The Rise of Voice Assistants

Web data has long existed in a virtual world, accessed by a virtual portal. Users log on, type into Google, and sift through the results that arise. Or, at least, that’s how the majority of web searches used to happen. Today, with the increase in voice assistants, like Apple’s Siri, and voice-first devices, like the Amazon Echo, search is spinning off in a brand new direction.

The Rise of Voice Assistants

If you’ve ever asked your phone how to get to the closest gas station or when your favorite musician is hosting a concert in your area, you’re already familiar with the growing popularity of voice assistants. While not necessarily a new concept – Apple’s Siri debuted in beta on the iPhone 4S in October 2011 and has been included in every version of the phone since then – the presence of voice assistants in the technology industry is only on the upswing. Today, the market has spread far beyond smartphones, with stand-alone search devices existing as part of a smart home setup. With Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and other such options, voice search is now becoming a part of daily life.

Voice Assistants in Search

As the role of voice assistants becomes more normalized in modern culture, the number of individuals who search the web solely or in large part by voice is growing, too. Somewhere around 20% of all searches are now made using voice assistants, with that number expected to rise to closer to 50% by 2020. One study even estimates that voice search will grow to a $600+ million industry by 2019.

The bottom line? Sooner rather than later, voice will dominate the search world – and the way content must be created.

Tailoring Content to Voice Technology

Search is changing, and that means content marketing needs to change, too. Historically, content has been created with traditional screen-based keywords in mind but now, as more and more web users are speaking rather than typing, SEO is in rapid need of an upgrade.

In a voice search, human speech patterns start to matter. Over the last few decades, searching online has been dominated by chains of related words – “Target store near me,” for example – but this isn’t how most people talk. Instead of spitting keywords into a microphone, people ask real, normal questions: “where is the closest Target store to me?” Instead of ranking for keyword strings, content needs to start targeting speech, diction, and regional colloquialisms that may be said but not typed.

Furthermore, organic search will soon play an even larger role than it already does. Unlike a traditional search engine results page in which web users can browse hundreds of results in search of the right answer, AI voice responses are limited to top-ranking data with no real option to scroll through other hits. Thus, the best, most relevant results are what Alexa or Home or Siri will read – not the articles on page 5.

The SEO landscape is ever-changing, but the rise in voice searches may be one of the biggest yet. Without a strategy that keeps voice assistants in mind, it’s going to be easy to fall behind. A few tweaks now, however, can put you at the forefront, ensuring you stay relevant as voice search continues to evolve.