Voice search technology has revolutionized the customer experience, bringing a new level of ease, speed, and accessibility. Today, it’s become part of how people access information, consume entertainment, and make purchases. And for businesses, this spells a new era in how they engage with customers, disseminate information, and sell their products and services.

What exactly is voice search?

In the internet-led digital era, accessing information couldn’t have become any easier—at least that’s what everyone thought a decade back. You just typed in your query on a search engine, and voilà, all your answers materialized on your screen in under a second.

But AI technology has taken this to another level. Voice search has taken away the hassle of typing altogether, allowing you to access content using speech. Now, the obvious appeal of this proposition is not just limited to the novelty of it. It can also bring incredible ease to your daily activities and save a ton of time along the way, making it perfect for on-the-go use.

But there’s another important element to its broad appeal. The AI-enabled voice responses add a distinctly human touch to an otherwise lonesome activity. In fact, 41% of users of a voice-activated device describe the experience as talking to a friend or another person. And they’re using terms like “please” and “thank you”.

So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the popularity of virtual assistant devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa has taken off in such rapid measure. And today, you can benefit from voice search technology on pretty much any device, whether you’re using Siri on your iPhone or Google Voice Search on your laptop. And its benefits are so profound that it’s become part of daily life for more than 70% of voice-enabled device users.

How is voice search impacting businesses?

So, what does all this mean for businesses, both large and small? Voice search has posed new challenges for companies in a fast proliferating marketplace. But with every challenge comes an opportunity. And those who thrive are not always the mightiest. The ones with the agility and speed to respond faster can often have a better edge.

A new content format

Text search pushed companies to pursue a prominent position among search results. But voice search technology has narrowed this down even further. Now, only the first search result is “heard” by the customer. So, the pressure has intensified for businesses to grab that coveted ranking position at the very top.

So, how can you optimize content for voice-enabled search? The basic principles of SEO will form a common ground for both voice and text searches. For example, a faster loading time will continue to play an essential role in the SEO strategy.

And certain steps like optimizing content for local searches and updating Google My Business listings will become even more important for voice searches.

Mobile voice searches are three times more likely to involve local queries than text-based searches.

But two major areas stand out for a voice-focused SEO strategy.

  • Conversational vs. typing language — Voice searches are more conversational. So, instead of saying “popular hotels Ontario”, you’ll likely ask “What’s the best hotel near me?”. This makes it important to use conversational language in your content for it to rank high in voice-based search results.
  • Long-tail keywords vs. keyphrases — Users often type 2–3 relevant words in text-based searches. But voice searches involve questions in the form of a full sentence and can include around 10 or more words. So to voice-optimize your content, you’ll need to include long-tail keywords. And these should cover common questions that will likely come up in conversational queries.

The key here is to strike a balance in how you optimize your content for both voice and text searches without alienating one from the other. Remember, both audiences are still essential and offer important opportunities for business growth.

Changing consumer behavior

With text-based searches, consumers often take time to browse content and evaluate and compare data. But with the hands-free nature of voice search, they expect quick responses with the most relevant content.

This is breeding a new kind of consumer behavior—one that prioritizes speed and convenience over in-depth details. So, businesses would need to present their content differently — for example, in short capsules that provide direct answers without rambling.

You should also look at ways to add more conveniences to a voice-based shopping experience. Take a look at a study on users of voice-activated speakers. They welcome brand communications on several fronts that they consider important.

Receiving details on deals, promotions, and sales and personalized tips to make their life easier are all essential for this voice-based audience. And for businesses, these present opportunities to elevate the voice-enabled shopping experience of their customers.

Privacy and data security

Studies show that more than 40% of smart speaker users are concerned about who is listening to their voice queries and how their data are handled. These worries seem certainly justified, considering the significant amount of data trails left behind with each voice interaction. From query details to personal information, these data could have far-reaching consequences in the event they are purposely or otherwise misused.

And history provides enough examples of such search tech mishaps, from security flaws in Amazon Alexa to unwarranted recordings by Google Home

These concerns will only escalate as voice search technology spread across more applications. So, businesses would need to set in place stricter privacy and data security policies and invest in advanced technology to provide greater assurance to customers.

The future of search

Scientists are already working on AI technology to translate brain activity to text. But only time will tell what the future holds for thought-enabled search. And visual search is already making rapid progress and finding its way into commercial use. It’s so far adopted in several applications like Google Lens and Amazon StyleSnap.

In the meantime, businesses need to adapt their marketing strategies to get ready for the new wave of voice search technology. After all, the voice and speech recognition market is expected to reach $26.8 billion by 2025. So companies, both large and small, must keep up if they want a slice of this multi-billion dollar opportunity.