3 Reasons That Voice Search Isn’t Being Heard

For about three years in a row, at every SEO, PPC and STEM conference, the headline speaker would be doing something about Voice Search and how it would Change The Internet. But this year, voice search is no more than a quiet whisper in amongst the talks on ASP and …. So what happened? Well, it’s not the technology. Every phone manufacturer, operating system and giant Ecommerce website has a Voice Assistant, but still, you don’t pass people on the street asking their phone where the nearest cafe serving a decaf latte is. Here are three reasons:

Typing is easy

We’re spending a lot more time using our phones and the main input has moved away from the old number pad to a responsive on-screen QWERTY, possibly with a swipe, predictive text, and auto-correct. Recent studies (https://www.futurity.org/typing-speed-mobile-keyboard-2178302-2/ - not original source tho.) have shown that the average ‘two thumb typists’ can achieve 38 words a minute with some users getting up to 80 words a minute. Compare that to speaking clearly so your voice assistant can understand you and add in the advantages of spelling homophones out and toe-MATE-o / toe-MAR-to, and it is no wonder that we love to write out our questions for our phones.

Speaking is hard and sometimes embarrassing

Even if you like the sound of your own voice, not many of us want to broadcast our ignorance to the rest of the train carriage. Whether it’s not knowing who won the rugby at the weekend, where the nearest supermarket is or more personal requests, we’d much rather ask those questions of the internet quietly and as privately as Big Brother will let us. It also eliminates the chance of being interrupted halfway through and having your voice assistant loudly proclaim that it doesn’t understand your question or why you would ever want to know that.

Listening is the hardest of all

It makes sense that a vocal question gets a vocal answer and, fortunately, synthesised voices have moved on from halting annunciation that allowed Stephan Hawking to keep talking. But that doesn’t stop people wincing when a voice search reply is even a little off base and its ‘best guess’ is nothing like what you were hoping for. And it’s slow, framing each response in the format of your question when what you might want is a simple yes or no, something your brain can grasp from the first page of a Google search. And it’s immediate, you can’t ask a question then go trawling through the results a few seconds later. It’s then and there and if you miss it, you have to ask the whole thing again, rather than resubmitting or slightly changing the search text.

So there are our three reasons that you won’t see ‘The Future is Voice Search’ again as a headline for a few years yet. It has a place in society, helping internet accessibility and more. It even works if you treat your voice assistant like another team member in an office meeting where the conversations and questions are already being asked out loud, as long as you don’t mind your voice being digitally stored by tech giants for analysis.

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