A group of people using voice search to get answers to their questions

Decades ago, the popular vision of life in the 21st century involved jetpacks and flying cars.

Those, uh, haven’t quite panned out as means of transportation yet.

Modern life has perhaps been a little bit underwhelming and understated, compared to this imaginative (albeit slightly impractical) idea of the future.

Perhaps somewhere along the way, people realized that personal jetpack insurance would be prohibitively expensive. Or that car crashes are dangerous enough without happening fifty feet above the ground.

Or maybe it’s just because the goal with modern advances is to make life easier – not more complex.

Like, for example, a new technology where you can ask a question, at any time, and get the answer immediately.

Well, in that respect, the future is here in the form of voice search–it’s easy, it’s accessible and it’s completely overhauling the way we interact with search engines.

A paradigm shift in how we interact

Got a question? Simply ask your phone or personal assistant device and the answer is read aloud to you.

It doesn’t get much more convenient than that.

If you’re still using your thumbs to clatter out a search on your mobile phone, you might as well be scrounging a dusty typewriter out of the cobwebs in your garage and hammering out a letter for delivery to Google via carrier pigeon.

Okay, okay, that might have been a bit of an exaggeration. But not by much.

Predicting the future is a great way to make a fool of yourself, but credible industry experts already suggest that half of all searches could be done with voice by 2020 (corescore), based on data showing that 41% of voice searchers started in the last 6 months (MindMeld).

At that kind of an adoption rate, it’s probably fair to predict that voice search is going to be making splashes for quite a while.

What should my business be doing right now to prepare for voice search?

A fundamental change in the way people search necessarily means a fundamental way in the way we approach SEO strategies.

Everything in SEO starts with understanding and anticipating how users search for products and services that interest them. Someone searching using a keyboard may type be looking for “shoe store near me”, whereas a voice search query is more likely to be something like “Where’s the nearest shoe store?”

Adapting to voice search means discovering and focusing on specific, conversational, long-tail key phrases. Your website content should be updated to follow the natural speech patterns that a user would use while posing a question.

This is another step in the right direction for SEO. The days of artificial tricks and techniques to improve rankings are gone, and the days of writing content that answers user queries are in.

The emergence of Intelligent Personal Assistant Devices

Siri, Alexa and Cortana are quickly becoming household names. They are part of the family–and without a doubt are the quickest to come up with an answer to any question.

The answer given is the based on the featured snippet, a section of content from the website of one of the top organic results that provides a quick and comprehensive explanation.

Once again, finding what users are searching for and giving comprehensive answers improves your chance of dominating the featured snippet … and effectively becoming a subject matter expert, endorsed by Alexa.

Staying ahead of the game on mobile

Right now, more than half of searches are done on mobile devices–and with the emergence of voice search, that figure is only going to rise.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that interacting with a website on a mobile device is different than using a desktop computer. For this reason, Google boosts or penalizes websites in their search rankings based on their mobile user experience and performance.

In other words, having a website that delivers an excellent experience on mobile is even more valuable now than ever before in order to take advantage of the influx of voice searches.