Voice Search and What to Expect
As the word speaks for itself, voice search allows you to talk to your smart devices, asking them questions. It can be used to replace traditional search queries, which you need to manually type through keyboards. According to KPCB, voice search is on the rise and it has grown 35 times larger since 2008. Moreover, based on statistics by Google, 41% of adults and 55% of teenagers use voice search daily. Around 24% of Americans adults own at least one smart speaker device. These results have shown that more and more people are getting comfortable with using the voice assistant technology. According to Geomarketing, 65% of Google Home or Amazon Echo owners say voice search devices are essential for their lives. Soon, there will be one in every single house, just like a refrigerator.
Why is it the trend?
- It is much more convenient as compared to manually typed searches. A Stone Temple survey on the reasons people use voice commands shows that 56% of participants don’t have time to type. Imagine that you need to type this whole question “how far is it and how long does it take to travel from Seattle to Spokane?”. That would be a pain, but the same question could be an absolute breeze if it was to speak out loud. Another example is that you’re in the kitchen cooking dinner. Clearly it would cause a lot of mess if you were to look for missing ingredients by manually typing. By performing a voice search, you can get your answers in seconds while still being focused on your task.
- Searching with your voice is definitely faster than manually typing out your queries using keyboards. People can only type 38–40 words per minute, but say 110–150 words per minute. Bing has shown that voice searching is 3.7 times faster than typing. Faster searches result in faster answers. This is the whole purpose of people performing searches because they have found what they’re searching for in the minimum amount of time. There is no surprise that people tend to use voice search over typing.
- Voice search is just perfect for mobile devices. Nowadays, nearly everybody owns at least one mobile device. Because of the portable convenience, the screen size needs to compensate. As a result, typing on a decently small screen would be more troublesome as compared to talking. Moreover, a study was conducted on the methods people usually use to look something up (Stone Temple). It has shown that 60% of mobile users perform voice search among other methods some of the time. Other methods in the survey include opening up a browser, typing questions into the search engine app or built-in page.
What are the changes, compared to typing?
- Voice search has changed the ways people use a search engine. Searches are significantly longer and tend to be more conversational, rather than robotic. They become much more natural, human language, instead of computer language. For example, let’s say you want to make a green tea tiramisu. A few years back then, you’d probably type “make green tea tiramisu” into the search engine to look for a recipe. With voice search, it’ll be completely different. You’d rather say “Hey Google, how do you make green tea tiramisu at home?” The search is like a question that you would use to ask somebody for an answer.
- Voice-assisted technology has affected the locations people usually perform searches. Google reports that “___ near me now” searches have grown by 150% during the past two years. Surprisingly, places that people usually conduct searches are public places e.g. restaurant, gym, theatres, etc. The number also increases for other places such as in the office with co-workers, at a party, in a public restroom. The only environment that has decreased is home alone. Let’s look at an example. You’re having a road trip with your friends to Vancouver and you want to look for a nice restaurant. A few years ago, you’d probably stop by the closest place which offers free Wi-Fi to search “nice restaurant Vancouver”. With current LTE, location technology, you can simply ask “Which restaurant near me, that has great reviews and is opening right now?”. As you can see, the keywords are completely different.
- Voice-based search has altered the ways people receive results. Google has gradually gone from a search engine to an answer engine. With Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), users can easily obtain their answers, without having to click on the links. The answers are just right there in the Featured Snippet, following the search query. Google has utilized the same answer-based feature in supplying voice search results.
For example, you want to find out the vitamins in grapes. Back in the days, you’d probably type “grape vitamins” into the search engine. Then you’d be obliged to click on different links to find out the answer. With voice search, you can easily obtain the result within seconds by asking “what are the vitamins in grapes?” The voice reads back “Grapes also contain vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin, lutein, lycopene, and ellagic acid, which are powerful antioxidants as well.” When performing a voice search on a screen, users still get the traditional ten links that related to queries. However, Google usually says the answers from Featured Snippet anyway. This could mean something significant for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and content producers. The content on the webpage needs to provide people with direct answers to their queries. Otherwise, the content will be much harder to get to people.
What should web developers expect?
Due to Google becoming an answer engine, content creators should include concise answers in their web pages. Studies have shown that Google usually answers voice search queries with results of 29 words on average. However, to write blog posts with around 30 words per page is just non-sense. One of the methods to overcome this problem is to create Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages. These FAQ pages are just perfect because the question keywords usually appear in the queries. Usually, the voice search results come from FAQ pages 2.68% of the time, whereas only 1.54% for desktop results.
Moreover, the website should be optimized for Featured Snippet. Studies have shown that 40.7% of voice search results are actually answered from Featured Snippet. For example, type the question “Is ice water bad for dogs?” into Google search engine. The answers received are exactly the same as the one read back to you via voice search. This feature is extremely essential for the content on your page to get pass Google Home and Alexa results. These voice-assisted devices only give out one answer. Your content will become invisible if you’re ranked in Featured Snippet. Besides, your content should be written using natural human language, instead of a robotic one. In that way, whenever Google perform a search following users’ query, your content will likely “match” the questions.
Additionally, web developers should embed long-tail keywords into the content pages. Voice searches are much longer than keyboard searches. However, that doesn’t mean your web pages need to correspond 1-on-1 for each voice query. For example, voice search for “do post offices accept credit cards?” and the answer is halfway down the page. This means that Google will use the answer even if it only takes up a small portion of that page. Even though the answer is not at the top of the page, Google thinks it’s short and suitable for voice search queries. The importance of abundant long-tail keywords helps your single page rank for various voice search queries.
One of the drawbacks of voice-assisted technology is how eCommerce will work. It’s very unlikely that customers will make a purchase through their speaker. Report from The Information has shown that only 2% of people who own Alexa devices complete a purchase through it. For example, it’s not a wise idea to buy an expensive leather bag with nothing but your voice. The missing visual and research elements are not of any help for consumers. Users are not really fond of the idea blindly making a pricey purchase, just by saying a few words. On the other hand, sales for domestic items might increase using voice-assisted technology. Products like toilet papers, utensils, housekeeping items are more likely to proceed. These are essential items that consumers will need anyway. They might as well carried out the purchase via voice search through their trusted brands.
What the future holds for Voice Search?
Voice search in 2020 will be much more interesting than ever before. More and more people in the marketing area will gather to experiment and boosting the efficiency of voice-assisted technology. Leading technology companies, such as Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft will aim to monetize this phenomenon. Currently, the popular smart speakers include Amazon Echo, Google Home, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Apple Siri, and Android Voice Search. The rise of the early majority is coming to reach its peak. This is the first generation of consumers who are willing to try out newly developed tech. The following years will maintain a steady increase in consumers of the late majority.
Despite the fact that voice-assisted technology has a disadvantage in the eCommerce market, the problem can soon be overcome as the future of voice search advances. With growing technology, video features will be implemented in the voice search. Consumers can soon view the products through their screens, which is directly connected to their smart speakers. At the moment, nobody really knows what the exact direction of voice search is. However, because of the current elevation, voice-assisted technology expects to become smarter and more capable. As mentioned above, web developers should be prepared to optimize their websites for the voice search engine. Getting ahead of the competitors in the marketing field will be beneficial due to the rising voice technology. Once the trend surges above the surface level, those companies, prepared for the change, will get the most profit.