“It should be rather evident to anyone paying attention that we are on the verge of a massive disruption of the market due to voice-enabled applications.”
That was the opener that Guy Sheetrit, CEO of Over The Top SEO, had in store for me when I approached him about the topic of voice search, and voice-enabled apps.
It is hard to argue that these techs are poised to have a massive surge in relevance at the dawn of the new decade. Whether you are talking smartphones, speech-to-text software, Alexa, or your smart home’s IoT appliances… As the underlying tech continues to become more accurate and accessible, on-screen keyboards and button-filled panels might become a thing of the past.
“Think about it. Why would you ever grab your phone and type if you knew, with certainty, that you could just ask it to do something in conversation? Short of privacy and environment restrictions, there’s little reason to do so once accuracy becomes a non-issue” Shared Sheetrit.
But what are the key data points that seem to be heralding the rise of “voice” as the preferred input methodology for the near future?
Voice Search by the Numbers
“It wasn’t so long ago that most people gasped when Google announced that mobile search had surpassed regular queries volumes” Asserted Sheetrit jokingly. “Even though we’ve been saying it was inevitable long before that. Guess what? It’s happening all over again. Voice search is the second preferred choice for mobile searches already.” Guy added, and he seems to be right on the money.
In early 2019, a research conducted by Proficient Digital showed that people’s comfort with voice command usage was on the rise, and had become the number two choice for mobile searches. Adobe’s own study seemed to back this trend up, as they reported that 48% of consumers are using voice for “general web searches” regularly.
Moreover, as we continue to see growth in the widespread adoption of the tech, some companies are already shifting into finding actionable data. On its April 2019 report, Microsoft made a point of finding out more about these search use cases.
Most voice searches seem to be related to finding out a quick fact (68%), asking for directions (65%), or searching for a business (47%)
“…And it is those businesses that are already looking two or three moves ahead and optimizing right now for voice search that will see the most benefit in the near future once the floodgates blow open” augured Guy.
Voice Searches, SEO, and the Impact on the Industry
Just as it happened with things like mobile accessibility, UX-centric design, and other paradigm-shifting developments of the past decade, one could imagine a similar outcome for voice-enabled tech. In fact, we are already starting to project the possible implications of gadgets like Alexa on the market.
This is what Guy Sheetrit feels about the future: “The impact of voice searches on the consumer side is rather predictable. As people grow accustomed to this tech, they’ll begin to expect it – and then demand it – on their apps and gadgets. On the businesses side, things are more complex.
We are not just talking about bigger R&D budgets to accommodate said expectation – Their marketing strategies will need to adapt to this new way in which audiences approach their content.
As good as the new semantic algorithms eventually get at figuring out searcher intent, there are important differences between spoken and written queries. Differences that will most likely make a difference in SERPs, and will have to be addressed to outplay the competition.”
Searches Are Probably Just Be the Start
I could sense we were starting to touch on something Guy is very passionate about as I noticed slightly stern notes in his voice.
“My focus is on searches because that’s my game, but don’t let that fool you” he warned. “Searches are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to voice-enabled tech.”
Guy’s sentiment resonated with a statement on the Adobe study as well, which stated that while voice usage was growing, it needed designers to reach everyday adoption.
Well, it seems like designers are hearing the call and getting to work. Increasingly more apps and devices are delving deeper into voice command implementations, and some even seek to replace the touch interaction altogether!
Microsoft’s Bing Search App version 6.48 was recently released, and on top of a visual revamp, the app included direct site navigation via voice. Once users navigate to a website, they are prompted to “Keep using voice to search this site.” They can then choose a page or a specific area of the site they’d like to go to.
Implementations like these are not only a huge step forwards in terms of accessibility, but they also signal a wider-adoption opportunity for the technology.
The new decade has barely started, and the stakes already seem pretty high when it comes to voice technology!
Whether you are talking big-picture, with machine learning improving recognition accuracy by leaps and bounds, or granular implementations like effective speech-to-text solutions: Voice-enabled tech is set to change the game.
As the whole thing continues to pick up steam, it’s bound to make big splashes in the news cycles and consumers’ collective habits – And it’ll be up to smart businesses and developers to keep an ear to the ground to anticipate, and capitalize on, these major shifts!