Voice-enabled speakers like the Google Home and Amazon’s Echo are becoming a major part of more and more consumers’ everyday lives. The number of smart speaker owners is expected to triple between 2016 and the end of this year, according to eMarketer. And, 50 percent of smart speaker owners use their device at least daily, according to Technalysis Research.
U.S. voice-enabled speaker users (in millions)
Sources: eMarketer and Technalysis Research
Within the last year, virtual assistants and voice-enabled speakers have become a prominent factor in search. We have seen numerous commercials showing virtual assistants perform a variety of tasks; from answering questions like “what’s the average weight of a beluga whale” to helping users make dinner reservations.
But, one question has remained – how do smart speakers decide which result to serve users?
A recent study from Backlinko tries to answer that question by identifying which ranking factors play a part in getting content chosen by the Google Home virtual assistant. Here are six of the most important findings from the study:
No. 1: Google Home favors pages with fast load times
This shouldn’t be too shocking since voice searchers are naturally going to value quick, accurate answers. According to Backlinko’s study, the average voice search result page loads in 4.6 seconds which is about half the time it takes for the average page to load.
Page load time: voice search results vs. average webpage
No. 2: Google Home opts for more authoritative domains when delivering search results
Websites with a lower domain authority score tend to be chosen less often. According to the study, the mean Ahrefs domain rating of chosen results is almost 77 percent.
Average domain authority of voice search result pages
No. 3: More than 70 percent of Google Home results were from HTTPS (secure) webpages
This makes sense, as Google recently announced in July 2018 they will start marking all non-HTTPS sites on their Chrome browser as “not secure.” If it hasn’t happened already, this change should push companies to make the switch to HTTPS sites.
voice search result pages vs. desktop search result pages
No. 4: Content that’s frequently mentioned or shared on social media tends to appear more in Google Home results.
A lot of people receive their information from social media. So, if something is trending or being shared through multiple platforms, it more likely to be deemed authoritative in relevant searches. According to the study, an average voice search result has around 1,200 Facebook shares or 44 tweets from Twitter. (Backlinko was careful to note that Google has said social signals do not factor into their search rankings so social media popularity is likely a case of correlation, not causation.)
Average social shares of voice search result pages
No. 5: Content that appears higher in desktop search results is more likely to appear in voice searches.
This goes for content that ranks high in desktop search results or appears in Google’s featured snippets at the top of the page. A tremendous 75 percent of voice search results from Google Home also rank in the top 3 positions in desktop searches. The most likely reason for this is that a lot of the ranking factors are the same and Google deems the content as authoritative and relevant for either search format.
Voice search result pages’ ranking for desktop searches
No. 6: Google Home’s search results prefer content that is easy to read and comprehend.
One of the main reasons people purchase a Google Home is for ease and accuracy, so most results returned to the user are written at around a ninth-grade level.
These are just some of the most important ranking factors. As more consumers purchase virtual assistants and voice search increases in popularity, there will assuredly be more updates and additions to the ranking factors in the future. For now, this list is a great stepping stone to understand how virtual assistants choose voice searches results and what enhancements you can make to your content to increase your chances of being chosen as a result.