Do you own a smart phone? Have you ever asked it a question and received a very helpful answer? If so, you have most likely participated in vocal search, an alternative to the traditional finger-to-keyboard method of search. Do you know how much the two search methods differ?

What is voice search?

Voice search occurs when you speak into your phone or device, and an application searches for the words you spoke. The main distinguishing factor between voice and regular search is that regular search requires the user to actually type in the search terms with their fingers or device pen.

According to a Google report, approximately 55% of teens and 45% of adults use voice search on their mobile phones. The study was originally taken at least two years ago, with numbers more than likely to increase as mobile devices improve and get easier to use.

There are a couple of ways voice search is capable in the world today: 1) Google or another search engine provides a “voice search” button option on its site which is activated when pushed; and 2) mobile devices provide virtual personal assistants (e.g. Apple Siri, Android Cortana) that search for terms spoken by the user.

How does voice search affect SEO?

Traditional search and SEO focuses on keyword terms and how your website ranks for them. Voice search tends to focus more on searching in a conversational way, sometimes making a keyword focus less important in search. Using voice search could potentially cause completely different websites to rank than if a user searched the traditional way.

As voice search becomes more popular, search engines are working to include better-optimized results. In 2013, Google launched the Hummingbird algorithm update, which provided a new “conversational search” activity with the search engine. While some people would search for only a few specific keywords, Google’s Hummingbird update worked more with searches spoken in a conversation (such as with a mobile app). Since their algorithm updated toward semantic context, Google has made big strides to improve voice search for users.