What Is a Natural Language Search?
Search terms used to be based mostly on simplicity. If someone wanted to look for a repair shop in West Virginia, they might search for “car repair West Virginia” or “West Virginia car repair shop.” These short searches contain only what is absolutely necessary. They specify the location, the type of service needed and not much else. This led to companies focusing their SEO around these short little terms, often with a geographical modifier, to try to get a high volume of searches.
But things have changed. People are now more likely to use a natural language search. What does this mean and why has the change taken place?
Switching to Voice Commands
The change started picking up steam in the mid-2010s, and it’s certainly even more popular today. What caused the shift was the fact that people could search with their voice on a lot of new devices — cellphones, tablets, laptops, etc. They didn’t have to type anything. This was especially popular with cellphones, as people could activate the search feature at the press of a button.
As a result of this new way to search, people started to phrase things in a far more natural way — known as a natural language search. Rather than looking for “car repair West Virginia”, people may ask something like “Where can I get my car fixed in West Virginia?” This is a much more natural way to ask the question, and it’s more common now because the voice search makes it faster than having to type everything out on a small screen. People often find it faster, easier and more accurate to search this way.
The use of geographic tracking systems has also impacted searches. Many people now just assume that the phone knows where they are at all times. If they search for car repair and they’re standing on the side of a road in West Virginia, they may not even have to type that location in. The phone shouldn’t return a repair shop in California or Florida. To make sure, people may add “near me” or some other such variation to the end of a search. But even this isn’t always necessary anymore.
Addressing These Changes
Technology is connected. Any time there is a change in one type of tech, it can impact all sorts of other areas — often in unexpected ways. It’s important to understand how these changes take place and what you can do about it regarding your own SEO strategy.