Will Voice Searches Overtake Text Searches?

A woman using voice searches to get more information about a specific topic“Alexa, will voice searches ever overtake text searches?” I’ve never asked Alexa this question but if I did, I’m sure she’d have an answer for it. Over the past few years, there’s been a quiet revolution in both voice-activated search engines, such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft Cortana, and AI virtual assistants, such as Amazon Alexa, and now Microsoft Copilot.

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The algorithms that power these applications are now faster, more intuitive, and more informative than ever before – capable of carrying out almost all the functions of traditional text search engines.

Voice searches are convenient and seem perfectly optimised for mobile searches, so will they ever overtake text searches, and what are the implications of this for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and content marketing?

To Answer This Question Accurately, You Need To Distinguish Between B2B And B2C Usage. 

In an office context, voice searches can be both impractical and antisocial. One of the reasons that I don’t talk to Alexa or any other voice search engine at work is the difficulty of making myself heard by the search engine, and a desire not to annoy my colleagues. Offices can be noisy enough places at the best of times, without adding voice searches to the mix. In a production or retail environment, the difficulty being heard would be even more pronounced.

The question is less clear-cut for B2C businesses, which could stand to benefit more from voice searches, especially from customers using mobile devices on the go.

However, ambient noise plays havoc with voice search engines, and although this is partially a technical issue arising from the microphones used on mobile devices, it still places severe limits on how the technology can be used, at least for now. Voice searches are difficult to use in the very environments that they are most needed, such as busy high streets and shopping centres, train stations, and airports.

This is a shame, because the actual technology behind voice search engines has now become extremely sophisticated, thanks to the improvement in the Natural Language Processing (NLP) software used by the applications.

NLP algorithms allow the search engine to recognise the context of the user’s voice search in order to improve the accuracy and relevance of the search results. Some applications – e.g. Alexa – also use a version of generative AI to create a voice summary of the person’s search query, which can be extremely useful for condensing complex information. Although let’s be clear, Alexa is not a live search engine, it’s an AI assistant that can only access information from its training dataset.

Optimising Your Content For Voice Searches

This doesn’t mean that businesses can ignore the influence of voice search engines in designing and optimising their content.

One way that voice searches have changed the content marketing landscape is the increased importance of longtail keywords in search results. This is because of the difference in the way people search in text vs voice.

For example, I’m looking for a good lunchtime coffee deal near the JDR office in Derby. 

On my laptop, I might type something like this into Google:

'lunchtime coffee deals DE1’

However, using a voice search engine on my phone, I’m more likely to say:

‘Where can I find the best lunchtime coffee deal in Derby city centre today?’

I might even, if I’ve got GPS activated, add near me to my search, to maximise local results.

So, if I’m a coffee shop looking to maximise my lunchtime income from office workers, it makes sense for my social media, blogs, and website to reflect both the short form keywords used in text searches, and the more natural, speech-based long form keywords used in voice searches.

And it’s not just B2C businesses for whom this is important. A lot of B2B buyers also make voice searches, especially when working remotely.
It’s also far quicker to create a voice search than to type out a complex text-based search, making voice searches potentially more popular for technical and decision-level content, than for more general, awareness level content.

So, while it doesn’t look like people will be abandoning their keyboards any time soon for search purposes, voice searches already play an important factor in content marketing, and this is likely to increase in relevance over the coming years. When designing your content, it’s always worth thinking about the devices used and the ways in which people search, and how this affects your choice of keywords, and not solely the questions that your content has to answer.

Next Steps

To find out more about content marketing and search optimisation, and how you can increase your visibility and accessibility to your target customers, please contact one of our specialists today by calling 01332 982198. And if you happen to know of a great coffee place in Derby that I’ve missed, well, you know where to find me!

Click here to claim your free inbound marketing assessment by JDR Group to help your attract more website visitors, generate more leaders, and increase your sales.

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