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Voice Search: How Emerging Technologies Are Changing the Way We Search

Today, most information is at your fingertips. By the click of a mouse, tap on the screen, or a simple “Hey, Siri” will bring about all the information you could need. This is vastly different from traditional search methods that were still employed a decade ago. Before Google was widely available, most who needed to find information, had to go to their library or closest university or college. The information retrieval process concerned itself with queries and documents and their relationship to each other. However, now, individuals are using their voice-activated mobile device or desktop assistants to garner information.

In October 2011, Apple was the first to integrate voice search into their new devices which included iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch players.  In addition to Siri, many other platforms offer their own voice-activated assistant whether that be Alex or Cortana, people are using their voice more and more to get answers. With that little action people are alternating their search behavior from text to voice. Thrive Analytics presented a study saying that 71% of US smartphone users who are using mobile personal assistants are 18-29 years old- this is expected as younger audiences are the first to adopt new digital advancements and start trends. With the growing use in voice-enabled technologies, companies like Google and Apple are put more emphasis on researching natural language processing. Google states that their error rate on voice recognition is down from 25% to 8% and is recognizing more natural language sentences.

How is voice-search different from text search?  There are five major differences between text search and voice search. In general voice queries are much longer because people are using voice and are using natural language. When users type their queries they are using the most direct words and route to express themselves. Google is most likely to serve the most direct answers when voices searching is being utilized. Currently Google is 65% of the search query market for the overall search market and will help content providers who are supplying these direct answers.

Voice based searches are more likely to be locally-based searches. For example, when you ask your telephone what restaurants are near me?  The local search is very important for restaurants and how they are formatting their SEO to be found online. Preparing your local SEO for voice search is really important to become a way for customers to find you. Getting more quick words for your customers are very relevant for the local searcher. The key is that the searcher does not need to visit your website in order to find the information that they are intending to find.

If the searcher does not need to visit your website to receive the information how will that affect the rankings of websites?  If customers do not need to click on a webpage, then this will limit the search traffic and SEO will need to find new ways for the information to be delivered when a natural language voice search is done. Furthermore, marketing will have a hard time gathering information about how people are trying to interact with your website or brand and how it is mentioned in a natural conversational query. Also, follow up questions are really important to considered with voice searches. Usually the person might need more information than the first query.

Ramifications of voice search are going to be part of the SEO strategies, content creators and digital marketers. The hope that people will receive the information they are requesting Google will try to place all the questions into direct answer boxes. If you want to be featured in these direct answer boxes you need to structure your ideas and page content to be the main resources and key to finding out that information. Making sure that search engine bots are aware of that information is important to being featured in those direct questions in voice search and direct answer question boxes. This gives light to have a different strategy to the same SEO that you have been doing for many years. This can refresh your website and get more traffic and get an advantage to websites that are not targeting voice searches. If your strategists refuse to ignore this new trend, then you are not taking advantage of this new growth and will make it even harder for your business to compete.

Wiebke Reile

Wiebke Reile

Wiebke Reile has been social media strategist for the last eight years in the Internet Industry. She has also professionally worked in the film and television industry as a documentary film editor in New York City. Currently, she is a researcher for the University of Hawaii and pursuing her doctorate degree; focusing her research towards online political social movements.

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