Hey, Google, what’s voice search, and why is it important?

This is an example of a voice command, as used in voice search.

Voice search allows the user to perform searches on the Internet, websites, and applications by announcing their search query aloud. It has changed the way we use and browse the Internet.

Today, one-third of the United States population uses voice to conduct searches, and this number will keep growing. Just think of the most popular voice assistant devices people own today, like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and Apple’s Siri.

Voice search allows for users to perform many activities simultaneously, without having to pause to make their search, and saves them time. Other benefits are:

  1. Making information more convenient and accessible.
  2. Reducing exertion.
  3. Increasing productivity.
  4. Helping and including people who require speech and sight assistance.

There is more than meets the eye. Due to the growth of artificial intelligence, voice search now goes beyond a voice command.

Understanding Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Voice search uses AI (artificial intelligence), and its use is changing the entire user experience as we know it. It’s used in many forms, some of which you’re probably aware of, i.e., face recognition, banking, Netflix, and home assistants.

Artificial intelligence is often confused with ML, machine learning, and we’re here to explain the difference between the two.

AI enables a machine to simulate human behavior. ML is a subset of AI and, in its basic form, it allows for the machine to optimize its processes based on past data without having to be explicitly programmed. The two have different purposes, as well. AI intends on creating a smart computer system that will ultimately be able to solve complex problems that, up until now, only humans are capable of solving. ML intends on allowing machines to learn from existing data in order to provide accurate output. You can view AI as an attempt to create a robotic human by making use of all of its subsets combined, and ML (one of these subsets) as a tool to get the most accurate results possible.

Also important to know, NLP is another subset of AI and it stands for natural language processing. It helps computers understand linguistics. NLP uses text and voice recognition to understand the way we as humans speak. It gets smarter by analyzing grammar and the individual meanings of phrases and then uses a series of algorithms to determine the meaning and deliver outputs. The most known examples of NLP in action are Siri, Alexa and Google Assist, as well as chatbots. 

Understanding these foundations helps grasp the bigger picture and the importance of being part of the AI movement. By making sure your business is listed and optimized with voice searches and commands, you’re tapping into a much larger audience. 

Semantics, the biggest game-changer.

Semantic search refers to the data searching technique in which a query, beyond aiming to find specific keywords, determines the intent of the query, as well as the contextual meaning of the phrasing the person uses in their search. Once upon a time, search engines were capable of only analyzing the exact phrasing of a search query when matching search results. Newer, most sophisticated algorithms incorporate semantic search principles when ranking content on the SERP.

And this was the biggest Google core update. It has changed the game entirely.

Voice search is changing the way the algorithm understands the user intent and is shifting towards a more conversational tone of voice. It has begun to understand why the search is making that particular search by context and it is becoming increasingly skilled at understanding verbal language by zoning in on specific keywords and letting the algorithm do the rest, based on existing search data. When a person is typing, they can only get to 40 words per minute. But, when a person is speaking, i.e., using voice search, they can speak around 150 words per minute.

People using voice search typically ask more specific questions. Therefore they also want more detailed answers. For your business, this means providing more specific content pages. Just think back to the user’s intent and provide content relating to their pains and desires.

  • What matters to your ideal clients?
  • What challenges are they facing?
  • Who are they fighting?
  • What are they fighting for?
  • What emotions might they be experiencing?

Time to optimize your content.

We’ve previously touched on the basis that people interact differently with search queries when it’s written and when it’s vocal. But, how does that affect your rankings and overall SEO strategy?

Since voice searches are longer than written searches, your business must include long-tailed keywords and keyword phrases. For example, a person searching for a family law firm might write, “divorce lawyers Illinois” and if they’re using voice search, they might say, “Hey Google, what’s the legal grounds for divorce in the state of Illinois?”

Another quick note on proximity-based queries. People that use voice searches to say, i.e., “lawyers in my area” will likely not be in need of a lengthy explanation or description of the lawyers that are serving in their vicinity. After this type of voice search query, SERPs do not give the user all the information they receive on a regular SERP. They instead get something called featured snippets and are provided boxes that show the most important information. This is yet another example of how search engines are starting to understand queries on a more contextual level.

Where do the majority of voice searches happen?

The majority of voice searches come from mobile devices. According to Google, more than a quarter (27%) of the global population uses voice search on mobile devices. This may come as no surprise since typing on small devices isn’t the most convenient for users, especially when they need to use their hands, such as when driving. Again, this implies that the content you provide on mobile apps, websites, and social media should all follow the natural conversational tone of voice.

On mobile devices, the voice search and voice command may quickly turn prospects into clients. This is partly because voice search on mobile is quick and fast-paced. Those who make their searches in this way are usually busy doing something else and want their own digital assistant to help them out with information or other basic tasks. Such actions could be things like calling, scheduling, taking notes, and writing an email/message, and they are possible with a simple “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google.”

Besides your content, you can optimize your GMB (Google My Business) for mobile devices. GMB covers key elements like reviews, maps, hours of operation. By making sure all your information is on GMB, you can capture the audience that searches over voice for basic information like, “What time does _____ open?” Or “How can I get to ______?”

Bonus Best Practice for Voice Search!

While voice search is definitely advantageous, people have concerns about their privacy. The younger audiences are increasingly more aware of the privacy implications smart home devices have. This can especially be the case for clients dealing with private legal matters.

What can you do? Make sure you are transparent and accountable. Provide necessary information, updates, and answer questions without putting any of your client’s data at risk.

A new way to interact.

As smart technology and devices continue to get smarter, you must be able to adapt in order to remain relevant and create the best customer experience for your users.

Voice search brings new opportunities to the market, and your business shouldn’t wait for competitors to jump on the bandwagon. Get a head start. Learn how your business can enhance its user experience today.

Get in touch with our experts.