I press down on my iPhone 7’s home button until a slate black screen with the bright letters “What can I help you with?” pops up.
Clearing my throat, I ask casually, “Siri, what’s the nearest place to grab a bite to eat?”
Within seconds, the screen fills up with a tavern, cafe, and two Mexican restaurants within a mile, complete with directions and Yelp reviews, as well as dollar signs to denote their expenses.
I swiftly select one of the Mexican restaurants, and am quickly on my way to share a plate of steaming fajitas with my best friend.
The proliferation of mobile smartphones and the chronic expansion of their use has led to the rise of mobile voice queries through, most notably, assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa. Voice searches, in comparison to the usual keyword text searches are phrased as full queries, more conversational phrases aimed to receive a direct result. For example, in my quest for the perfect lunch, if I were searching for places to eat on a computer, I would probably key in a much more concise, shorter phrase such as “Restaurants in San Francisco.” However, as I was asking a digital personal assistant such as Siri or Cortana, I used a much more natural, colloquial language than what I would use for a keyword text input in the form of “What’s the nearest place to grab a bite to eat?”
Due to increased adoption by consumers and improvements in user-friendly intelligent personal assistants, voice search has vastly impacted search engine optimization. Nearly one-third of all Cortana searches derive from voice, most commonly used for asking for directions, calling others, dictating texts, and for help with homework. Google’s Director of Conversational Search, Behshad Behzadi had expressed that Google has experienced faster growth in voice than text searches as of recent. This phenomenon can be ascribed to improved ease of access, accuracy, and the simple fact that more users have become more comfortable with talking to their phones to perform basic searches. Google’s speech recognition errors have significantly decreased from 25% in 2014 to 8% in 2016. Behzadi has stated that the future of search will be “an ultimate mobile assistant that helps you with your daily life so you can focus on the things that matter.”
Search queries are phrased differently when using voice interaction because it is merely more natural to utilize full conversational phrases during voice searches. Modern digital personal assistants generally understand these semi-complex questions, and algorithms are becoming increasingly more sophisticated in their design, so there is no pressing need to simplify queries to wreak the best results. Consequently, in terms of search engine optimization, developers should focus more on long-tail keywords as a strategy in the context of augmented voice search popularization.
Additionally, context will become much more important, as most smartphones take into account location when performing voice searches. Mobile search is about three times more likely to be local-based than text queries — this presents a great opportunity for focusing on local SEO strategy for businesses. Local businesses should try to target more local keywords in order to attract mobile voice search users, especially ones that deal in sales or services.
Ultimately, voice search does not indicate the demise of keyword searches. However, it does represent a burgeoning method for conducting search queries, and its rising popularity cannot be ignored in a business model.