The Future of Voice Search (& Why You Should Care)

June 8, 2016
Everything you need to know about voice search

If you own a smartphone, iPhone, Samsung, etc. (we’ll save that argument for another day), you’ve probably used a digital personal assistant like Google Voice, Siri or Cortana to conduct a voice search. And yes, a voice search is exactly what it sounds like – asking your smartphone a question and getting an answer, or at the very least, a handful of search engine results pages to look at.

For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll be using data from Bing Ads and their newest digital personal assistant, Cortana. Cortana is accessible on both desktop and mobile for voice searches. From voice search and broad match with Cortana, there were 1,000 impressions in March 2015. However, this number drastically increased just one year later to 17,958 in March 2016.

Cortana Voice Search

What’s so great about voice search?

  • We can search more quickly since we speak more quickly than we can type
  • It’s much easier since it’s hands-free and instantaneous
  • The results are more context driven based on previous questions and interactions

This convenience and ease is why there has been an increased use of voice search by these types of digital assistants in the last year. Some of the top questions asked in voice search by Cortana were:

  • Who is Bill Gates?
  • Do my homework.
  • When will my package arrive?
  • Where do I live?
  • Where is my wife?
  • Who is my wife?

How voice search differs from traditional keyboard searches

Voice Search Common Questions

As you can probably imagine, many of the above questions poke fun at Cortana, just like people tend to do with Apple’s Siri. However, it’s apparent that voice search queries are actually quite different from keyboard search queries in a few interesting ways that are largely the result of our habits and expectations which are based on the limitations and capabilities we see with keyboard searches.

When searching with a keyboard, someone might type in “President of Canada”, receive the results and then navigate to a specific webpage to find the answer to their question. When using voice search, however, customers tend to use longer and more specific search queries that are in full sentence form, which sound more natural to humans. An example of this would be to ask “Who is the President of Canada?”

But even though we’re using more natural sentences to ask our digital personal assistants questions, the majority of voice searches are still relatively short, typically using 2-3 keywords. This is because we’re so used to typing in shorter requests to get faster and more accurate results from the search engines. Another reason for this is because we assume our accents or requests will be misunderstood.

Who uses voice search?

An interesting fact about voice searches is in regard to who are actually conducting them. The people most likely to use voice searches are Generation Z (no surprise as this group of early adopters is constantly familiarizing themselves with new technology) but also people in the 50+ age group. Baby Boomers who use voice search feel more tech-savvy on their smartphones and also embrace its ease of use, eliminating the complications that arise from typing, especially when it’s on a small screen.

What you need to know about voice search:

  • Voice search is growing faster than text search.
  • People tend to use more natural sentences in voice search.
  • Voice searches could actually cause your ads to be served.
  • Successful voice searches usually contain 3 keywords in their query.
  • As voice search changes and evolves, so will the keywords you are found for. This means that the relevance of your currently optimized pages will change. This could affect the quality and quantity of your inbound traffic and will certainly impact your conversion rates.
  • Voice search shows intent much more clearly than text search and can show the degree of intent (e.g. when a voice search includes the word “where”, it indicates that the person is looking to go somewhere/buy something.
  • Voice searches tend to be more local (“where is the closest coffee shop”, “yoga near me”, “buy now”, etc.).
  • Make sure your local Bing listing is updated and accurate because this is where Siri and Cortana pull their information from.

What does this mean for your business?

As voice search continues to grow, you’ll want to make sure you are capturing the customers who use voice search to seek out a service that you provide. The best way to do this is to ensure that your website pages and landing pages are optimized according to the voice search keywords.

Another great thing about voice search is that it demonstrates the searcher’s intent much more clearly than the majority of keyboard searches. For example, consider someone who does a keyboard search for “ice cream” versus someone who does a voice search of “Where can I get ice cream?” The first search for “ice cream” could mean almost anything – what are the ingredients in ice cream, where can I get ice cream, what are some flavours of ice cream, etc. However, the second search of “Where can I get ice cream” clearly demonstrates that the searcher wants to get ice cream now.

Considering digital personal assistants like Cortana, Google Voice and Siri in your online marketing strategies will continue to become increasingly important and will likely impact your bottom line as time passes. Please take a look at the slide deck below for more information about voice search and where it’s headed from a recent presentation we attended at Bing Ads. This article from Purna Virji on Moz is also a great resource on how voice search will change the future of marketing.

Do you have any questions or comment about what you just read? Let us know!