How voice search differs from text search and why you should care

Voice search is slowly taking over text search as our key way to find information. We have outlined the differences and the significance of this continuing change, and essentially why you should care about it.

Speed

The average person can type between 38-40 words per minute but can peak 110-150 words per minute. So it is 3.75x faster to talk than to type.

As time seems to become an increasingly precious commodity, it’s no surprise that voice search is snowballing. Bing estimates that by 2020 50% of all search will be by either voice or image.

Voice search has longer queries

The average text search is somewhere between 1-3 words. Searchers these days know that they don’t need to type in full sentences to get the results that they want. In comparison, voice search is 7+ words.

When people use a voice search app, they’re more likely to phrase the query as a question. They use natural language, choosing words that reflect conversational tone.

Device

Initially, most voice searches originated from mobile phones. Over 20% of searches on mobile are voice searches. These searches are three times more likely to be locality based, for example, “where is the nearest restaurant?”

The increasing investment in digital assistants has driven the rapid uptake of smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo, and Google Home. Google has Google Assistant, Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa,  Microsoft has Cortana, and Samsung has their new Bixby.

As these smart speakers start to become commonplace, we see the volume of voice search grow, and the type of search start to broaden. Although, when it comes to more sensitive topics such as healthcare, people still prefer to use text search. Possibly because 63% of internet sees worry about voice-enabled technology spying on them.

How to optimize for voice search

Consumer trends are currently outpacing marketing preparation. To meet customer expectations, marketers should start developing a plan for voice search now.

Think conversational intent: Voice search queries are more conversational than text queries. Think of the question based queries a user might ask via voice search. Develop site content and expand your keyword lists (organic and paid) to target longer keyword phrases.

Master mobile and go local: With the growth of voice searches on mobile, making sure to prepare all your site content for mobile devices as a crucial step to better cater for voice. This includes ensuring the speed of page load and preparing mobile-optimized content and layout.

Furthermore, make sure that each listing of your business is accurate and complete across Google, Bing, Apple Maps and other relevant services.

Build and structure content: Write content in a conversational manner and think about natural-language processing. Build content that answers questions quickly. When people are searching on their phone, Alexa or another device, your goal is to answer these questions with written content focused on long tail topics through relevant content on  your site.

The future of voice search

Voice search is still developing, and its real potential has yet to be discovered. But given it is easier to talk than type, it is a reasonably safe bet that voice search will continue to grow. We will become more and more comfortable talking to these digital assistants who quietly inveigle themselves into our lives.