Voice search is a disruptive force in the world of search engine optimization (SEO). Many people use  the voice search function on their smartphone to conduct searches. And as the use of voice-enabled assistants continues to rise — and it will almost certainly continue to rise in the years to come — it will be increasingly important for lawyers to step up to the challenge of optimizing their online content for voice searches.

In 2016, Google reported that twenty percent of searches on its mobile app were performed using voice search. Bing reports that 25 percent of searches conducted on its Windows 10 taskbar that same year were voice searches. And ComScore estimates that half of all search traffic will be voice-based by 2020. Currently, about twenty percent of American adults have access to a smartspeaker — that’s at least 47.3 million people currently living with the technology, compared to just under two million at the end of 2015.

Smart speaker sales appear to be growing even faster than smartphone sales did following their release. This suggests that voice-enabled assistants are poised to cause an even bigger marketing disruption than that caused by mass migration to smart mobile devices from standard cell phones. Today, about one-in-six households in the U.S. have at least one smart speaker, but one estimate by Gartner suggests that 75 percent of U.S. households will contain smart speaker assistants by 2020.


How Do Voice Searches Differ from Text Searches?

People can speak about three-times faster than they can type. It should come as no surprise, then, that voice searches tend to be longer, on average, than text searches (six-to-ten words for voice searches, compared to one-to-three words for text). This means that an increased reliance on voice search will also likely increase the importance of long-tail search phrases over shorter, more general search terms and keywords.

People also tend to speak searches in a more conversational way than they type. Therefore, content that is written in a conversational tone is likely to be favored over that written in a more technical tone for searches performed using voice search.


How Will the Rise of Voice Search Affect Your Law Firm Website?

Your potential clients are likely already using voice search. In fact, a report by Location World estimates that some forty percent of American adults use voice search on a daily basis. That subset of consumers who regularly rely on voice search technology is on the rise.

If you aren’t already, it’s a good idea to begin thinking about how voice search might affect the way that consumers look for and find content online, as well as the way that they search for and find attorneys. Featured snippets will likely increase in importance, for example, as they are frequently read to voice searchers as answers to specific queries. Providing “TLDR” summaries alongside lengthier, more detailed content on your website could prove beneficial in that regard, as could regular maintenance and upkeep of your website’s FAQ page.


Smart Speakers & The Decline of Traditional Advertising Media

People that have incorporated the use of voice-enabled assistants into their daily lives are doing so at the expense of other forms of media.

One study conducted by National Public Media and Edison research shows that, among users of smart speakers, about 39 percent are spending less time listening to traditional AM/FM radio, 34 percent are using their smartphones less, and thirty percent are turning to television less often in favor of their voice-enabled assistants.

Graphic courtesy of NPR / Edison publication.

This decline in the use of other forms of media suggests that the value of advertising on those platforms will similarly decrease. And this will become more of a factor over time, especially since more than one-in-three smart speaker users are millennials, according to a study conducted by eMarketer.


How to Optimize Your Law Firm Website Content for Voice Search

Just like with standard content marketing practices, you will want to make sure that you are answering specific questions that your potential clients will likely ask of search engines to optimize the content on your site for voice search. But, since featured snippets are the primary delivery method for information returned for voice searches, you will want to make sure you are also including succinct answers to those questions when possible.

Avoid including sales pitches in voice-optimized content, as doing so may cause your content to be excluded from consideration for featured snippets. A conversational tone is often a good choice when you’re writing content for your law firm website, as it helps potential clients learn more about their case or problem, and it’s also the tone that many people use to conduct voice searches. To ensure that your content has a conversational tone, read it outloud to yourself before publishing, and adjust portions that sound awkward or unnatural when spoken. You may also want to have a non-attorney read over your content to see if they spot areas that are heavy on legal jargon, or areas where they have a hard time understanding a concept, for example.

Finally, add content to your law firm website often, and continually expand your reach on specific, targeted long-tail search terms to maximize your chances of having your content returned for voice searches.

Almost two-thirds of digital voice-assistant users say they wouldn’t want to go back to life without their smart speaker, which means that voice search is here to stay. It should therefore be top-of-mind when you compose content for your law firm website.