If someone had told me a few years ago, that in the future my parents would have a speaker in their home which they talked to for information, or used to change their Fleetwood Mac album, I would have told them to jog on. It therefore came as a surprise, when going back home for a visit last month, that I noticed Alexa sitting in the kitchen.
Voice search usage has noticeably increased over the past few years, and it’s not just my parents who are getting in on the action.
According to a recent study by Childwise, children and young people aged between nine and sixteen are 40% likely to be using voice assistants and search. The study was conducted across 2,000 UK school pupils for the research agency and found that four in ten were using voice services, notably Siri (36%), Cortana (20%), Alexa (15%) and Google Assistant (7%). Children are now growing up in a world where voice commands are very common, thus changing the way digital agencies must approach search.
This ongoing switch to voice is not only a step towards having the Star Trek computer we all dreamt of owning, but it also raises a number of issues for the future of search – which I’ll attempt to address here. (NB you can change your Android voice command to respond to “computer” already!).
There’s only one position that matters
The site that makes it into the instant answer is generally that which makes it into the voice search answer. This makes that sweet, sweet position 0 extremely competitive for the future. This is further driven by the increased use of mobile search, where instant answers provide no need to scroll down.
Search engines are slowly moving towards the point where they will be able to provide one answer, therefore removing the need to click through to any websites.
What does this mean for the future of search?
We’ll potentially see the rise of a new discipline: Answer Engine Optimisation (AEO). In a recent webinar, Chee Lo (Trust Pilot) and Jason Bernard (Kalicube.pro) discussed this further, arguing search engine optimisation (SEO) is no longer the only game in town. Maintaining a brand presence across both SEO and AEO will be crucial in a world increasingly dominated by voice.
Content must be good now; no excuses!
Google has always stated that to do well within its search ranking, you must create great content. However, the top-ranking sites don’t necessarily meet the content criteria.
To land in position 0, you must provide the best content that answers the search query and it’s difficult to fake it. Voice search is forcing brands that were previously engaging in lacklustre content to seriously pursue it for the benefit of the user, not just the bottom line. The added benefit of higher quality content is not just for instant answers and voice search but also on-site engagement. Potentially it will lead to better organic search positions due to AI aspects of search algorithms, like RankBrain, playing increased importance.
Hold onto your hats folks, search is about to get even more interesting!