Voice recognition software has been available for a long time now, but it took Apple to make it mainstream with Siri. The voice recognition app for iPhones and iPads allows people to ask simple questions, set reminders on their phones, and search for things without having to use an awkward touch-screen keyboard. It’s possible to say “Hey Google”, or ask Cortana similar things, if you’re invested in one of the other rival smartphone ecosystems, but Siri is the one that led the way. Today, more than 55% of teenagers and 41% of adults report using things like Google Voice Search more than once per day. The reason – for adults at least – is that it makes them feel more “tech-savvy” to search that way than to type out their queries. But, what does voice search mean for webmasters?
Natural Language Queries
Perhaps the biggest impact that voice search is having, right now, is people are more likely to make queries that are worded in ‘natural language’, rather than the terse language they might use when they are typing. In response to this, Google is working to understand people, and their intentions, better. As of November 2015, it started to break queries down. It now looks more closely at the semantics of each piece, identifying ordered items, dates and times, superlatives and more. This is in an attempt to provide answers to “what the searcher wants to know” rather than the exact wording of the query. It is also working on providing direct answers that are more accurate. Interestingly enough, when people ask a question via speech, they may be given a better answer than they would be if they typed a query. This is because, with typed queries, keywords tend to dominate search behaviour. As a webmaster, this means that sites which have content that answer common questions will be more likely to appear in the Google Answer Box. As a publisher, you should be focusing on finding ways to get your content in that box. It’s also important that you make sure your location, contact information and opening hours are up-to-date – because those are the sorts of things that people tend to search for when using voice search. Finally, if you haven’t already set up a My Business account with Google, do so. This will greatly help your local search presence.