At a San Francisco media conference last week, Google announced the launch of Voice Search, previously a popular feature for Android and iPhones, for desktop searching. Although a microphone is obviously required, built-in microphones are now a common feature on most laptops and iMacs, so the feature will not require additional hardware for many users.
The success of Google’s Voice Search on smartphones, which has increased voice search usage by some 600% in the past year, was no doubt due to the ease of use compared to frustratingly small smartphone touch keypads. Mobile Voice Search provided a happy alternative for on-the-move users more inclined to talk into their phone rather than delicately attempting to hit the right letters. The technology was designed with local results in mind, allowing mobile users to, for example, simply ask their phone for the best pizza in the area and have the results delivered to them in seconds- as shown in the below video from Google.
But how well will the technology translate to the desktop? As far as speed and accuracy is concerned, standard keyboards are far more reliable (and large) than smartphone keypads, so it is doubtful that Voice Search will boast the same convenience factor that it does on the phone, a technology where speech is traditionally the main input method. However, if the Voice Search service is as reliable as the below video advertises it to be, it may certainly offer a speedy method of input for the keyboard-shy, the spelling-weary, the time-deprived, or anyone interested in a fun new way to search.
- Google Desktop Voice Search
How will Voice Search affect search behaviour?
There’s no doubt that voice search will be the fastest search method for most people. In light of this, it’s likely that voice search will be beneficial in several situations.
Speed is a key benefit of Voice Search, so very hurried searchers (as illustrated by the ‘flights’ example in the official video) may be likely to utilise the feature more than the average office worker or home user. This means that a solid SEO strategy, including long-tail and local keywords, will become all the more important websites that offer services to busy people, from taxi services and drivers, to phone directories, to flower shops.
Highly specific or ‘long tail’ queries may be much simpler and quicker to deliver vocally, such as “What time does the sun rise in Sydney in June?” rather than phrasing and typing a keyword query like “Sydney sunrise time June”. From an SEO point of view, this will mean that more than ever before, websites should be completing detailed keyword research and ensuring that all relevant variations are covered off by quality content, which Google has emphasised as the most important on-site factor for high rankings. Given the success of Voice Search on mobile devices, websites should already be incorporating local and long-tail keywords into their SEO strategy.
The potential changes in keyword behaviour are the most intriguing prospects from the advent of both mobile and desktop Voice Search. Keyword consideration must be given to each search variant, whether made using a voice or keyboard, mobile or desktop, as search behaviour may change with each variable and your website will need to have the right information to answer each query.
Say for example, you are a restaurant owner. Considering the keyword variants that people will use from each different search situation will allow you to ensure you have the information you need to be found by anyone, searching from anywhere. For the desktop keyboard searchers, you will want to be found for traditional keywords like ‘restaurants in Sydney’ and ‘best Italian restaurants Sydney’.
In terms of mobile users, it’s likely that their searchers will be highly local and specified: “Italian restaurant George Street Sydney CBD” or “Late night Italian restaurant Sydney”. And although desktop voice search behaviour is yet to be determined, it is likely that more speech or question-like queries could become popular, so you might wish to have your website answer queries like “Where’s good for Italian in Sydney?” or even “What should I have for dinner tonight?”
If Voice Search really takes off, then SEO considerations need to extend past traditional keyword research. With Voice Search, the emphasis will be clearly placed on what voice searchers will askof Google, which may be significantly different to what they may type.