Voice Search… Are You Talking to Me?


Millions are finding their voices across the globe, and it’s easy to see why. With the widespread proliferation of mobile phones, and mobile phone internet usage surpassing desktop, voice search has the foundation to be both universally accessible, and useful.

The rise in voice related search queries is reflective of the growth in the mobile landscape and insights from Google have not been shy to highlight this. In a recent Mobile Voice Study, they reported that:

  • 55% of teens and 41% of adults in the US now use voice search every day, with nearly 50% of people now using voice search when researching products.
  • There has been a 61% growth in consumers making longer queries that start with “who,” “what,” “where,” and “how.”
  • Updates to Google’s iOS app on 28/07/16 prioritised the ability to hear voice searches in noisy environments, saved recently visited pages, and updated local results for hotels and service stations.
  • John Mueller and Mariya Moeva, Webmaster Trends Analysts with Google, confirmed “20% of the queries on the Google app on phones are now voice queries” and “we get about 30 times more action queries by voice than by typing”

The voice search market is  becoming increasingly saturated with tech providers rolling out a number of voice search services, including Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and Android’s Ok Google. Voice search isn’t just a mobile only function now, with all of these providers now being available on desktop, and increasing in voice recognition accuracy with each passing day.

Using these industry learnings, I conducted further analysis to understand if this is currently impacting our clients and found that in the past six months 28% of keywords ranked position #1 for “who” “what” “where” “when” “why” and “how” related searches, spanning across a wide range of verticals ranging from retail to education. With question based queries on the rise, it’s more important than ever to optimise both your website and your paid search activity to rank for what users are actually searching for. Determining the common question based queries for your site through the search console, paid search query reports, etc. is invaluable for ensuring that you’re maximising your visibility and traffic.

So now that we have some context; where is voice search heading? And how is this going to affect search marketing?

Prediction #1: Voice searches will continue to increase

With voice searches growing significantly over the last few years, and search engines emphasising this functionality more; there is no reason for voice searches to stop growing.

Prediction #2: The featured snippet is going to become even more important.

Prediction #3: Both Paid Search & SEO messaging will change in response to voice search trends.

Based on the increase in action queries mentioned above and research across our own clients, we could see a shift in search result messaging to be more relevant to question based queries.

Prediction #4: The number of long-tail keyword queries taking place will grow

Keywords are closer associated to questions (long-tail) and we could see ourselves optimising for a broader range across paid & SEO activity

Prediction #5: Ad impressions will fall and people will panic.

An increase in the featured snippet being returned as a voice result will result in fewer people making it to the SERP. This will lead to fewer generated ad impressions and people will think search volume has fallen.

As a result, Google may look to make the featured snippet a sponsored placement; perhaps even a voice sponsored placement (e.g. “This answer brought to you by Pepsi!”) which advertisers will compete to own, even if the information is sourced from a completely different entity. This would improve the awareness capabilities of search as a channel, and allow search to become a greater part of branding strategies.

While some of these predictions may seem scary, they’re just that, predictions. Maybe the growth in voice search won’t continue, maybe ad impressions won’t be impacted, and maybe Google won’t allow their featured snippets to be sponsored in the same vein as a sporting event.

These are educated guesses based off trend data we’ve seen and Google’s past track record of monetizing their properties while retaining a user-focused approach.

One thing is for sure, you’re going to want to keep investing in both paid search marketing and SEO.


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