Most of us have learned to speak words before we’ve learned to write them. So we are good with speaking, and listening (I hope). And now we’ve learned machines to listen and speak. Instead of typing a text query in a Google search box, we can now do a voice search using “Ok Google” with good results.
Voice search is trending for good reasons. It’s faster and working well with mobile. And the more we use it, the better it will get – economies of data…
What is voice search?
Voice-enabled searching, also referred to as voice search, allows individuals to use a voice command or voice query to search the internet and/or electronic devices 1. Indeed, it means that instead of typing a query into a search box of a search engine (e.g. Google), you now can use your voice and ask Google to give you the answer.
So, I’m going to test voice search with my mobile smartphone. Here it goes: I’ve opened Google search and said “Ok Google”. Now a screen opens where I’m asked to repeat “Ok Google” and “Hey Google” twice. I’ve done that and a message shows on the screen that my device can now recognize my voice!
Now I’m going to ask my device (using Google) what ‘voice search’ is. I’ve used my voice (speaking to the device) by asking “what is voice search”. My device immediately shows that it’s busy listening… And rather quickly gives me an answer with Wikipedia as its reference in perfect English – albeit in a monotone botish voice. It also shows the text that was ‘spoken’ in the result page of Google. My first impression using voice search – well I’m impressed!
You should give voice search a try – it definitely works, at least with a smartphone.
Why is voice search important?
The value of voice search was recognized with the advent of search engine websites and search marketing. Sadly, network and data technology at that time couldn’t cope with voice search. However, when 3G networks and broadband data were introduced, together with smartphones, voice search was back on track.
Voice search offers a number of benefits:
- It’s fast. “Humans can speak 150 words per minute versus type 40 words per minute”. It is an evolution of efficiency, writes Graham van der Merwe in IT News Africa;
- It’s relevant. By using their voice to search for new content to watch, consumers are actively asking the system for what they want as opposed to being fed potentially non-relevant recommendations (John Hein, The Drum).
- Easier to use. Especially with older people who may find it difficult to type and put their questions in text. Voice search may improve the usability of an E-commerce website for elder users 2.
The use of voice search
Voice search is about interactivity: questions, answers, guided flows, and conversations. That’s about everything that we want when going online. It’s no wonder voice is the fastest growing Google search method.
Here are statistics and statements about the use of voice search:
- IT News Africa
- Twenty percent of Google searches are done with voice.
- 25% of voice searches among those the 16-24 age group are on mobile.
- By 2020 “about 30% of searches will be done without a screen”.
- If we believe predictions, voice search will account for all internet searches by 2020 – with the Amazon Echo and Google Home leading the way.
- 60% of all people using voice search only started in the past year.
- Google voice search queries have increased by 35-times since 2008 and seven-fold since 2010.
- Business 2 Community
- Google says 72% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say that their devices are often used as part of their daily routine.
- 55% of 13-18 year olds use voice search every day.
- 42% of a surveyed group says voice-activated devices have quickly become “essential” to their lives.
It is clear that the future of search is voice. Business owners should therefore make sure that their content feature in the voice search queries of prospective clients.
Voice search as part of your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Strategy
The Digital Marketing Institute gives the following tips on how to include voice search in your SEO strategy:
- Make Your Content Scan-able. Make sure your content is easily readable, scan-able and doesn’t have any annoying pop-ups or ads that could hinder them from getting the information they need.
- Claim your Google ‘My Business’ Listing. It’s a great way to provide Google with additional details about your business, such as industry, phone number, address, business hours, and more.
- Read the Official User Guides. It’s worth reading the official guides to voice search for each major platform. Bookmark these resources, and reference them later when you need to remember phrases and questions people typically use for voice search.
- Focus on Long-Tail Keywords. People use more “natural” speak when using voice search, so targeting long-tail keywords is a must. To do this, you must “think how people speak.” How would you ask particular questions?
- Create Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Pages. Another great way you can use the customer and SEO data you’ve collected is to create FAQ pages that focus on those long-tail key phrases. Try to group common questions on the same page, and write as naturally as possible.
- Pump Up Your Microdata. Make it as easy as possible for Google to crawl your website and understand what it’s about. This will increase the chances that the search engine will use your content to answer voice search queries.
- Understand the Unique Ways People Play with Voice Search. It’s important to understand how users are playing with voice search because it gives us insight on how users interact with these technologies. While most of the answers you read will probably be irrelevant to your business, others might give you ideas about how you can optimize for voice search on your site.
Now that digital technology and bandwidth has catch up with voice, the role of traditional text platforms, such as websites, to attract visitors may change. Your website should not only provide answers, but should also know what questions will be asked. It goes without saying that websites that gives the best answers will be heard first by voice searchers.
PS My troubles with typing text on a miniature keyboard on one third of a smartphone’s screen are seemingly over…
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1 Zhang, S., Bao, S., Liu, W., Qin, Y., Shuang, Z., Chen, J., Su, Z., Shi, Q. and Ganong III, W.F., Nuance Communications Inc., 2014. Speaker and call characteristic sensitive open voice search, U.S. Patent 8,630,860.
2 Meng, L., Nguyen, Q.H., Tian, X., Shen, Z., Chng, E.S., Guan, F.Y., Miao, C. and Leung, C. 2017. Towards age-friendly e-commerce through crowd-improved speech recognition, multimodal search, and personalized speech feedback, In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Crowd Science and Engineering, 127-135.