Author: Brent Lollis, Founder and President of Creative State, a digital strategy firm based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Digital marketing is changing rapidly. If you want your business to be visible online and generate organic (non-paid) traffic, you’ll need to stay up to date.  Google, which generates as much as 80% of all organic web traffic, makes changes to its search algorithm once or twice per day. This is in addition to the major changes with the funny names (penguins, pandas, or any other animal in Google’s zoo). 

This time the changes are being driven by the small microphones we carry around with us, within our smartphones and tablets.

Animation of a Google voice search

Mobile technology has reached a tipping point, as processing power and voice recognition software reached a critical mass simultaneously. What would have seemed like science fiction just a decade or two ago – people speaking to small handheld devices and getting information from anywhere in the world – is now a mundane reality for most of the world.

While that represents some incredible technological achievements, it also renders much of what we knew about search engine optimization and website marketing obsolete. Google reports that 20% of its mobile search queries are done by voice. That percentage will grow dramatically in the next few years. 

MindMeld conducted a study of 1,800 smartphone users in the United States. More than 40% of those surveyed said they started using voice search within in the last 6 months:

Chart showing voice command usage relative to time

Siri (41.6%) and “OK Google” (25.9%) were the most widely used voice assistants. Cortana and Amazon Alexa were also used by a small percentage of users.

Chart showing Siri and OK Google as top used voice assistants

What does this mean for your business? Are you ready for a world filled with voice-assisted search?

Here are a few things you should know…

Voice Search Is Everywhere


If you don’t use voice search, you certainly know people who do. 

What are we using voice search for? A recent study shows teens and adults are using voice search for different things. 

The top 3 things teens use voice search for are:

  • Call someone (“Hey Siri, call Sara with no h, because h’s are EW!”)
  • Ask for directions (“Ok, Google, tell me how to get to the Ariana Grande concert.”)
  • Help with homework (“Alexa, what year was Ariana Grande born?”) 

The top 3 things adults use voice search for are:

  • Ask for directions (“Alexa, how do I get to Dr. Smith’s office?”)
  • Dictate a text (“Dr. Smith. I need to setup an appointment. My back is killing me.”)
  • Call someone (“Hey Siri, call Dr. Smith.”)

what are we using voice search for?

Using voice search isn’t just a matter of convenience, or saving your fingers. It leads to different kinds of search strings, which in turn point toward a whole new set of results. 

Searchers Are Getting Help

It’s easy enough to speak a phrase into a Google app on your phone or tablet, but many of your potential customers are going further. A full 55% of mobile users are comfortable enough with Siri, Cortana, and other digital assistant platforms to use them “regularly,” and sometimes daily to make purchasing decisions.

That means they aren’t just using voice-assisted search, but are adding another layer of filters and interactions between themselves and your website. How can you be sure your pages will show up at the top of the list? The answer largely comes down to two critical details of a voice-assisted search.

Two Critical Voice Search Factors: Location and Intent

Voice searches are handled differently by Google and the other search engines for a couple of reasons. For one thing, they entail longer search strings, which leads to a different kind of matching. At the same time, people tend to look for local solutions a lot more often when they are on their phones. In fact, estimates suggest mobile searches for products and vendors lead to in-store retail purchases about half the time.

Google found that 50% of smartphone users and 34% of tablet users visit a store within one day of their local search.

consumers act quickly aftet their local search  

The same study found that 88% of smartphone users and 84% of computer and tablet users conduct their local searches using a search engine.

4 in 5 consumers conduct local searched on search engines

Your website should be filled with geographic keywords and location indicators. It’s also good to beef up your online reputation, so you can be seen as a reputable business in the area and attract a higher percentage of website visitors from your city or neighborhood.

“Conversational” Search Is Crowding Out Keywords

People speak questions to voice-assisted search apps and digital assistants in a much different way than they would type them into a search engine box. For instance, instead of simply using a standard keyword phrase like “Tulsa web design,” or even letting Google auto complete the phrase, someone might find a company like mine by asking Siri “where is a good web designer in my city?”

The second variation must factor in not only geography, but searcher intent. Then, it must evaluate the quality of search results by reviews, social indicators, and corroborating information. In this way, voice-assisted search makes things easier, and tougher at the same time. On one hand, searchers are giving more information about what exactly it is they want. But on the other, they are rendering exact phrase matching and other traditional SEO tools much less effective.

How to Prepare for Voice-Assisted Search

There are a few steps you can take today to attract more voice-assisted search traffic to your website. 

  1. Ensure your pages are mobile compatible – Use Google’s Mobile Compatibility Test to check your website. ( It’s a good idea to check multiple pages throughout your site. Some website firms will spend time making sure the homepage is mobile compatible but neglect the interior pages of the website.
  2. Add local search engine optimization elements – Your pages should include your company name, address, phone number and email address. Use a local phone number if possible. You can also include elements such as city guides, reviews from local residents, maps and directions.
  3. Add natural language content to your website - Put yourself in the shoes of your potential customer. What type of phrase would they speak into their phone or tablet? (“Who is the best marketing company in Tulsa?” or “Who is the best web design company in Oklahoma?”)
  4. Make sure your local business listing(s) are accurate – Google’s local listings are now called “Google My Business.” You can get started here
  5. Boost the credibility and authority of your website – Seek out reviews from your satisfied customers. Make it easy for them to submit reviews by sending them a link directly to your business. Google makes it easy. You can also do this for other popular review sites like Yelp, Amazon and others. (Here’s a list of 19 online review sites.) 

Voice search isn’t going anywhere, but companies that don’t adapt might be.

If you’re not ready for the voice-assisted search revolution, then it’s time to start preparing. The next tidal wave of change is closer than you think.

The Takeaways

  • Voice-assisted search already accounts for 20% of Google’s mobile traffic.
  • Digital assistants like Siri and Cortana can either help or hurt your website’s visibility.
  • Traditional SEO is becoming less important as conversational search terms become popular.
  • To prepare for voice-assisted search, you should increase your natural-language content and boost your website’s credibility.

Is your business ready for voice search? Do you have questions about anything in this article? Need help implementing the suggestions in this article?

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