The voice search feature on our phones has risen in popularity over recent years as a convenient and quick way to find the answers we’re looking for. A study from Northstar Research revealed that as of October 2014, 55% of teens and 41% of adults in the U.S. use Google voice search more than once a day. The study also found that the use of the voice search feature more than doubled between 2013 and 2014.
Google is not the only company investing heavily in voice search. Apple’s iPhone’s feature Siri, while Microsoft developed their own voice search, called Cortana, which they released on all three major phone platforms. Amazon recently debuted their “Alexa” speaker, which features voice search.
Asking questions is the most natural way for users to find the information they want, and the tech company that can perfect their voice service first stands to make a lot of money off of it.
The Appeal of Voice Search
The Northstar Research study said that 55% of adults reported using voice search because it made them feel “tech savvy.” Google voice search provides a better level of accessibility to Internet browsing for disabled users, according to Search Engine Watch’s website.
Although the Desktop version of Chrome no longer features the voice search, it’s still a major component of Google’s mobile platform. Newer Android phones have an optional feature that let’s you activate voice search by saying “Ok Google,” even if the phone is turned off. Siri and Cortana both have similar features on their respective platforms.
The “okay, Google” listening feature has also risen in popularity in Asian markets. Google ran its first ad campaign in Vietnam in October of 2015. Voice search was the focus of the campaign and the advertising resulted in a smartphone usage jump. Mobile usage in Vietnam jumped from 36% in 2013 to 55% in 2014.
Balazs Molnar, head of search marketing at Google Southeast Asia, said the voice search feature is a popular tool in Vietnam because of the characteristics of Asian languages.
“While voice search and commands are unlikely to replace typing completely, in many Asian languages it’s harder for people to type using a small keyboard,” he said. “For instance, character-based languages or languages with a lot of diacritical markers, like Vietnamese. People find it easier to speak rather than type on their phones.”
A Multi-Tasking World
Many of those surveyed in the Northstar report said they used voice search while multi-tasking, even in the home. Twenty-three percent of adults used voice search while cooking and 38% of those surveyed used voice search while watching TV. The survey also investigated people’s’ comfort with using voice search while in public. Overall, teens felt more comfortable speaking into their phones, while only a quarter of adults felt comfortable speaking into their phones in the presence of company.
One popular use of voice search is that you can tell your digital assistant to identify a song or movie that’s playing. Amazon and Apple both offer boxes that stream media to your TV, and they’re experimenting with having voice search control actions on your screen.
The Future of The Digital Assistant
According to a November 2015 blog written by Google, the voice search now welcomes “complex” questions and has improved its ability to understand what the user is asking. The blog said that Google voice has the ability to break down the semantics of each portion of a user’s question.
Using this method of analytics enables Google voice search to understand the intent behind each question. Google can pull the correct factual information using each analyzed portion of your question to come up with the answer you’re looking for. Unlike a traditional search, someone using a digital assistant doesn’t want to sift through a list of options when they ask a question, they want the correct answer, instantly.
This new capability also enables us to speak and ask questions more naturally to our smartphones rather than relying on specific and individualized keywords to search. Users will now enjoy improved accuracy of their search results while feeling confident that they can communicate in a way that comes naturally to them.
What This Means For Your Business
Keeping your business Web information up-to-date is of more importance now than ever before. Google’s getting better at understand what your content means, and voice search users won’t want to scroll through pages of content to find your hours of operation, or the price of an item.
One resource that can help improve your visibility for voice search is structured markup, like Schema.org. Marking up your content with Schema will help search engines understand the context of your page and identify the key information that your customers are looking for.
Voice is likely the future of search. Text search will likely always have a place, but for customers on the go, or those who want information quickly, they’ll turn to Google Now, Siri, Cortana, or Alexa for their information, and not a search box. Businesses that prepare for this future now will find themselves in the position to capitalize on it in the future.