Even though most of us struggle to explain to our parents what we do for a living, it’s always nice to have a catch up with your folks, even if it’s ‘on the go’. I recently bought a car with Bluetooth, and was legitimately able to make a call while stuck in traffic. I pressed a button on the steering wheel and instructed the car to ‘call mum’. I genuinely think it was the first time I had used voice search. It got me thinking.

As in-app-search continues to grow in popularity, it’s becoming increasingly easy for consumers to find desired content. Facebook’s new ‘Add a Link’ option, for example, allows users to avoid the rigmarole of crossing platforms on mobile devices to find and share content. Search technology is rapidly changing to meet the needs of a mobile-first generation, who want to find and share content quicker than ever. For the tech provider- in this case, Facebook - this also keeps the user firmly within the boundaries of the site’s app. This need to make search easy on mobile, is only set to evolve with voice search.

Late last year Google, along with Northstar Research, released a study of 1,400 Americans on their use of voice search. The results were, on the face of it, crazy. 55% of teens and 41% of adults surveyed used voice search. If that seems high, these are the numbers who use it more than once a day.

I was reminded of this when reading Bob Hoffman’s Ad Contrarian blog earlier this year. He talked of the The Great QR Code Scare of 2012, when 60% of people were said to use QR codes. In this case, it was more about slippery statistics, but in the voice search case, there are numbers to back it up. Look at the snippet below from Google’s infographic.


With these findings in mind, the rise in voice search starts to make more sense. Calling someone is the main use for teens, and a significant one for adults, who also use it for directions and to dictate texts – so on the move. This isn’t stuff that should worry search marketers really, is it?

Well, yes. And increasingly so. Just recently, Google announced that it is offering a voice search code-lab to help third-party apps to integrate voice and text actions into apps. Now there’s an enormous opportunity to improve customer experience, and while we may never see a SERP or pay for a click, it’s going to be something we need to get used to.

If our advertiser is a bank, creating a seamless experience to allow users who have their current account app installed to access their balance from a simple “check my bank balance” instruction/search, you’ve got something to talk about and so do your delighted users. While Google often stands accused of putting its own interests above others, voice search is a great example of how it is perfectly prepared to bypass even its own sacrosanct SERPs to provide a great experience for users. While the search giant encourages app deeplinking through search results, throwing people straight into a known app is a far better journey.

Without being too philosophical about it, is a search that doesn’t return a search results page still a search? You bet it is. It’s quantifiable as well. Let’s go back to that call to mum. Searches for this apparently nonsensical term have grown phenomenally since the start of 2011, as shown below in Google Insights.


Looking only at the last two years, the growth is continuing, but it has slowed. Assuming the trend is towards voice search and not more parental affection, the volume of searches at the peak of Christmas 2014 was more than double the indexed volume two years prior, and up 25% on 2013.


Obviously this is a snapshot only of Google Android devices. It’s likely with a big push from Microsoft on Cortana that the behaviour of users of their devices might be higher. Siri isn’t something we have insight into, but as app developers and advertisers lead improved experience on Android devices with Google’s help and insight, you can expect this to change.

Combine Android developments with the public knowledge that Google Play is starting to allow paid-for app promotion within the store, and the discipline of search marketing, both paid and natural, becomes increasingly central to understanding how to create a decent mobile experience. Facebook’s ‘Add a link’ feature is simply another case in point and soon this functionality may well shift to voice search, as the platform continues to make searching on mobile even more seamless.

With Google telling us that mobile is the most dominant device in at least 10 markets around the globe, this trend is only going to become more.


By Rick Lamb, Vice President of Search at iProspect. 

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