The State of Voice Search in 2020! What's Happening and What Can We Expect?

The State of Voice Search in 2020! What’s Happening and What Can We Expect?

60% of mobile users have used voice search at least once in the past 12 months. [Source]

Over 55% of teenagers are using voice search on a daily basis. [Source]

Voice-search-based online shopping is expected to rise up to $40 billion by the end of 2022. [Source]

And these are just a few eye-opening stats around voice. From “salons near me” to “XYZ service in my area,” there’s a number of voice commands to search the Internet. But what does it mean for an average marketer?

In this article, we discuss the state of voice search in 2020, the changing landscapt, and what the world of marketing can expect in the coming years.

In short, buckle up …

Let’s Know Our Assistants

“Hey, Siri! Play music.”

“OK, Google. How’s the weather today?”

Familiar statements? Well, certainly. Siri on iOS and Mac, Google on Android and Chromebook, and Amazon’s Alexa are among the most popular virtual assistants for smart devices. Microsoft’s Cortana is also there in the race, and well, if we talk about competition, there are many others too.

But what are the stats? What share do these assistants hold in the global market? Here are the numbers from the latest SEMrush report.

Voice assistant market share

Predictably, iOS and Android operating systems hold the largest shares in the smartphone market; so, these numbers aren’t the most surprising. However, there’s something that we can learn from these.

Google’s virtual assistant, Siri, and Alexa occupy the largest market shares, and thus, marketers must focus there for voice. Apart from that, the same SEMrush report also gave out the following takeaways:

  • The average length for answers against voice search results is 23 words. Google assistant returns the longest answers with an average of 41 words.
  • Alexa can’t return accurate results for every fourth query. Perhaps, it’s more of a household device and not the best fit for search.
  • Marketers can use the regular local SEO practices using the local language, for better rankings in Google’s vocal search engine.
  • Higher Yelp ratings and more customer reviews can push your listing up in Siri’s local search results.

And How Does Voice Search Work?

If you know anything about search engine optimization, you know that in SEO, the results largely depend on the specific search engine’s algorithms.

Voice search is no different. In order to identify the best voice search practices, it’s crucial to find out how voice search works. Making it understandable, here are different voice assistants explained.

Google Voice Assistant

Just as popular as Apple’s Siri, the Google voice assistant has proven to be a great search tool.

However, luckily, its search algorithms aren’t much different from Google’s traditional local search engine. And you know what that means?

As mentioned earlier, to rank higher in “OK Google”’s search results, all you have to do is focus on your local SEO campaign and ensure the use of vernacular.

Siri and Its Methods

As iPhones, iPads and other iOS/macOS devices keep gaining popularity, Siri also enjoys its fair share of fame. However, Apple’s voice assistant doesn’t rely on Google alone to navigate the Internet. Instead, it uses Google for presenting textual information, Bing for images and YouTube for videos.

To rank higher in Siri’s results, your local SEO campaign should consider Bing and YouTube as well.

Apart from this, Google voice assistant presents local results through its local pack, while Siri uses Apple Maps that rates and ranks listings based on Yelp reviews. So, that should also be a priority.

Moving further, here’s a brief summary of the most effective voice SEO practices for Google voice assistant, Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

Optimizing for local voice search

But How Active Are The Users?

Well, we have learned that Siri and Google voice assistants hold a combined 72% of the voice search market share. The number can impress marketers, but there’s another important question that must be answered. How many people in the world are even using voice search?

Even though most of us use our smartphones every day, not all of us use voice search that extensively. Studies report that most smartphone users prefer typing the question into search engine apps or web browsers.

How likely to ask your smartphone

As visibility, voice search comes fourth when you talk about asking questions on a smartphone. Furthermore, most of the people who use voice search, don’t use it in the majority of cases.

How often people use voice search.

Yes, only a fraction of people actually uses a smart speaker for making more than 10 searches a week.

But does it mean that voice search methods have failed? Of course not! However, one thing is clear. To compete with more prevalent search methods, voice search has a ways to go.

When I asked SEMrush’s Olga Andrieko (author of the  study we’re talking about) what she though was coming in 2021 having studied 2019 and 2020, she predicted:

Voice search technology is developing with a rapid movement which makes predictions rather challenging. However, there have been several trends we are able to analyze, monitor and explore for our next study:

  • A massive increase of people staying at home and remote working influenced the demand for the home voice assistants. The increase in search via screenless devices might cause a shift in voice search algorithms focusing more on the textual content of the answers which can be easily delivered by the home voice assistant.
  • Another trend of 2020 is the growth of online purchases which can raise interest in voice search optimization for eCommerce purposes.
  • A highly discussed topic nowadays – data security and privacy, has already been taken into account by voice assistant producers. We have seen Amazon Echo implement the technology of the local processing of voice data without sending it to the server, whilst Apple presents the new HomePod Mini which processes requests whilst not associating them with the user’s Apple ID.

Moving further, let us have a look at one primary reason why voice search isn’t doing well, according to users?

Peoples' problems with voice search.

As the table above indicates, a large number of people feel frustrated when the voice assistant or device doesn’t understand what they are saying. And this can happen for various reasons. Sometimes it’s the accent barrier, while other times, it may be an issue with the device or available data and the formatting of it. This is a reason why in important situations, people prefer textual searches over voice commands.

With the above reports, we can say that voice search is neither too popular nor dying away.  It definitely holds the potential, and to get a better idea of where we are headed with it, here are a few useful voice search stats that will make things clearer.

1. 36% People Have Never Used Voice Search While Driving

Even though voice search seems convenient while driving, 36% of people have never used it while behind the wheel. This again proves that voice search is not the first priority for most internet searchers.

Apart from that, 23% of people use voice search a few times per month, 19% of them use it a few times per week, 5% use it 6-7 times per day, and around 4% of the people use it more than ten times a day.

We can say that people who don’t use it frequently are perhaps uncomfortable with voice search in public situations. However, the 4%  and 5% of drivers using voice search around ten times a day illustrate that the issue may simply be a case of adoption.

2. Over 91% of people use their Cell Phones for Voice Searches

Amazon’s Alexa has gained a lot of popularity over the past few years. However, smartphones still continue to be the preferable device for voice search.

Moving further, PCs, tablets and smart speakers hold the third, fourth and second places respectively. Talking of details, nearly 62% of people prefer using smart speakers for voice search.

3. 95.6% of People Say That They’ll Start Using Voice Search More Often If Their Device Clearly Understands What They Are Saying

Anyone who has used voice search a few times knows that most assistants aren’t accurate while transcribing speech into text. Many times waking the device up can also be a challenge.

Last night I wanted my device to set the alarm for 6 in the morning. Failing to wake my device up after three trials, I manually set the alarm from the app.

Over 95% of people may start using voice search more often if their devices understand what they are saying.

Apart from this, nearly 62% of people say that they’d start using voice search if the search returned more accurate answers.

Clearly, voice search is a great feature that needs technical improvements in various aspects.

4. 51% of People Believe That Voice Search While Driving is Distracting

And here’s another reason that adds to the first pointer in this list. While 49% of people still don’t think that voice search is distracting while driving, a bigger proportion of people find it distracting.

Certainly, if the virtual assistant companies can find a way to improve user experience and provide relevant and useful results, voice search may soon become a big fish.

5. 25% of People Feel Annoyed When They Hear Someone Using Voice Commands in Public

While nearly 23% of people do not find it annoying, 25% of people feel annoyed, and 24% of people feel immensely annoyed when they hear someone use voice search in public.

As we can make out from the numbers, the majority of people don’t prefer hearing or using voice search in public. One major reason for this can be the lack of functionality of virtual assistants.

If we can come up with virtual assistants that can easily hear and process commands in public, voice searches in public places will become more comfortable and less disturbing.

Voice Search In Coming Years. What Does the Future Hold? 

Speaking of the expert opinion, several marketing professionals are hopeful of the voice search stats in the upcoming years. However, this can be easily made possible if smart speakers occupy a significant market share.

As mentioned in the previous sections, people are hesitant to use smart assistants on their smartphones or while driving. In fact, half of them avoid using voice search in public and feel annoyed when someone else does so.

Clearly, household smart assistants have an opportunity to leverage.

Also, as Econsultancy suggests, mobile voice search might soon be losing its charm as smart speakers excel in the global market.

So, what does it all mean?

What We Have Learned

Considering all the numbers, studies, and reports mentioned above, we can say that voice search has a fair distance to go. With the focus it’s getting, we can expect it to bloom in the coming years, but it’s not there yet. And of course, with the statistics about what’s working and what’s not, and more user data becoming available, we’re sure to see significant gains in functionality. I think of like like SEO in about 2004 or 2005.  Good,  but the engines’ still had a log way to go.

However, as a business or marketer, we must work to optimize our web properties for performing better against voice searches. To prepare for the future that isn’t too far off.

Some Voice Search Optimization Tips

For a quick recap, here’s what we should do to rank higher in Siri, Google Home, and Alexa’s search engines.

For Google Home

  • Fine tune your business’ Google My Business (GMB) page
  • Encourage customers to leave good GMB reviews
  • Use schema markup
  • Create qualified content that is easy to understand.
  • Use local language and verbal slangs to connect better

For Siri

  • Complete your Yelp profile
  • Encourage customers to give good Yelp reviews
  • Add high quality images to your Yelp profile
  • Optimize your content with relevant keywords
  • Keep your Yelp listing up-to-date
  • SEO considering Google’s algorithm is also helpful

For Alexa

  • Optimize your content for Bing
  • Optimize your Yelp profile with the aforementioned tips
  • Complete and optimize your Yext profile

Conclusion

If someone told the world fifty years ago that the coming millennium will have talking devices, people might not have believed it. But that is today’s reality. The voice search technology has come a long way and with the ongoing efforts, it will capture significant marketshare.

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