Look who’s talking: The rise of voice search

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Once reserved for the realm of science fiction, voice searches are now a key part of how we use the internet. Despite still being in its infancy, voice search accounts for 20% of Google’s mobile searches as of late 2016, which is a huge improvement to the statistical zero it accounted for pre-2013. The Amazon Echo, a new piece of voice tech, has sold an estimated 5.2 million units so far.

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Despite this rise, questions remain. The human voice is far more open to interpretation than its keyboard counterpart – and with Google growing ever more context-based, what does the future of voice search hold for businesses and marketers?

What is voice search?

Voice search relates to any spoken search services, whether that’s through a smartphone service like Google Now, Cortana or Siri, or through a personal assistant device such as the Amazon Echo (Alexa). Thanks to the surging increase in technology, the accuracy rate of voice search is up to 92%.

How does voice search get used? How can you take advantage of it?

Unsurprisingly, we don’t use voice search services in the same way we use text searches. Instead, our voice searches seem to be for more immediate demands – whether that’s to make a phone call or ask for directions, it’s the hands-free functionality that’s important. A KPCB survey found that 61% of Americans said voice search was most useful when their hands or vision were occupied – and found voice search was most used in the home and car.

According to Moz.com, the majority of searches for voice search involve slightly more words than text – but are not ‘long’ as you might expect. Instead, queries tend to be around three words long. For marketers, this means shifting to using longer, voice-friendly keywords.

The most significant differences in the usage of voice search are through questions. When using a keyboard, people tend to make more robotic searches that make sense to a computer. For example: “UK prime minister” as opposed to “Who is the current UK prime minister?” When users speak their search, they tend to enunciate a full question.

Understanding ‘intent’

It’s unsurprising that there has been a rise in question-based phrases year-on-year – with ‘who’ phrases seeing a growth of 135% and ‘how’ phrases up 87%. Because this type of phrase gives a search more context, marketers can use it to bid or build content targeted to questions that show a greater degree of intent.

For example, ‘Nike Trainers’ could be a term you’d try to optimise for with text search, but you have no way of knowing the context of this search. Do they want to buy Nike trainers? Do they want more information on them? There’s no real way to know.

With voice search, however, intent is clearer thanks to the question-based nature of search. People are more likely to search ‘Where can I buy Nike Trainers?’ or ‘What shop near me sells Nike Trainers?’

This means you can optimise for intent by expanding your keywords to include these question-based terms. By answering these questions directly, you’re more likely to rank higher for users making voice searches.

On top of this, voice search is three times more likely to be local-based versus text search. This means you can build a tighter local search strategy that will attract people looking for goods or services in your area.

By thinking about voice search and targeting longer, more intent-based phrases, you can start taking advantage of the opportunity here and now. However, voice search is just getting started….

The future of voice search

Personal assistants are clear indicators of the way voice search is going. Designed to offer assistance to users around their homes, these devices make a user’s life that little bit easier. Whether it’s a quick voice search, adding an event to your calendar or setting an alarm, convenience is the future. As more and more devices become ‘smart’ and capable of cross-interaction, voice search will aim to make a user’s home life more intuitive and easier.

For a business, the potential of voice search is just beginning. Soon, the technology will directly influence how a user lives – giving them instant access to information. It’s estimated that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be by voice. Are you prepared for the change?

Unsure about voice search? Contact us today to see how Mediaworks can ensure your digital strategy is ready for the voice-enabled future.





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