Ok Google, “Say Hi to Alexa”!
Apple and Google may have started voice search using Siri and Google Assistant, but Amazon’s Alexa really got the ball rolling with the launch of Echo. When Alexa was launched in November 2014, it was seen as a fun voice recognition gimmick that everyone would want for a few months before forgetting all about it.
Yet this turned out to gain incredible user adoption. In December 2016, Echo was Amazon’s most popular product during the holiday period, and it was the first sign that proved that Alexa and her friends were here to stay! It then came as no surprise when Google quickly joined the fray by launching Google Home, to build on Google Voice which was already on Android.
And, of course, there were iPhone’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. However, we are yet to see Apple and Microsoft launch the smart speakers. Until then, it’s the battle of the titans – Amazon vs. Google!
Each year, the functionality of voice search assistants evolves at unprecedented scale. Whether it’s smartphones, tablets, stand-alone smart speakers (like Amazon Echo, Google Home), or even your refrigerators – these personal voice-based AI assistants are leaving no stone unturned to help you.
From giving you weekly weather forecasts to turning on the lights in your home or even ordering a pizza, the user-driven applications of voice search are turning out to be endless.
With growing functionality and an increased presence in our smartphones, we wanted to know how many people are regularly using mobile voice search commands, which AI systems are the most popular, and how are people using them through voice search.
What is Voice Search?
Voice search majorly allows users to speak into a device that is equipped with voice technology (Voice Assistants) as opposed to typing keywords into a search query to generate results.
Voice technology uses speech recognition to understand what users are saying with high accuracy. It then gives results orally to the user. Although it might seem like a new concept but voice search has been around for quite a while. Programmes such as speech-to-text and quick voice dialing are great examples of voice search.
In addition, voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Siri, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Alexa all utilise voice search capabilities.
In fact, today we’ve reached a stage where more than just devices can be optimised for voice search. Brands, platforms, and websites can also be optimised for voice search.
How is Voice Search Different from Textual Search?
An average person can type between 38-40 words per minute. But did you know that the same person can speak between 110-115 words per minute? According to Google, 20% of Google app searches are now by voice and Bing estimates that by 2020, 50% of all search queries will be driven by either voice or by image.
Here’s how voice search is different from textual search:
- Involves longer queries: Voice search usually includes long-tail keywords or phrases with 7+ words, unlike an average text search, which is somewhere between 2-4 words.
- Incorporates natural language: By using natural language, voice technology understands a user’s query more accurately. Since the user asks the queries using his/her voice the results are returned in a more human way.
- More focused on local results: Voice searches are 3 times more local-based, as some of the biggest voice search use cases involve queries about the local weather, calling someone, finding restaurants, and asking for directions.
Why is Voice Search Growing So Fast?
You might think that the use of voice search would mostly be restricted to the younger generations, but according to Thrive Analytics people of all age groups use mobile personal assistants.
Google realised that voice search would grow. But how would it grow was decided by voice technology that forayed into hand held devices and the users who quickly adapted to these devices and embraced voice search technology.
There are 3 reasons why voice search is growing so fast:
- Speaking is easier and more convenient – Indeed! Asking a question to Google is far easier and more convenient than actually typing the entire question. In fact, in a survey by Stone Temple stated that more than half of the respondents use voice search so that they don’t have to type.
- Voice search continues to get better through NLP – Voice search is eating into keyboard-based searches. It’s no surprise that more users are beginning to prefer voice over keyboard for their queries since it is better and convenient. Voice today is perfect for smartphones and smart speakers since they are pre-equipped with voice technology. Nearly 60% of mobile searchers use voice search at least once.
- Voice search is faster than typing – Yes, voice is faster than typing. According to Bing, it is 3.7 times faster than typing. Users always want answers to their queries in a split second. So, faster the search, faster the responses to the search queries.
Smart Tips to Optimise for Voice Search
According to ComScore, by 2020 50% of all searches will be via voice while Gartner predicts that 30% of searches will take place without a screen. When users perform a voice search, they are expecting to complete an action – such as playing a song or purchasing a product – or a piece of information on a particular subject.
But despite different intentions, Google uses the same algorithm to rank the websites.
- Ensure your websites load fast – Use Page Speed Insights to analyse the current speed of your website. This tool will reveal if your site’s current load time is fast enough, and provide suggestions on how to make it even faster if your load time is high. You also need to understand that mobile speed is more important than desktop for voice search optimisation. This rule is the same for overall web design as well. So, ensure that your website is mobile-friendly since a majority of voice searches are through mobile phones.
- Improve your local SEO – According to BrightLocal, 58% of consumers use voice search to find local businesses, restaurants, and routes. This doesn’t come as surprise, since most people use voice search when they’re planning to drive somewhere or searching for a restaurant. Most voice search queries are about places users wish to visit. That could be a particular query such as “Best Pizza place in Mumbai.” An alternative voice search query could be, “What are the best Pizza places in Mumbai?” Most importantly users using voice search for local listings are likely to include “Near Me” in their query. Update and claim your Google Listing. Also develop your “Google My Business”. Make sure you’ve added all the necessary information about your business, such as brand name, address, opening hours, website, contact details etc. Also be hyper-local with your content titles and meta description.
- Focus on featured snippets – If you’re familiar with some of the deeper concepts of SEO, then you must be familiar with “Featured Snippets,” also known as Google Quick Answers. But, if you’re not, then you’ll certainly recognise what they look like. Featured snippets appear at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). When a user types in a specific keyword or phrase in Google, it pulls the most relevant content and places them on top of the results in a box like this:
In order to rank high in voice search results, you should focus on writing quality content keeping in mind in order to:
- Answer specific and common user questions
- Answer questions concisely, mostly in the form of lists
- Write content that is engaging and is meta description-optimised
- Think and write like a user – Ensure all the content you write is optimised for voice search. Include long-tail keywords that sound more natural and the way users speak as opposed to shorter, usual keywords that perform exceptionally well in desktop SEO. Don’t forget to keep the search phrases short and simple. Voice search results must be typically written at a reading level of 9th-grade. So, even if your content is of a high-level, try and break it down in a way that is easy for the users to comprehend. Also, aim for web page content that lands anywhere between 1850 and 2500 words for better voice search results.
“Hi Alexa! What’s the Future of Voice Search?”
Voice search is on the rise and here to stay. As the functionality of voice search increases and consumers become more acquainted with everything it can do, we expect its popularity to grow. Already, the majority of mobile phone owners have begun to incorporate voice search into their everyday lives.
Nearly 60% of those surveyed in 2018 use voice search at least once per month, and nearly half use it weekly or daily.
While voice assistants are changing the way we watch videos, play music, or set alarms, they’re also changing the way we search for localised requests, like products, services, businesses, and restaurants.
Millennials are more likely to use voice assistants to help them interact with the outside world by looking up movie times, making online purchases, booking local services, or gaining traffic updates.
The future is bright. The future is voice search. Is your business ready to take the leap?