Is the introduction and rise of voice search damaging the power of SEO?


Voice search has been around for a long time but has only become readily available and, more importantly, used since the introduction of smartphones and more recent growth due to Siri, Cortana and Alexa.  In 2017, 41% of adults and 55% of teenagers were using voice search daily with these numbers growing.

Voice search is having big impacts on SEO as people change the way they search and what they are searching for. Some of this is good, whilst some of it is bad for the future of SEO.

The rise of voice search presents new SEO challenges

The Bad

  • The death of keywords

Keywords have already been changing as the exact keywords no longer receive a specific ranking but are becoming more and more context based to provide searches with a more relevant result. Voice search is changing the words people use for search and how they are being ranked. Long-tail keywords and context-based optimisation is becoming more important.

  • Search behaviours

As mentioned above with regards to the keywords, voice search is changing people’s search behaviour. Voice search makes what people are searching far less predictable. With typed searches, users look to use as few words as possible that get what they are looking for across. With voice search, people are less concerned with the number of words and tend to search in longer sentences.

  • Fewer screen interactions

Voice search allows for voice answers. This means that people do not need to look at their screen or scroll through the results to necessarily get the answer they want. Having a high ranking in the search engines results pages will matter less as being number one is the only answer that will be heard. Additionally, people are less likely to click through various pages as they are led directly to the answer.

The Good

  • Potential for conversation

A voice search opens the door to a more meaningful interaction with customers. Searchers are likely to be more willing to discuss what they are looking for turning their search into a virtual retail experience. Discussions can be opened with digital assistants or even real people through voice search and conversation without the hassle of having to type responses or queries.

  • Increased local relevance

Voice search is mostly used when people are on the move making local results more relevant. This could spell return to increasing sales for physical stores as people will be directed to a physical store as opposed to the online website.

Voice search is clearly going to impact SEO, but it doesn’t have to ruin it. Small adjustments from short to long-tail keywords and an emphasis on answering user queries are two ways to stay in the game as voice search becomes more prominent.