29 May, 2017

The Rise of Voice Search

In just one year, the use of voice search has grown from a statistical 0, to 10% of all search volume. And that 10% seems to be fairly conservative, with Google stating that in fact, around 20% of all searches now have voice intent.
For the most part, this increase in people using voice search services is due to the improved accuracy of voice recognition software and natural language processing, as well as refinements to the voice search user experience.

To put those improvements in perspective: in 2013, Google’s word recognition rate was just 80% (more or less). Today Google’s word recognition rate is over 90% and Baidu, the Chinese web services company, has achieved over 95% accuracy for word recognition.

That 10-15% improvement represents a hugely significant difference in the end user’s experience and it’s a very noticeable difference too. We’re a Leeds based agency, so many of our clients and colleagues are true Yorkshire folk with the accents to match and 3 years ago, that accent pretty much meant voice search was practically useless, if you wanted more than just a good giggle at Siri and what it thought you’d said.

Today, voice search is a viable way for many users, accent irrelevant, to search the web, and in environments where hands free is the only option, voice search really comes into its own.

What’s Next for Voice Search?

If achieving voice recognition accuracy rates of over 90% has already led to voice search becoming an everyday method of searching then web, then hitting 98, 99 and dare we say 100% accuracy rates will be the game changer that propels voice search into the centre stage of search. And by all accounts, those achievements are pretty close!

The future of voice search is not just about the search functionality itself though; technology is changing too. There is a new player in the search market, moving in alongside industry stalwarts Google, Bing and Yahoo! and that newcomer’s name is Amazon.

The retail giant has just launched a new device called Amazon Echo. Echo is a voice only interface which uses Bing search and YELP databases to answer queries.

This voice only format sets Echo apart from the typical screen based smartphone devices we’ve come to know and love and at a time when iPhone sales in particular are predicted to decline for the first time.

This difference gives Echo an appeal for the technologically savvy trend setters looking for “the next big thing” and so far, Echo is looking like the perfect candidate as its year on year growth has reached 150%. Echo won’t lack for competition though, as Google is set to launch Google Home and an Apple version is also expected soon.

So What Does Voice Search Mean For Businesses?

Voice search serves a number of practical uses businesses can adopt to streamline their own internal processes. It can be used as a personal assistant to make online bookings and schedule appointments. It can be used to find general information, update social networks and gather directions and traffic updates, in real time on the move and of course, it can provide hours of entertainment too.

But that aside, voice search has another impact on businesses that’s arguably more important. Voice search is changing the way users find information online and if you have a website and an SEO strategy, then you need to start optimising it for voice search.

People will begin to use longer, more detailed search queries revealing a more obvious intent.

How much are flights from Manchester to Barcelona in June?
Where can I buy a memory foam mattress in Leeds?
How old was Elvis when he died?
Show me the latest statistics on the rise of voice search in 2016
Tell me what the biggest grossing film was last year

We can expect search queries that are more conversational, even using things like slang and metaphors.

How d’ya make a no bake cheesecake?
Where’s good to go for a night on the town in Leeds?
What new threads are on sale in Topshop?

We can expect appointment base searches.

Find me an electrician available a 2pm tomorrow in Wakefield
Show me washing machines that can be delivered on Saturday
Which Italian restaurants in London can book a table of 6 in tonight at 7?

We can expect action based searches.

Order me a pizza
Book a meeting room in Edinburgh tomorrow at 1
Listen to Heroes by David Bowie

And, we can expect more search queries from in app experiences.

With that in mind, you might like to get started with futureproofing your website for the rise of voice search and get the conversations started with your brand.