To say voice search is the new buzz term in SEO would be somewhat of an understatement. Every digital marketer has it on their radar, with the industry still trying to formulate how best to exploit this fledgling technology.
Today, two in five adults use voice search at least once per day, as per a study carried out by SEO Expert Brad, and by 2020 it is estimated by many experts that half of all searches will have shifted from the keyboard to the microphone.
The search landscape is shifting whether we like it or not, which means marketers must ensure they are aware of how voice search will impact the performance of their campaigns.
Through an in-depth analysis of over 50,000 voice searches across three separate devices (Android, Google Home and Google Home Mini), SEMrush gained a key understanding of the parameters that Google Assistant uses to select answers to voice search queries, as well as compare different devices. Using queries pulled from SEMrush’s API, as well as a series of automated voice queries, we recorded the SERPs (search engine research pages) from each query and then analysed several different areas to determine which factors are the most influential when it comes to ranking for voice search queries.
The first finding was that the Android device delivered 93 per cent of answers from the first page of organic results with Google Home and its Mini counterpart, both with 98 per cent of answers from the first page. Across all three devices, around a quarter of answers were ranked in position two, while on average only 14.2 per cent of results resided outside of the top four positions.
Alongside 78 per cent of voice search results ranking in the top three, the majority of queries returned an answer occupying a SERP feature result. In total, 68.5 per cent of answers came from a SERP feature, with Featured Snippets being the most commonly found in Google Home and Google Home Mini, in particular.
In total, 68.5 per cent of answers came from a SERP feature, with Featured Snippets being the most commonly found in Google Home and Google Home Mini, in particular.
Over 60 per cent of results from Google Home were ranking as Featured Snippets in all, a significantly higher number than compared to Android (41 per cent).
Frequently we found answers from the home speaker devices were returning results from the Featured Snippet position. However, when the same queries were conducted using the Android device, the answers produced were not taken from a SERP feature.
Interestingly, while the number of Featured Snippet results within Android are 20 per cent lower than Google Home devices, there was an increase in the number of results occupying a ‘People Also Ask’ feature. Around one in five Android voice search queries with SERP features returned answers ranking in a ‘People Also Ask’ position, while just over one in 10 of searches made via Google Home and Home Mini produce the same result.
Across every metric, the lion’s share of voice search answers performs better than the average of the top 10 non-answers, with Estimated Input Latency particularly noticeable at 70 per cent.
The First Paint score also appears as a key metric within voice search, with quicker primary content load speeds more likely to earn voice search recognition as ultimately it will relay the information back to the user more quickly.
Page speed performance is one of the key points to address when optimising for voice search. In some cases, voice search results were more than over 10 times faster than the average of non-answers.
Our backlink analysis of voice search answers provides one of the most interesting contrasts across the three devices, with keywords in backlink anchors and page titles much more prevalent in Google Home and Mini results than Android.
More than 50 per cent of answers with Google Home and Mini had backlinks with an anchor that appeared in the question, compared to less than 45 per cent in the remainder of the top 10 results in the SERP. However, with Android, that figure is below the remaining average, signifying a lack of relevance in the case of smartphone devices.
This was also the case with regards to keywords in the query appearing in the title of an answer’s page. A significantly higher percentage of keywords were found in Google Home and Mini answers compared to the rest of the SERP. In the case of Android, the findings were unfortunately inconclusive.
With these points in mind, it is clear that the main factors that influence the answers Google Assistant returns from a voice search queries are page speed, ranking in the top three results and, in particular, occupying a Featured Snippet position.
With an increasing number of voice searches, it is vital to adopt a voice search marketing strategy sooner rather than later to stay ahead of the game.
Olga Andrienko is Head of Global Marketing at SEMrush.com