voice search
May 10, 2016 — TrackFive

How Voice Recognition is Changing SEO

Growing up in the era of the personal computer, you can probably recall a hilarious period of time when the text to speech programs would blurt out whatever you could type into the entry box. A digitized, nasally sounding voice spoke back unthinkingly, simply crafting sounds out of data provided.

Now, voice assistant technologies are finally making that speech more of a conversation, especially in the world of digital content marketing.

Apples’ Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Now have been leading this digital dialogue, allowing people to bypass the keyboard (more likely the touchscreen) and speak their search queries however they conceive of them.

Speech recognition technologies have been around for years, but thanks to advances in computing power, machine learning techniques, and natural language processing (NLP) these previously novel features are ready to make a huge impact.

An Industry Responding to Assistive Voice

Google reported that word error rates have decreased to just 8% in April compared to 25% in recent years. Additionally, research conducted by MindMeld, a company specializing in artificially intelligent software solutions found that 60% of people using voice assistants took up the habit in the past 12 months.

Projections from comScore contend that voice assistants will drive nearly 50% of all web searches by 2020. That’s an incredible amount of traffic, all optimized for the human voice, instead of a keyboard.

So what exactly does this mean for SEO and content marketers?

Voice assistants technologies deliver their results through first interpreting human language, but more importantly contextualizing the information being spoken. By learning to understand the user’s intention for the search, a more satisfying result can be produced.

Eventually, deep learning through immense data sets will allow computers to not only make connections based on the natural patterns of human speech but also begin predicting future searches based on co-occurring key terms.

This means that user behavior could soon be the single most important factor to consider when optimizing content for online applications.

Turning Connections into Conversations

The first step in writing content for the era of voice-assistance means making greater connections within any post or page. As computers start to understand what a search is about, they will be more focused on contextualizing a search within the semantics provided by the user.

For example, if a search reads something like ‘find me a nice restaurant nearby,’ the search engine will learn to associate quality or a 5-star dining experience with places to eat in the area. Inherently, the word “nice” is not entirely descriptive of the desired result; however, it constitutes the way people naturally speak.

The trick is getting content to reflect what a user means rather than what they say.

Learning User Characteristics and Behavior

In addition to learning the semantic meaning of a search, computers will increase their understanding of content by getting an idea of who their users are and how they behave.

User behavior will be increasingly understood by asking:

» Who is making a certain query / how many of them click a certain link?
» Did they return to the search results?
» Were they satisfied by the links displayed by their query?

Collecting this data in terms of voice searches will influence everything from page ranking to the actual content present per link.

Predictive Analysis and the Future of Keywords

As computers understand the intended meaning of a search, they will come to know what a user might look for next, ultimately predicting future searches from past behavior.

This means that queries are likely to be satisfied based on how well a search engine can interpret context rather than a copywriter’s ability to insert the right keyword phrases and links.

Of course, this isn’t to say that keywords are entirely useless – it’s quite the contrary. Keyword research is still a great way to find how phrases and queries are changing around a particular subject. Really this is still the groundwork for much of what AI will accomplish by itself eventually, though for now the job of the copywriter is still relevant to a digital world where satisfying human understanding is the main goal.

Creating Content for a Voice Assisted World

While it’s easy to be intimidated by the impending rise of AI, there are still things human content marketers can do to reach a site’s goals, as voice searches become the norm:

» Always ask yourself what questions might bring a user to your site.
» How will they speak these questions?
» Is this site satisfying those queries?
» Are visitors likely to click back if they don’t find complete information?
» Is this site optimized for mobile use, and in what context do people visit the page?
» Can this page support casual voice searches as well as more in-depth queries?

Preparing for the next innovations in SEO is key to staying afloat in a constantly shifting sea of information. Whether you’re chatting up Cortana, speaking to Siri, or gabbing with Google, it’s clear we are only going to get more comfortable talking to our electronics — and more importantly having them talk back!

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