Search engine marketing is a foundational element of digital advertising and branding. 133.7 Million people in the US carry search tools with us everywhere we go: Smartphones, tablets, connected computers. But the context and method of those searches are all very different. This is true from a user’s expectation as it is from the search results themselves. The complexity of search goes beyond a search engine’s algorithm. Search, in it’s most recent form, is influenced by your location, social network, the speed of your connection, and your personal search history.
Enter Voice Search
Although Google has had voice search enabled for the Chrome browser and Android devices for almost a year now, recent updates in the wake of this Google I/O conference enables voice search for a wide variety of devices with a microphone and speakers. Desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and a various mobile devices will now support auditory prompts to begin searches and respond with a results page as well as a spoken response in a synthesized female voice.
Google’s voice search is a significant change in user experience and will act to unify Google’s search strategies. While circumstance, device type, and input method will change the specifics of search, a user’s spoken search queries will be more consistent between devices. Users are not going to be changing the cadence or style of speech based on what kind of device they are speaking to. This nuance will help consolidate a search offering that is customized to a user’s desired results rather than influenced by the size of the device, keyboard, or touch-screen from which the search is beginning from.
A search started by voice is very different from what a user may type in. Although true voice recognition is in it’s infancy, voice products like Siri have shown the wider public that voice input is a great utility. The voice search experiences are also allowing users to become more comfortable with using natural voice cadence for commands and queries. For those of us who are already using voice search, it is becoming increasingly more natural to initiate searches with a single tap and talk action. Mobile devices make this even more natural by virtue of having the devices already in-hand.
The Conversation Of Search
Hot Words are a new feature for Google search that had been introduced as part of the Google Glass project. Hot Words are cues that make sure the computer is listening and will prompt a search. For the moment “Ok Google” is a command that, when followed by any spoken words, will prompt a search. This shift will change search for everyone. Such a command enables near instant access to information regardless of where a user, what they are doing, or even if they have a free hand.
The power of Hot Words is not only in it’s accessibility, but in the habit of access it will form. Conditioning users to search Google (or Bing for that matter) as simply as asking a question and having results read back will change the way we interact with the web and data. One key change is that the results that are read back by Google are a single curated post, typically Wikipedia. Your prized page ranking is now further complicated by search results being read back to the user on load.
The interface (and lack thereof) of voice search is one vector of change. The results–and how we engage with the results–is completely different. For mobile devices and tablets, those results read back, and how search engines like Google and Bing curate those results, will make or break the utility for users. For search engines, this will require a much more accurate interpretation of semantic langauge and implication than the way most users search today. Currently, many users compound keywords, or use know strings together
How Do Brands Take Advantage Of Voice Search?
My professional focus is in healthcare communication and Google search is a small part of a larger shift to making content for users (patients, healthcare professionals) more relevant and more accessible. There is a strategy to provide content in a format, phrasing, or taxonomy that is similar to how an audience will be searching for it. There is another strategy, a more difficult one, that creates a vernacular or phrasing synonymous with your brand that your audience can search specifically for to reach a site or digital property.
Google’s use of language to prompt search makes those search even more colloquial. In addition to a tendency for slang, there is also a need to develop content that will show up high in results for basic questions or difficult to pronounce words and terms. Google will share some of the burden in aligning audiences with quality content, but it is the marketer that will need to keep an eye on fast evolving technology and adjust strategies and tactics accordingly.