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"OK Google", "Siri", "Alexa" "Cortana" and soon "Bixby" are all commands that wake your devices up and prime them to expect a voice command.
The reality is that your Android phone, Google Home, Windows 10/X-Box, Apple iDevice, Samsung Galaxy and Amazon Echo are always listening. The commands only alert them that an instruction is incoming.
And, because phone keyboards are harder to use than those of their desktop and laptop cousins, more and more people are turning to voice control and voice search, purely for ease and convenience.
It's vitally important that, as web site owners, we understand what we need to do to make sure that our sites are easy to find when the search is through voice recognition.
Voice search and artificial intelligence (AI)
Google, in particular, is using AI to better understand our spoken instructions and to encourage more conversational searches, such as "Where can I get my Jeep serviced" rather than a more traditional desktop search "Jeep servicing Bristol"
According to Google, 20% of searches on Android devices are now voice searches. That percentage continues to increase, as users realise that voice recognition accuracy is improving all the time. According to KPCB Internet Trends 2016 report, the accuracy of voice recognition now exceeds 92%.
Searching for local businesses
A lot of people use voice to search for local businesses, "where's the best Pizza restaurant in Bristol," for example. So, if you sell pizza in Bristol you need to ensure that your pages are optimised for "Best pizza restaurant in Bristol" and written in "natural language" (written as you might speak out loud), rather than in more formal written style. This really helps with voice search results: your page will immediately and directly match the spoken search, making it simple for Google to choose you as the right answer!
Optimising for voice search
SEO is changing.
Until now, you'd have researched the words that people were typing when looking for your products or services and built your site optimisation around those.
Now you have to think of questions they might speak, just as if they were asking their friends, family or colleagues about good pizza restaurants.
One way to start is to add a dedicated Q&A page to your site, where you can pose these questions and add your answers - remembering to keep them in a more conversational style than you'd perhaps use elsewhere. The page also needs to feature in your site map so that Google and Bing can easily find and index it. You do have a site map (sitemap.xml) don't you?
So in this case, somewhere in your Q&A you might ask, "Why is Freddie's the best pizza restaurant in Bristol?" The phrase is underlined only for our explanation here (don't do that for real!), but it gives Google a direct hit for that particular search question: Bingo!
You should even try to include optimized microdata, schema, rich snippets and so on because these little pieces of code give the search engines even more information about your business.
You'll also need to ensure that your listings on Google My Business and Bing Places for Business are up-to date and accurate. Those are where Google and Cortana will look first for location-specific search results.
Don't forget, also, to check out the other business directories that have your business listed, Yell, Thomson, Yelp, etc. Make sure your address details are correct everywhere they appear. This ensures that there's no ambiguity about where your business actually is.
Responsive website design
Because most voice searches happen on mobile devices, you must have a mobile-friendly design. If your site isn't mobile-friendly ("responsive") then Google simply will not direct people to you. Use this free Google tool to check the mobile-friendliness of your site.
... a bit of fun. If you use Google voice search and make an animal-related enquiry, try adding "fun facts" to the end of your search to learn something about the creature in question.