Digital Experience

How Voice Search is Changing the Web

“Find the nearest gas station.”

“When will the next MacBook Pro be released?”

“How many touchdowns did Carson Wentz score last season?”

You’ve probably asked your phone one of these questions (or something similar) in the last week. According to Google, more searches take place on mobile devices than on desktop, and approximately 50% of the population uses voice search on a daily basis. There’s no doubt: voice search is changing the way we use the web. And the web is transforming to meet the challenge.

2 Key Factors for Google

Google seldom gives overt clues about what drives their engines, so when they do, it’s important. In the last couple years, Google has pushed two agendas:

Both trace back to the unique demands of voice search. But before we get into these two specifics, let’s explore some context.

  1. Page-speed preferences
  2. Mobile-first indexing

Context of Voice Search

Voice search is primarily used on mobile devices or in-home assistants, such as an Amazon Echo, and it takes the form of a question or command. Most users are no longer typing disconnected keywords, like “iPhone release 2018.” More likely, they are asking, “When will the next iPhone be released?”

Second, voice search is often used within a local context. Rather than typing in “McDonald’s Fargo ND,” most people are asking, “Where is the nearest McDonald’s?” or simply commanding, “Take me to the nearest McDonald’s.”

As illustrated above, voice search is often within a local geographical context, but regardless of location, users are looking for specific information – and they want it right away.

Page Speed

Since 2010, Google has used desktop page speed as a ranking factor. Within the last few months, they have cranked the standard up another notch. As of July 2018, mobile page speed will also affect ranking performance. This decision makes sense in the context of voice search. Without speed, voice search is dead in the water. Nobody wants to hear, “Please wait a minute while I find that for you.” Even 10 seconds is an eternity when you’re standing on the sidewalk waiting for a page to load.

Mobile-First Indexing

In March of this year, Google rolled out mobile-first indexing. This new approach uses the mobile version of a site as its main reference instead of desktop. The change came after three consecutive years of mobile searches out-performing desktop, due in large part to voice search.

So what does that really mean for your website? For a responsive design that uses the same url for both desktop and mobile displays, nothing changes. For sites that have a separate mobile url, Google now uses its mobile links as its primary indexing method. By the way, Sitecore one-ups these options with something called “Dynamic Serving,” in which the device is detected prior to serving the content; in other words, mobile and desktop load content specific for each display. With this ability, we can optimize mobile page speed, eliminate page bulk on mobile and get users what they need faster.

The Big Question Is … Are You Ready?

In short, voice search has driven recent mobile search trends, pushing Google to prioritize page speed and reshuffle their algorithms to base indexing on mobile over desktop. And the growing demands of voice search – and the impact on SEO – show no signs of slowing down.

Is your website optimized for the voice revolution? Reach out to our experts anytime, and we’ll make sure you’re ready.

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Susanna Oliver

Susanna is an email and responsive design expert who always pursues perfection in everything she does. To Susanna, email has unprecedented influence -- it enables businesses to put solutions right into the hands of customers.

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