurately predict how many people will be using voice search in one, five or ten years, it’s safe to say that, as long as the technology continues to improve, use of voice search will continue to grow in popularity.

The benefits of voice search technology

Voice search is reportedly set to revolutionise the consumer experience, so we’ve outlined the ways you can get ahead in your understanding of its benefits.

Voice search is the natural form of communication

Whether on a computer, laptop or mobile device, we’ve become accustomed to typing out our search queries, but the emergence and development of voice search technology has prompted a return to a more natural form of communication. One of the core benefits of voice search is its potential to offer consumers easier dialogue with search engines.

The spoken word is generally how people talk to each other, so it makes sense that it should become a usable form of communication with our technology. As smart speakers and compatible devices become even more attuned to users’ voices, accents and tones, the convenience and accessibility of voice search may well elevate it above manual typed search.

A more efficient search process

Hands-free search makes for a much more efficient working experience, and allows a user to quickly access useful information without having to break away from another task.

This is especially helpful when computer access is inconvenient or if work doesn’t afford a user the luxury of taking time away to be distracted by their mobile device. In short, voice search is barrier-free and doesn’t demand a webpage or app be kept open in the background.

Voice search is designed to offer prompt answers

Because voice search technology is styled similarly to Google’s featured snippet functionality, any query or question is answered in prompt style without going into too much detail. This is helpful if your concern is basic or straightforward and can be addressed in short form.

Alternatively, by pushing appropriate links to your device, voice search will often offer you the opportunity to explore related articles in more detail. This is a useful feature, because it allows you to register top-level information immediately and absorb a detailed run-through at your leisure.

The challenges that voice search technology currently faces

While there are numerous benefits to voice search, naturally there are a few key concerns around the technology in its existing form.

Voice search technology still isn’t 100% accurate

Have you ever said something to your smart device, only for it to not quite catch your whole sentence? This is the most obvious drawback of voice search technology in its current form, and can prove frustrating for users who might be in a rush and require instant information. Of course, voice search is constantly evolving, so this is more of a contemporary concern that will become much less of an issue as the technology advances.

Similarly, voice search technology isn’t quite up to scratch with the nation’s complete spectrum of accents (let alone the world’s). Voice search should be simple, speedy and straightforward, and talking to your device should be as easy as having a conversation with a friend, so it can be an annoyance when your virtual assistant struggles to understand your tone.

There’s still some apprehension around privacy

Because our voice-compatible devices work to the sound of our speech, they are, of course, always listening for the next command. This is a brilliant feature in one respect, in that it ensures immediacy and quick-fire results, but it also leaves many feeling a little apprehensive about how much of their personal information is actually being logged. In fact, nearly 4 in 5 Brits are concerned about their privacy being breached by using voice search technology.

When optimising your website for SEO, you’re used to considering the search behaviour of your audience. However, voice search optimisation is a completely different beast and requires a different approach. Most importantly, keyword research should be orientated around speech patterns.

Rather than optimising for brief and snappy words and phrases, look to target questions and long tail keywords to satisfy conversational searches. For instance, users are much more likely to ask their smart device ‘what is the best hotel to stay at in Leeds?’ than ‘best hotel Leeds’. The latter is more likely to feature as a manual Google search, while the former is chattier.

We’ve highlighted more areas you should focus on when conducting voice search optimisation for your website:

  • ‘Near me’ searches make up a large chunk of voice requests, so make sure you optimise your content to accommodate location data.
  • Include frequently asked questions as part of your on-page content. Voice search favours direct questions and accessible answers, so FAQs are a prerequisite for positive performance.
  • Keep your content colloquial. Readability is always a factor you should consider when creating content, but ensuring your on-page copy is conversational is even more crucial when tackling voice search optimisation.
  • Ignoring mobile performance could be your undoing, considering most voice searches are conducted from a handset.

Voice search isn’t going anywhere, so it’s important to keep it at the forefront of your mind when mapping out your digital content. Ensure your pages are performing at peak capacity with even more expert website advice from us, or enjoy exploring the latest in the world of tech.