Voice search is a functionality on many devices including desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, smartwatches and smart speakers. And with Google indicating that its voice search platform, Google Assistant, is available on more than 400 million devices across 12 countries and in eight languages, it’s evident this industry is getting a lot of attention globally.
Voice Search is Important for Directing Web Traffic
Reed Web Solutions states that 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine, thus highlighting the importance of using search portals to direct traffic to your site. Furthermore, searches are being performed more frequently on mobile devices than desktops, indicating the population’s preference for using their mobile phones and the importance for websites to be mobile friendly.
In 2014, Andrew Ng (chief scientist of Baidu, China) predicted that in five years 50% of all searches will be conducted through voice or images. This is a prediction enforced by many sites who enthusiastically support voice search.
Statista reported in 2017, that 31% of global smartphone owners use voice-enabled technology at least once a week. A digital performance consultancy firm, iProspect conducted a survey in Asia Pacific in 2018, and the results showed that 62% of smartphone owners used voice search in the last six months and 95% of these users stated they will continue to do so. There’s no doubt that voice search is, indeed, on the increase and here to stay.
The Growing Popularity of Voice Searches
The difference between voice search and traditional search is, obviously, the use of language input. The reasons behind the popularity of voice technologies can be attributed to the convenience of ‘hands free’ functionality, for example, while driving or cooking. Also, the speed and ease of speaking compared to typing makes this option appealing to many users.
The availability of voice technology is important as it empowers people who may not be able to read well, or who have difficulties typing, particularly noticeable in countries such as China, where typing characters on a small keyboard can be problematic. Also, increased accuracy with word recognition makes the process more efficient.
People are also saying that using voice search is faster and more fun than traditional search and there is a growing comfort level of using voice technology in public. Virtual assistants such as Google Home or Siri analyse (via artificial intelligence) user data with regard to online behaviour and unique speech patterns to deliver tailored search results. This means, the more the voice platform is used, the more the system understands, and searches become more relevant, promoting a more personalised service.
But, voice recognition technology is permeating beyond search engines. Virtual assistants can also incorporate “actions” such as booking a hotel, finding locations on maps, or scheduling an appointment, thus adding an additional layer of convenience. Digital assistants can also access user’s calendars, contacts, and photo galleries, allowing more functions for voice technology other than a simple search, while combining the convenience of one-point access to many features.
How This Affects Brands
With the growing number of people using mobile devices for internet access, ranking highly in voice-based searches is critical to a brand’s success. As with Google Assistant and Siri, voice searches -- even on mobile devices -- use artificial intelligence to create a context from previous searches and this creates a framework for searches that follow.
Brands that are hoping to take advantage of voice search technology to become a part of the user’s recognized search patterns (context) will have to integrate long tail keywords into their content, as searches by voice are generally formatted as a question and the result is usually based on semantics. Also, the results from voice searches tend to be different than typed searches; therefore, optimising websites for both voice and traditional search options will direct more traffic to your brand.
If your website is not voice optimised and mobile friendly, it won’t be visible in Google search results. Mondo predicts that Google will update their algorithm to prioritise brands that are voice optimised. To rate highly in website search results, brands need to deliver “snippet answers” that are concise, easy to read, shared frequently, and have a high domain authority. Searches need to originate from a secured website and loading speed is important too, as Google has announced it will use page speed to rank businesses in its searches. Afterall, the move toward voice-powered searches is one fueled by convenience and efficiency.
Moving forward, brands may want to consider their own ‘voice’ as well, as in a brand-specific voice that “talks” directly to the customer. Brands should consider language, style, tone, and even the gender of their voice, to create an ‘avatar’ that can build a rapport with their audience and develop a connection. A good example of a company already using their own voices to interact with users is Headspace, a meditation service.
So, why is voice the future of search? Gary Vaynerchuk sums it up nicely when he said,
“Audio and voice are by far the most natural interface for humans to interact. We like to speak and listen.”
Perhaps, it is the most natural interface for humans and AI, too?
Cat Williams-Treloar founded Humanisation, a Human-Centered Marketing Consultancy. Humanisation was born to help startups make a human impact in a digital world as they Go-To-Market across APAC.