We Asked a Google Expert About Google Voice Search: Here’s What He Said

We recently caught up with the former senior member of the Google Search Quality team, Kaspar Szymanski, and asked him for his thoughts on Google Voice Search. Before we share with you what he had to say, here’s some background on the Voice Search phenomenon that’s growing in popularity every day.

What is Google Voice Search?

Unlike Google Voice, which is a voicemail service, Google Voice Search is an app which allows you to input search queries and mobile commands simply by speaking. Mainly intended for mobile users due to its easy hands-free capabilities, it works by simply tapping the voice button located alongside the search box and asking Google your questions.

Until 2013, Google Voice Search was fairly basic. It was mainly meant for entering search queries and had a word recognition accuracy rate of below 80%. Since then it has risen to above 90% and at the current rate is expected to steadily grow towards 99%.

According to Google’s blog, Google Voice Search is now beginning to understand the real meaning of what you are asking and can break down a question, analyse the semantics and work out the intent behind it.

Some of the neat things you can do with Google Voice Search commands include:

  • Checking on flights – Google will access the details on your upcoming flight(s) and inform you of any status updates.
  • Confirming reservations – Google will show you your upcoming reservations, including name and address of hotel and directions on how to get there.
  • Tracking purchases – ask Google for “My purchases’’ and it will provide you with the status of any current orders.
  • Reminding you of your plans – ask Google “What are my plans for tomorrow?” and it will give you a summary of upcoming appointments and engagements.

Google Voice Search is ideal for smartphones and mobile devices and can be used while driving or multitasking and its popularity is growing in leaps and bounds, particularly amongst Millennials.

How popular is it?

A recent study commissioned by Google and conducted by Northstar Research found that more than 50% of U.S. teenagers and 41% of U.S. adults use Voice Search every day and that its use is continuing to grow on a daily basis.

And it’s not just Google Voice Search but voice search in general that’s rapidly growing in popularity. Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung’s S Voice and Apple’s Siri are all cementing their place in the voice recognition market, which is expected to be worth more than $600 million by 2019.

What the experts say

As far as Google Voice Search is concerned, most experts agree that the company’s vast size is one of the reasons behind its voice recognition success.

Artificial intelligence researcher Raj Reddy considers Google’s advantage is their ability to store and analyse massive amounts of data, which will greatly increase accuracy over time.

Head of Google’s mobile businesses Vic Gundotra points to Google’s superior location-based search abilities as a means of dramatically increasing value for its advertisers.

And Google speech researcher Mike Cohen thinks Google’s access to a vast archive of past queries will help them to refine their voice recognition to an even greater level of sophistication.

How to prepare

So as a business trying to stay relevant and connected in a world of constantly changing channels, how do you prepare for the rise of Google Voice Search and voice recognition in general? Here are a few ideas:

  • Start thinking about how you can deliver the same text-based information on your website via voice search.
  • Think about your brand’s ‘tone’ and how you can convey it in natural language.
  • Start using longer tail keywords to match the longer queries now originating from voice searchers.
  • Use a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) strategy and respond to the questions your customers will be asking on your website, blogs and social media.
  • Use Voice Search yourself by asking questions and seeing what kind of content comes up.
  • Optimise your local listings to match the language used in location-based voice searches.
  • Optimise your site for mobile, as people use voice search almost exclusively on mobile devices.

Where is Voice Search heading?

Wanting to know what to anticipate next, we spoke to Kaspar Szymanski, former Googler and renowned SEO expert. Szymanski is a former senior member of the famed Google Search Quality team and among the select few former Googlers with extensive policy driving, web spam hunting and webmaster outreach expertise. Nowadays Kaspar applies his skill set to recovering websites from Google penalties and helping clients to max out the potential of their websites in search engines.

We asked him where he thought Google Voice Search would be heading in 2017 and into the future.

Kaspar: Google Voice Search has been hailed as the new “big thing” for some time now, but few people remember that GOOG-411 or Google Voice Local Search has been around since 2007. However, any user who has recently tried and tested it is likely to admit it is an exciting alternative to typing search queries, as long as you’re an English speaker.

SEMA: What do you mean by that?

Kaspar: Results in languages other than English are currently missing expectations by a fair margin and are to be considered an early stage of development at best. In contrast, English Voice Search results tend to be impressive at times. Especially when we talk popular navigational and informational search queries.

SEMA: So is it a game changer?

Kaspar: Innovative products such as Google Home and Amazon Echo may over time, likely in some years, change how users interact with search engines or the web in general. For now though and from an SEO perspective, Voice Search is not a game changer. Technical SEO remains the cornerstone of any website that also provides a unique sales proposition to be successful in organic search.

SEMA: So is there a way to optimise for Google Voice Search?

Kaspar: Absolutely yes! Making the site and its unique sales proposition abundantly clear to both users and search engines is the way to optimise in general and also for Google Voice Search. That process starts with groundwork SEO and managing user expectations through titles and metadata, it continues with marking up of the website and eventually managing its crawler budget so only desired landing pages get crawled, indexed, and eventually served. Essentially, optimising for Google Voice Search is a complex data and experience-driven process, which if done correctly can give the website the edge, even in competitive niches.

Optimising for Voice Search

As the trend grows bigger by the day, the success of your SEO strategy will need to include optimising for Voice Search. As voice-based queries are vastly different from typed questions, businesses need to adapt their short and long-tail keywords in order to attract customers and target traffic from Voice Search.