“The destiny of Google’s search engine is to become that Star Trek computer, that’s what we are building”
This is what Amit Singhal, the head of Google’s search rankings team, said while in an interview with angel investor Guy Kawasaki, back in 2013. And Google has kept its promise. In just 4 years, Google’s voice search tool has exploded and it’s quickly becoming reality.
Just five years ago, voice search was just in its early stages and was seen as a quirk by tech experts. Sure, there was progress, but nowhere near what we have today. What voice search will mean to the future of how we use Google, and how we use the internet, as whole? How can business owners and marketers use the power of voice search to their advantage? What will the new technology bring to the table? These are all questions we want to answer here:
What is Voice Search?
We’ll start with the obvious: what is Google’s Voice Search? It’s simple: Voice Search let’s you search for anything you want using voice commands, instead of typed commands. The new feature is available on both desktop and mobile versions, so there is no limitation when it comes to devices. You can activate the feature by “waking” the tool with a keyphrase or by clicking the mic icon on the right side of the search bar.
As soon as you say your question, Google will display a search results page, just like for typed queries. There are however, a few exceptions. For instance, mobile users asking for directions will receive different results than users using a desktop device.
The Hummingbird update
A few years ago, Google brought an important update to their Voice Search tool – the Hummingbird update. One of its biggest changes was the new semantic search feature. It changed virtually everything about voice search. Simply put, your voice searches could have a meaning; they were no longer just a bundle of words. Google tried, and succeeded, to make its search engine detect what people wanted to search for – it created sentences with meaning, just how people search naturally for something. Google managed to determine your intent, and it was a massive improvement.
Google Voice Search and Google Now
Google’s virtual assistant, Google Now, has use the powerful features of Voice Search for several years, and it made it an important player in this market, standing against Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. The combination of the powerful search algorithms and the NLP (natural language processing) technology, made Google’s tools the most accurate in the field.
Voice Search queries are on the rise
Google’s Voice Search started out as a quirk and attracted minimal users in its early phases. However, as most small things tend to grow bigger, so did the new tool. According to Google Trends, Voice Search has grown sevenfold in seven years, which is a staggering growth for the new technology. The most popular queries are the navigational ones, but also call commands (“Navigate home” is the leading command, while “Call Mom” and “Call Dad” are just behind). More sophisticated search commands are also on the rise, especially with the new improvements.
The future also looks bright for Voice Search. Data suggests that one in every five searches on Android devices will be voice search by late 2017. What’s more, by 2020, approximately 50 percent of searches are going to go through some sort of voice recognition technology.