Voice search and AI search algorithms are changing how people use Google. Marketers who don’t pay attention to the trends may drop down the SERPs. Here’s what you should know.
“The amount of data online has exploded from 130 exabytes in 2005 to an anticipated 40,000 in 2020.”
The extraordinary amount of data available online, the widespread use of mobile devices, and the growing popularity of voice-based software such as Siri or OK Google drives the rapid development of voice search and AI technologies. People want to be able to find what they search for faster. They want to be able to search Google even when their hands are busy — when they are driving, cooking, or talking with someone on the phone.
What Is Voice Search?
Voice search is the simple technology that allows them to do that. Google mic search has been around for quite some time, but now it’s ready to receive all the refinements it needs to perform more complex searches and retrieve more accurate results than ever before.
“Between 20 and 25% of queries on Android devices and the Google mobile app are actually voice searches.”
OK Google is the Android version of Siri or Cortana. It’s a fully capable voice search feature that’s been receiving a lot of developments recently. The OK Google search bar has become a well-known feature on most smartphones running the latest Android release. You can use Google speech search for many things:
- Search for images: “Show me pictures of the Eiffel Towel.”
- Find a local cinema: “What movies are playing tonight?”
- Find nearby places: “Where’s the closest organic food shop?”
- Book a table: “Book a table for 4 at Le Petit Bistro on Thursday night.”
- Search within apps on your device: “Search for Chinese Food on Yelp.”
How Voice Search Is Changing Google
Google has already developed algorithms that cater directly to the search intent of customers, enabling them to find the right answers more quickly. The widespread use of voice search and AI not only increases the number of search queries but generates more complex ones, as well. These, in turn, can help marketers understand customer intent better.
Imagine using Google Analytics to make sense of traffic from Google microphone searches. You’d be able to see what keywords voice searchers prefer. These will likely go beyond keyword strings like “burgers San Francisco”. People could search for “I want to eat a beef burger nearby” or “I want to go to a quiet burger shop”.
Starting from these voice searches, marketers can create landing pages and run marketing campaigns targeting more specific user groups, emphasizing beef burgers, quiet settings, proximity, and other factors voice searchers are interested in.
“By 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches, according to ComScore.”
Voice search doesn’t only facilitate web searches. It also changes them. Think for a moment. If you do an Okay Google Google search for a restaurant, would you just list keywords? Probably not. You’d use full sentences to ask questions. Let’s say you just finished watching Gordon Ramsey’s video in which he heads to Norway to catch, kill and cook a king crab. You got totally inspired to try one of these yummy monster crabs yourself in a restaurant, hopefully not too far away from your home. You turn to your best friend Google and ask:
“Where can I eat the best king crab in town without booking a table?”
In the example above, you don’t have just one search factor but two. You use Google microphone search to find the restaurant that serves the best king crab and that doesn’t require booking. If the search app doesn’t pick up the second part of the query — no booking required restaurants — and just lists well-reviewed local seafood restaurants, you will have to poke around the results to find what you are looking for.
Voice search and AI apps are now becoming complex enough to understand such queries. For marketers this is great news — they can use the extra search data they get to better understand what their audience wants. In this way, making sense of customer behavior during the early stages of the buyer’s journey gets easier.
The results that OK Google and other voice searches provide highlight the advances in Google’s search algorithms. Rather than just providing you with a list of potential answers, Google is likely to bring you the answer itself, at the top of the SERP, saving you time.
Voice search queries are different from traditional searches. They don’t usually deal with sensitive information, as we don’t tend to ask sensitive questions out loud — it’s easier to type them. They are mostly about on-the-go topics like food, shopping, activities, travel and such. They are also practical in their intent — most people will use voice search to find a restaurant, but not to research a term paper.
Voice Search and Social Media
Voice search is also making its way onto social media, albeit more slowly. Facebook’s Messenger app allows you to send voice messages to your friends and family. But this is likely just the beginning. Imagine being able to use voice search to find a friend in your friend list, respond to comments, or discover people with similar interests.
The voice search technology available is capable of that and more. It’s only a question of social networks integrating it into their apps. As voice search for search engines and within apps becomes more widespread, people will expect the same convenient features from social media, too.
RankBrain – Machine Learning and How It Helps Marketers
Since 2015 Google has been using a machine learning technology to deliver better search results — RankBrain. It’s different from other algorithms in that it’s not just a programmed piece of software. It can teach itself to provide better results based on the input it receives from searchers. RankBrain is thought to be a part of Hummingbird — Google’s overall search algorithm.
RankBrain seems to be the third most important ranking factor after content and links. But what does it actually do? From the information Google has provided so far, RankBrain helps Google find pages that don’t contain the exact words in the search query. This is very important when you think of voice searches and the roundabout way in which users may be asking questions to carry out searches.
RankBrain is a clear signal for marketers that they need to really understand what users need. It’s not enough for them to build web pages and sites around keywords. Rather, websites and marketing content has to become more responsive to the behavior of customers, and especially to their past purchases. While AI raises new challenges for marketers, it also helps them by making available new search data. Marketers can use this data to create personalized website experience for users.
As AI integration into internet technologies gains momentum, it will make its way into marketing and website building, as well. Machine learning may assist both organic SEO experts and website builders to automate their marketing and focus on the creative aspects of their job.
In a world of voice searches and AI-enhanced mobile operating systems, websites themselves will have to prove the value of a brand. And they have to do it through content and personalized offers.
The key to making the most of Google speech search and AI is to make sense of the big data that these give rise to. It’s about rethinking your marketing to make it more dynamic and more content-driven, and thus more natural and humane than ever.