Voice is Changing Online Search

When the first version of Siri appeared on iPhones back in 2011, it was met with mostly critical acclaim. Google’s Eric Schmidt even considered Siri to pose a “competitive threat” to the Big G.

While iPhone users were finding Siri helpful, and having humorous conversations with Siri, other smart phone users were left wondering when they could have their very own voice search application. That may not have been a major concern when Siri debuted, but the popularity of smartphones has steadily increased since then.

In fact, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported in 2013 that 61 percent of cell owners are classified as smart phone owners, and 91 percent of the population own some sort of cell phone.

Maybe it’s because of the increase of smart phone users, or the advances in technology, or the fact that we’ve always relied on our voices to search for information (remember 411?), but companies like Google and Microsoft now have platforms that can  rival Apple in voice search.

Siri running in iPad Mini 760x570 Voice is Changing Online Search

As this technology continues to increase in usage, and becomes perfected, voice is going to completely change online search from now on. But, how?

Search Like You Speak

Unlike performing a query where we ponder what we’re going to type into the keyboard, you just have to ask the question using natural language. If you need an example of how the two differ, here’s an example from Shanti Shunn at Ecommerce Consulting:

  • Typed Search: “new pink golf clubs intermediate skill full set womens”
  • Voice Search: “Find me a full set of new pink women’s golf clubs for sale that would be perfect for an intermediate level golfer”

Both searches look completely different, but they ultimately are achieving the same goal. The difference is that when we speak, we’re including fillers words like “a,” “for”, and “me,” which can give search engines an idea of what your intent was.

This was a major part of Hummingbird when Google released it in 2013. Instead of matching keywords, Hummingbird attempts to figure the meaning behind the words.

And that is what’s going to change everything.

Predictive Search

Search engines have been trying to figure this out for years. Back in 2003, there was aprediction that “the Web will be intelligent enough to give users exactly what they are looking for: No more scouring hundreds of pages on Google”—and it’s almost here. Both Google Now and Microsoft Cortana have the ability to anticipate what you’re searching for.

These means that if your query was to “show me pictures of the Liberty Bell,” and your next response was “how did it crack,” the latter query realizes that “it” was the Liberty Bell. But, that’s peanuts to the full capabilities of voice search.

Google Now, for example, has the power to provide users geared to their interests and information. Sports scores, stock options, weather conditions, and when you should leave your home for the office are all right there. Without asking for it.

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