The search landscape has changed so much over the past decade. From how Google displays adverts to the introduction of local search results and other more universal results such as news, images, videos and shopping.
However, the above changes are more to do with how results are displayed to users compared to how people search. The biggest changes towards how people search is a result of how technology has advanced.
Mobile and Internet
The first major breakthrough regarding mobile and internet technology was around 2007 when smartphones began to establish themselves. Since then our mobile internet capabilities have become far greater. Ten years ago we couldn’t imagine streaming a full film via our phone in public, but today it is frustrating if we can’t do this.
The breakthrough in mobile technology gives search engines the ability to pinpoint your location and adapt search results to this. There has been such an impact that Google recently (Feb 2016) dropped display ads on the right hand side of search results to make display between mobile and desktop more linear.
The Future of Search
Web technologies are continuously growing and with this, we have started to see the rise in virtual assistants and the ability to search by voice.
In 2009 Google Voice was launched, similarly in 2010 Apple acquired Siri Inc and began its use in iPhone, and now we are beginning to see the dawn of Voice Search.
Just as in 2010 when mobile visits were as low 1-2% and now six years later some reports suggest mobile devices drive up to 56% of website visits.
Voice Search is still in its infancy, however it is becoming more advanced. Initial problems with Voice Search came with the ability to understand the user i.e. accents, slang etc, but providers are continually make improvements to understand these variations.
Voice Search Webinar
I recently took part in a webinar with www.semrush.com. This was a round table event online with myself, Will Critchlow (Distilled) and Chris Marentis (Surefire Social). The topic was left quite open but was based on six main questions of:
- What is the current state of Voice Search? Where do you see it heading?
- What interesting changes will the growth in Voice Search bring to the way people interact with search engines?
- How will search engines evolve to account for the increase in Voice Searches?
- What new opportunities will Voice Search present to online businesses looking to increase their conversion rates?
- How can websites evolve to capitalise on the growth of Voice Search? What specific SEO techniques should websites employ to benefit from the increase in Voice Searches?
You can view a summary of my answers in the short video below or alternatively the full webinar is available to watch at the bottom of this post.
What is the current state of Voice Search? Where do you see it heading?
I personally don’t use Voice Search that much from a daily fashion, however we cannot deny the fact it’s growing.
“At the Google I/O conference, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, revealed that half of Google’s queries are from mobile devices, and a fifth of those are made via Voice Search. As of October 2014, 41 percent of adults and 55 percent of teens used Siri, Google Now, and Cortana Voice Search daily.” – Google.
With such an increase in its use, it is very useful to understand how and why it’s being used. Key reasons for why people use Voice Search was down to speed or ability to search without hand i.e. while driving.
Google carried out a study in 2014 of 1,400 people about how Voice Search was being used https://googleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/omg-mobile-voice-survey-reveals-teens.html which showed that more than half of teens (13-18) were using Voice Search on a daily basis.
It’s interesting to see how the younger generation have embraced the technology and from the survey this showed when it was being used.
What interesting changes will the growth in Voice Search bring to the way people interact with search engines?
As with any new function within the search arena, there comes the onslaught of strategies about how you should focus your content. Search Engine Watch https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2407782/the-rise-of-voice-search-and-something-you-can-do-about-it published a piece about the growth in question-related search phrases and the prediction of more use of terms such as ‘show me’, ‘find me’, as well as ‘who’ ‘what’ ‘where’ ‘when’ ‘how’.
Although this aspect shouldn’t be dismissed, this form of content is something SEO’s have been looking at for years. Making use of websites such as Yahoo Answers, Quora etc, to find what questions searches are asking around a given subject.
A more interesting point raised by Will Critchlow in the webinar was on the fact that some searches could become smaller. His example was just searching ‘breakfast’.
Our phones know our location and from this a search can determine places for breakfast in the local area. So the more interesting part is how search engines will adapt to user intent, this could be based on:
- Time of day
- Previous searches
How will search engines evolve to account for the increase in Voice Search?
In my experience, evolution within search ultimately comes down to where the increased revenue will come from. Currently Apple’s Siri defaults to Bing for its ‘in phone’ results (while a click takes you to Bing’s search pages) and Google Now shows a fairly standard search page. The interesting part is currently in Siri you don’t see any adverts, while Google has its standard search format which includes ads as you would see normally.
From a marketing perspective, Google is recording all your voice searches, so ultimately it will begin to grow a history of what you searched for, when you search for it and where. This data could become the backbone of further ad models for example.
For example, our phones currently send information such as ‘how long it would take to drive home’ etc. If your location and history is known then in the near future we could very easily see ad/marketing such as:
- You’re out drinking and it’s known that in the early hours you sometimes search for pizza?
- It would be very easy to push ads to your phone with local pizza locations.
- Again your phone’s location picks up that you’re near a shopping centre, and your search history shows that you often search for new dresses. We are very close to having the ability to send ads about local shops to you.
How can websites evolve to capitalise on the growth of Voice Search?
What can businesses do now to capitalise on Voice Search? I think the ability for a company to embrace new technology is a must. In terms of direct search strategies right now if you’re doing it well there are no key causes for concern. For example if you’re already writing content to answer potential questions great and if your site is geared up to use Micro data to provide search engine with more and more information, great. These aspects are cornerstones or best practise and should be thought about already.
In truth we don’t fully know where Voice Search or these technological changes will take us, but being open to new avenues will keep your business successful.
To view the full webinar you can watch the video below.