By: T. Saini
Voice Search Optimization (VSO) is the process in which the web pages are optimized or upgraded to appear in voice searches. It uses the concept of searching keywords to maximize the visibility and rate of suggestion in voice search results so as to increase the number of visitors to their websites or web apps. Many websites have incorporated this technology into their web pages considering the fierce competition vying for search engine rankings and an increased traffic.
Initially, voice search started as a small concept under the Bell Laboratories in 1952 which designed ‘Audrey’ for understanding digits. Ten years later, IBM presented ‘Shoebox’, which can understand 16 words in addition to numbers. In the 1970s, the U.S Department of Defence commissioned ‘Harpy’, a system which recognized 1011 words. The first consumer product was introduced in the 1990s by DragonDictate. In 1997, Dragon Naturally Speaking was released which could recognise 100 words per minute. The voice search started gaining popularity in 2008 when Google incorporated voice search to Google Maps in it’s BlackBerry version. Google Voice Search was later used as an application in other smartphones. In 2011, Chrome browser added the voice search feature. Around the same time, Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Tom Gruber from the Stanford Research Institute made an application to understand natural speech which was later bought by Apple, became the base for Siri, and released in 2011 with the iPhone 4S. 
- Sales from voice search amount to more than $2 billion 
- More than 1 billion voice searches are made every month. 
- 27% of the online population is using voice search on mobile.
- 58% of the users use voice search for finding local business information. 
- 65% of consumers aged 25-49 years old talk to their voice-enabled devices daily. 
- Privacy Concerns – Almost 79% of the voice search users are concerned over their privacy  as there is a potential risk of getting their conversations heard by some other party. 
- Non clarity in voice searches – Sometimes, the user may ask unclear or out of context questions which cannot be interpreted or predicted. These questions are hard to extract and may lead to unsuccessful or wrong output. 
- Background noises – Sometimes, voice search assistants may get diverted due to background sounds and fail to provide the desired search result. 
- Recognizing regional accents – Voice recognition is most effective for British and American English accents. Hence, recognizing other regional accents becomes difficult. 
- Lack of speed – Diverse voice patterns of humans and a still growing and learning phase of voice apps influence the speed by taking up more time as compared to the traditional text-based search. 
Techniques to optimize web pages for voice search optimization
- Keyword Research – Some things must be kept in mind while preparing keywords such as the question keywords like what, how, when, etc which must be included. Also, filler words such as I, me, the, of the, to, for, etc should be used to make the query appear more conversational. Lastly, in order to complete a question, long-tail keywords should be used.   Figure-2 shows the question keywords which are up 61% year after year.
- Featured Snippets – Featured snippets are the short and precise pieces of information aiming to provide a direct answer to the user. These are extracted and read from the highly ranked pages and provide a fast and brief description about the answer to the user’s question. 
- Knowledge Graphs – The knowledge graph is a database of information collected from various sources. To reduce the organic click-through rate, the search engines look for pre-existing knowledge graphs in a webpage. 
- Schema Markup – Schema Markup is the structured data that helps the search engines to make sense out of your content. With the help of schema markup, your content is discovered easily and it helps to provide a complete picture about your content. 
- FAQ Section – Most voice searchers begin their search with a question starting with “What”, “When”, “Who”, etc. and a FAQ section or a FAQ page must include related questions for providing immediate answers. The answers must be provided in a conversational tone so as to sound appealing to the voice search. 
- Create content according to customer persona – Relevance, conciseness and brevity are essential for a voice search. Rich and compelling content must be created to address the user’s pain points. An efficient strategy is to create content with a headline of the most common question, then providing a concise answer or definition to the question and to use the rest of the space to elaborate the answer. 
- Ensure website loads fast – Every searcher wants quick answers and no search engine would use content from a website which loads too slow. 
- Making a mobile friendly website – Creating mobile friendly content is essential keeping in mind that most of the verbal questions are asked via mobile devices. The website must be responsive and crawlable to ensure maximum visibility and exposure. 
- Local Search Optimization – It is the process of targeting local keywords and optimizing websites so that they can appear in local search results. A good example of this is Google’s ‘near me’ searches. 
- Use conversational language as content – Usage of natural language increases the scope of matching the search results. In addition to this, the content must match according to the style of the queries. The content should address the type of question, keywords and conversation style, etc. 
The Coronavirus pandemic has brought an exponential increase in the usage of the internet . Optimizing for web searches has taken a high priority since the dependence of the masses on the search engines rose substantially. It was, therefore, necessary to optimize the voice searches to provide a better user experience. The challenges faced by the search engines are being taken care of since this technology has a wide range of usage and is a necessity for people with disabilities too. For example, to win over the customer trust, the companies must be transparent about the processing and storage of the data. For example, Google has included a feature in which it deletes the captured voice clips. Also, to deal with unclear voice searches, Google has a help center for providing instructions for triggering assistant responses.  Hence, voice search is optimizing eventually and since it being a new and growing technology, many limitations have been removed to provide the ultimate end-user experience.
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Cite this article:
T. Saini (2021), Voice Search Optimization, Insights2Techinfo, pp.1
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