31st October 2016
I recently contributed a piece to State of Digital on how your brand can get ready for Voice Search. You can see the re-post below.
Everything that makes our lives even just a fraction easier is bound to be a success. This is the premise which makes voice search and voice actions sure thing of our very near future.
Earlier this year, Google stated that 20% of mobile search queries are via voice search – and with the announcement of their new Home and Assistant products at the Made by Google launch event last week, this growth will continue to explode.
Of course, Google is not the only player in this market with Apple’s Siri, Bing’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa all competing in widening the field of applicability of voice commands to complete our everyday tasks.
Our generation is the first one which openly prefers texting to calling. This can be seen as preference to deal with our problems and needs on our own, without the necessity to interact with other people: we prefer online shopping, order contractors and taxis through an app. We want to be saved the hassle of having to do the small talk, or negotiating with an actual human being. It saves time and makes our lives more comfortable.
So how does a chance to actually send money or find and book a table or your next haircut without even having to touch your phone sound? Pretty amazing.
Remember those times when websites were just pretty online business cards to show phone number which users need to call in order to actually buy/order/get consultation for something? These times are soon to be gone.
The Viv platform from Siri creators enables developers to distribute their products through a fast conversational interface. It’s an open and dynamic program which gives any website the tools to implement voice search to execute various operations or gather information.
For example Venmo can using Viv assistant send money to your friends without a single tap on the phone screen.
Another example from ProFlowers will process a bouquet order just based on a one sentence command. Similarly Viv can book for you a hotel room on hotels.com.
We – the users – are getting used to the fact that Siri or Google Assistant are able to get things done for us – and this leads us to the same expectations to every website or app on the internet.
Although manual typing or swiping your queries in Google search box is definitely not going anywhere any time soon, KPCB’s Internet Trends 2016 report states that users prefer using voice search in situations when their hands or vision are occupied, when they need faster results, experience difficulty typing on certain devices, etc. The most frequent setting for using voice search is at home, then in the car or on the go. But what does it mean?
We have got so used to having tons of information on our fingertips when we work on our laptops and mobiles that we now require the same comfort on the go. This also changes the way we search using voice commands. Voice queries resemble more natural conversation, are longer and often form a full sentence.
Depending on whether the voice query looks for information or demands an action from the assistant, the form of the query changes as well.
While informative queries are naturally formed as questions, e.g.:
“What time does the XY restaurant close today?”
Action-based queries have a more imperative tone:
“Make a reservation for two at XY for tomorrow night at 7PM.
Google Assistant is their hope to catch up with similar services from Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. It’s unique selling point is the 70 billion facts Google has accrued in recent years thanks to the knowledge graph. Google Assistant can also can make restaurant reservations for you, put events in your calendar, set reminders and others.
While the world where we will all rely on digital personal assistants to manage our day to day lives seems not to be quite there yet, Google announced another effort to bring these days closer: Google Voice Actions is a program from Google, which will enable developers to open their apps and services to Google Assistant’s reach.
Several companies are already building Google Actions to their apps, such as Netflix, LinkedIn, CNN, Todoist and others. All app developers will be able to start including Google Actions in their apps from December 2016.
It’s time to open your app to the voice search.
Google has published guides on how to mark-up content of apps to help Google Assistant better understand and even execute purpose of your apps. Setting up intent filters in an app enables Google to perform actions within your app such as setting an alarm clock, initiate a phone call, book a taxi, search for information or videos and others.
Example for declaring setting alarm clock intent in app:
Once Google recognises the intent of the user to do one action that matches filters set in installed apps, Google Voice Actions will complete the task.
Other than directly stating intents inside apps, there are other ways how to improve the content of your website to optimise it for voice search. When we look at how Google Now and similar services are trying to help users, we can anticipate ways how to participate and thus optimise our websites.
Users use voice search are most likely to do so when they are using their phones, wearable tech or home assistants and are often looking for information relevant to their current context – information about local restaurants, venue, institutions.
On that note, focusing on improving your mobile website performance will pay dividends in Voice Search. For example, implementing Google AMP markup, micro-data tags such as Schema.org and Knowledge Graph. In addition, doubling your efforts on your local SEO strategy will have a significant benefit on optimising for voice search – whether that’s directly improving your Google Maps listing or third-party platforms such as Yelp & TripAdvisor.
Voice Search is just at the beginning of it’s journey, and it’s exciting to envision a point in which we can hold productive conversations with AI that would enable us to essentially ditch the keyboard.
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