Voice Activated Search

Voice activated search is becoming increasingly common and will soon have a significant impact on the way people use the web in general and how they then find individual websites.

The way that people use the internet is already changing through the use of mobile devices. More and more people are using their mobiles to search the web, but as many small touch screens have very small buttons, typing can be a challenge. This is one particular circumstance where the benefits of voice activated search will see a dramatic increase in use, making searching on mobiles more user friendly and reliable.

While mobile users will continue to benefit from the ease of voice search, it doesn’t stop there. Google chrome browsers offer voice activated search for desktop users to. One of the main selling points to this is that you can search away from the desk, when your hands are full and also with it being useful for longer queries or for when you are not sure how to spell something. With Google launching this, it will only be a matter of time before other search engines follow.

What will this mean for SEO?

Voice activated search is very different to the conventional way of searching as it is a more of a traditional verbal method of asking a question and getting a response rather than typing it in the search field on search engines. One example of voice activated search, which is already in use, is Apple’s Siri which encourages people to “talk to Siri as you would to a person”.

This relatively new way of interacting with technology and browsers is very different to that of typed search where ranking well on search engines involves predicting the keywords people use to search, this has an element of being guided by statistics on search term popularity and competition which makes it more controlled and calculated. Voice search is extremely different to this and knowing what people will ask verbally is something that online businesses and brands will need to think so that their site can provide the best response. How they find out what people will ask verbally is the real question.

The introduction and use of voice activated search makes the opportunities for multilingual businesses even greater. Currently Google supports 42 languages but this may need to increase as most web users would want to search in their native language as the restrictions through the use of keyboards are less with voice activated search.

Another factor that increases the difficulty of voice activated search is the problems that accents can pose for in voice activated search, some accents are very difficult to transcribe but Google is currently trying to refine accent recognition to include even more users in different geographical locations. For websites, this means that localizing your content for regions is becoming ever more important.

One of the major benefits of voice search, which has recently been mentioned by Google, is that it doesn't matter if you don't know how to spell it your search query, as long as you can say it. English-language web content will therefore become more accessible for people that cannot write in English but can speak it. This also applies to other languages and means that making sure that your website is easy to understand and clear for non-native speakers, with any alternative languages clearly signposted, is a must.

From the traditional SEO point of view, changes will happen eventually and even though currently voice activated search is not yet as popular as traditional typed search this will change. Businesses and other online sites need to be ready to adapt their sites to cater for voice activated search and their users. 

by Emma McCormack

Monday 30th September 2013

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