The past 10 years have seen constant chatter about voice search in the SEO world and beyond. What impact, if any, will the near ubiquitous access to voice command have on how people find information online? If someone is, say, looking to hire a lawyer, we can imagine that the query they’re using to find said lawyer is different when they’re typing, vs. when they’re talking to their Google Assistant. Initially, a surge of panic gripped SEOs to ensure that all content across websites was “long-tail” optimized. This was meant to ensure that queries that were a bit more rambling and long-winded due to the ease of speaking directly to search engines were captured.
Introduced in 2011, voice search started off as more of a fun feature than something relied upon by users. I even remember using early siri with friends as a joke, anticipating, and often receiving, an answer miles off from the question asked. But over the years technology has improved and users have started to adapt voice search technology, no small part as a result of smart home assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Assistant. Now, in 2020, studies indicate that more than 50% of phone users take part in voice search on their device. eMarketer predicted that one third or more of phone users in the US use voice search on a monthly basis by 2019, and increases in the search for “Hey Google” paints a telling picture:
Despite all the initial interest, things seem to have hit a wall. Survey data from Perficient Digital, which involves annual surveys of 1,000 US adults, is showing a pause in the increasing enthusiasm for voice search. They’ve been asking users, among other questions: “How are you most likely to ask questions on your smartphone?”. In prior years, search ranked as the second most popular answer to this question, only behind “mobile browser”. The most recent study done in 2020 however, tells a different story:
Voice search shows up as the fourth most popular option, after 3 other typed alternatives.
What does this mean for search? It’s hard to say. My two cents says that this is just a hiccup in a larger movement towards voice search coming into the forefront of online searching. If your benchmark is all the hype you’ve been hearing over the past five years, you may be disappointed. But common sense points towards voice search taking over type search in popularity at some point down the road, if for no other reason than shear convenience, it’s just a question of when.