Are We Ready for Voice Search?
From Text to Voice
— from typing to yelling.
Virtual Assistants and artificial intelligence have long been talked about but never taken seriously. It was something to chat and dream about futuristically but had no practical revenue impact sufficient to justify any real investment.
There are several basic reasons to explain the growing trend of voice search compared to typing. Not only it’s seen as “fun” or “cool”, but also it’s helpful when our hands are occupied. Also, typing can sometimes just be difficult. Especially if using a smaller mobile device or being outside, exposed to the high lightning when the visibility is reduced. Using voice search, you can get the results faster.
Back in 2014 Google surveyed both teens and adults asking what are they using voice search for.
Here’s what they found:
Picture 1. Voice search by the numbers
For teenagers, calling someone is the top reason for using voice search. For adults, asking for directions and dictating texts are their top reasons. Hence people mostly use voice interactions when driving or in any other situation where they aren’t able to touch a screen (e.g., when cooking, exercising, or trying to multitask at work).
Statistics from 2015 show that in only one year, search on virtual assistants like Google Now, Siri and Cortana jumped from that statistical zero to 10% of overall search volume globally. That’s the equivalent of 50 billion searches a month being performed by voice search. In 2017 the most popular voice search was to play music, while in 2018 over 40 percent of users ask their voice assistant for directions.
Whilst artificial intelligence started making machines act, think and respond more like humans, keyword importance as such, started fading. For instance, searching the web for a plumber – or some other version of the word, compared to explaining to the virtual assistant that you have a clogged pipe, leads to better search results based on secondary intent.
Hey Siri (Google, Alexa, or Cortana), Can You Tell Me Some Stats On Voice Search?
By now, all Big Five tech companies (Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook) have developed voice-enabled AI assistants.
They are answering requests like:
“What’s next in my Calendar?”, “Book me a taxi to 387 Park Avenue South” or “Play me some Indie on Spotify!”
Users are gravitating towards Artificial Intelligence even more because systems like Alexa and Siri are able to take search to the next level. Nearly 33 percent ask for the weather forecast, while over 23 percent use their voice assistant to search for local businesses.
Here is a brilliant example to put that in context:
“Instead of flipping back and forth between Domino’s and Papa Johns’ websites to compare my pizza order and see what specials they have, I might soon be able to ask Siri to order me 2 medium 3-topping pizzas from the one that has the best deal. She’ll ask me what toppings I want, finish the order and report back to me when the delivery will arrive.”
“By 2020, 50% of all searches will be carried out via voice.”
In addition to that, Activate estimates that there will be 21.4 million smart speakers in the US by 2020. Regardless of the precise number, it’s clear that voice searches are growing.
Master This Shift Right Away
Even if voice search isn’t on your radar, it’s an emerging area, that is gathering a lot of attention from many marketers. In order to pay attention to heading forward, work with your SEO department or person to start researching and planning for a rise in voice search.
Follow these three ways to prepare for voice search:
- Urge to voice search rising. Monitor current SEO efforts of how and if consumers use voice search over type search. Identify and provide content in a format that meets the needs of these types of searchers. Discover and answer the most frequently asked questions/needs by your target audience on your website. Be the best answer.
- More voice searches, more answers. Identify high-intent keywords producing content with “who, what, when, where, why, how” questions. Optimizing the content that answers these questions, allows you to ensure your brand will be found in the changing SERPs.
- Get smart about intelligent agents. These intelligent agents are using semantics, search history and user interests and behaviors to provide the best results. Update your on-page SEO for conversational and natural language.
Voice search will continue to rise as consumer adoption of virtual assistants will increase. Have on mind the possibility of clicks and swipes being replaced with both, machines and humans conversation. Doesn’t that sound exciting!
What Does the Future Hold for Voice Search?
— there might be two possibilities.
The first scenario envisages a situation where voice search remains a single search result tool, mostly used for fact-finding requests and questions. On this wise, a greater voice search will be limited, and it will only remain a minor channel in the whole scheme of search and SEO.
In the second scenario, voice search develops into a genuine tool for searching the web. This involves a user being able to get results for their request, hear more results, navigate the webpage, proceed with their search, switch to another website and similar.
As the functionality of voice search increases, consumers become more familiar with its pros and use it more often. So whichever scenario executes, we expect its popularity to grow. Thus, brands should consider several options and pursue whatever strategy makes the most sense for them. Either on mobile, as a mobile voice search result, or on smart speakers, as Google Home Action or an Alexa Skill.
Even if you are skeptical about the idea of the voice search, think twice! Start observing it as a general marketing channel that is possible to be present in various different ways – like social media, rather than as a search channel only.
Picture 2. The movie Her is a great example of voice interaction
Although this text might remind you of the scenario in the movie “Her”, it’s clearly far too soon to declare the death of text searches and announce voice search era. Actually, the great thing about the future is that no-one can exactly know what’s going to happen. However, you can have fun throwing out wild predictions, which most people will have forgotten about by the time we actually get there. So, it’s time to start thinking forward — and fast! The future in search is now.
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