Voice search didn’t start with the launch of smart speakers. The development goes way back before any intelligent device was launched. In the 1960s IBM built the first voice assistant which, being very basic; it could recognise only a few words and digits. When Apple introduced iPhone 4S featuring Siri in 2011, voice assistant suddenly became available to the broad audience. Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana assistants followed soon after, and the transformation towards a new way of searching for information began. Virtual assistants are overgrowing, and we can find them in many new products entering the market.
When Amazon introduced Echo smart speaker with Alexa in 2016, some part of the sci-fi films became a reality. Everything from turning down the lights, playing music or booking a restaurant just happened to be much more convenient and less time-consuming via voice search. Smart speakers including Google Home and Apple’s Homepod are becoming our home companions and are considered being the fasted growing technology device nowadays. According to Edison Research, 16% of adults in America own a smart speaker, and more than the half of them cannot imagine life without it anymore.
What does remain a pain point for the Europeans, however, is having the voice assistant understand other languages than English. The adoption of smart speakers outside the USA is smaller because of the language limitations. But that will change soon. At the moment Apple’s Siri is the only voice assistant understanding Dutch, but it is expected that both Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa will speak multiple European languages soon.
The future of voice search
Having a conversation with your computer is the future. Some say that in a couple of years we will be talking more to our devices than to our partners. It is faster than typing and thanks to the innovations in technology it is becoming more and more reliable. With Google Assistant’s word error rate of only 4,9% in 2017 vs 8% in 2015, we can see that the improvement in accuracy is progressing rapidly.
According to Google research, teenagers are the most prominent users of voice search, followed shortly by adults. Voice assistance, in general, is mostly used to make phone calls or ask for directions and people use it whether being alone or when with friends.
Impact on your business
The growth of voice search will also affect search engine results, so it is more important than ever to understand how to provide the right information your customers are looking for. Until now ‘search’ has been a competition between companies to try to achieve top rankings on certain keywords, but today’s trends are changing, and the focus should go well beyond keywords. The way consumers search via voice command is different to the traditional text search. Instead of using only keywords people start to behave differently when talking to their voice assistants. Voice search is very natural and the questions that are being asked consist of a couple of words. Understanding this behaviour is crucial to the future of your search ranking. Making sure you provide answers to the queries the user creates, is the key to success.
Despite the launch of smart speakers, smartphones remain to be the dominant device on which people perform voice searches. Hence, it is necessary for your business not only to optimise content but having a mobile-friendly site.
Although for more of us voice search still seems like a faraway future and having to talk to our phones or other devices might not come very natural, the prognosis speaks loud and clear. Humans can talk almost four times faster than they can type and voice search will help us do more in a short period. And that is no doubt the reason why voice search will become even more popular in the future in any applications.
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