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How are new search trends such as visual and voice search impacting SEO?

According to Edison Research, 65% of people who own an Amazon Echo or Google Home can’t imagine going back to the days before they had a smart speaker. Voice commerce sales reached $1.8 billion in the US last year and are predicted to reach $40 billion by 2022. This is growth at a staggering rate, and will undoubtedly have an impact on SEO algorithms and rankings. As well as voice search, visual searches are also shaking up the search industry. Early adopters are moving beyond static websites and more towards interactive user experiences that can be accessed anywhere, at anytime, on any device. As these search trends continue to grow, they are going to have an effect on how SEO works for all searches. Will brands that don’t have a voice search strategy be penalised? How will brands ensure they appear for relevant visual searches? Let’s explore the options of how SEO could change in the not so distant future.

The visual search function within Google has existed for many years now. Moving forward, the next generation of visual search will employ our need for instantaneous results, turning our smart phone cameras into search tools. For example, you spot a pair of shoes you love in a picture in a magazine, but can’t find where they’re from. With new visual searches you can take a picture on your phone, upload it and with a few taps you have pages of relevant results. Before you know it, you’ve found the shoes and ordered them for yourself. Some of the most popular visual search platforms of this nature are Google Lens and Pinterest Lens. Pinterest has seen success with this feature, with more than 600 million visual searches each month. Understandably, Amazon and Bing are investing in developing their visual search offering, as they realise it's only going to continue to grow. With around 27% of Google search queries returning images, it represents a sizable opportunity.

Along with visual search, voice search has seen a sharp rise in popularity. Voice assist technologies such as the Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod are still relatively new, and brands are still trying to determine how much they are going to affect their industry. As we move into the era of ambient search, consumers are going to be looking for instant information that is served seamlessly.

Brands are going to need to think about how they want to sound, rather than just look. A technical consideration is that more pre-rendered content needs to be served to the user and to search engines. This will allow brands to respond and pre-empt user queries. “In the English Language, there is something like 180,000 words, and we only use 3,000 to 5,000 of them. If you’re trying to do voice recognition, there’s a really small set of things you actually need to be able to recognise. Think about how many objects there are in the world, distinct objects, billions, and they all come in different shapes and sizes.” Explains Clay Bavor from Google. Essentially, in order to rank higher, brands need to help Google by structuring and labelling their own data so that it can be served instantly for relevant queries.

There is no doubt that visual and voice searches are growing in popularity, and this is set to continue. One of their main benefits is that they are platforms for more effective communication with consumers. In order to capitalise on these, brands need a deep understanding of their consumers as well as a multimedia content strategy. This strategy needs to cater to the audience’s requirements and technical knowledge to communicate these messages to search engines through text, voice and images.

At MAXX, we have extensive experience is developing websites for SEO. We keep up with new trends such as voice search and are confident we can work with you to develop your strategy for new search methods such as these. If you feel your business could benefit from optimisation for visual or voice search, get in touch with us today.