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Understanding intent through voice search

Understanding intent through voice search

Bing and Google are looking at the future of search, and both are seeing a future that involves search engines as the intelligence platform powering digital assistance with daily life — personalized help that enables people to get more done efficiently and spend real time focused on what they care about most.

Today’s digital assistants, like Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri and Google Now, are voice search-enabled and growing smarter with every interaction. Since voice search is more conversational and uses natural language, the artificial intelligence (AI) technology is evolving to understand user intent and context based on signals — like previous search queries, multiple-step queries and past user behavior and actions — to better anticipate your search needs.

Words can provide invaluable substance to the AI technology that powers voice search. We unconsciously change our behavior when using voice search. While a text query would typically be one to three words, a spoken query is often three or more words. For marketers, the longer query strings from voice search provide richer user intent data because they tend to explicitly ask a question, characterized by question words like who, how, what, where, why and when, with the expectation that the search engines will provide an answer back.

For example, on my desktop I would search for “teal dress.” But when it comes to a voice query, I might ask, “Hey Cortana, where can I find a teal jersey knit cotton dress?” The conversational tone provides a signal of intent to purchase and style preference, as well as context to my desired shopping locations if I have granted it access to my geolocation. The conversational tone of voice search enables marketers to:

  • build user-intent models to understand where the user is in the customer journey;
  • match advertising campaigns (messaging and landing pages) to the right stage of user intent; and
  • develop site content with a conversational tone, providing specific answers to users’ needs and top questions.

Voice searchers are looking for quick answers. Content answering specific questions will make your site a go-to resource. In addition, search marketers face an additional challenge with the growth and adoption of voice search, the rapid growth net-new tail queries. This means that marketers will need to adjust their marketing strategies to capture available demand as voice search-enabled technology increases.

While the future of search is evolving and changing, along with the devices and technology that are used to access search, we’ll continue to use search engines, websites and apps. How we interact and engage with them using voice search will help provide more intent and context to help us get things done in our daily lives, so we can focus and be fully present in the moments that matter the most.