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Does the Rise of Voice Search mean Text Search is Dead?

The rise of voice search is changing how we search for information online. But does this mean text search is now dead or can it still have a role to play?

What is voice search and text search?

Voice search involves using speech to give commands or ask questions to devices such as smartphones or smart speakers. These devices then use external data sources such as search engines to answer the user’s question or fulfil their demand in an instant. This differs from text search which involves typing out a query on your device’s keyboard or touchpad.

Is voice search really on the rise?

Image of Amazon's range of voice assistant technology.
Amazon’s Alexa is an example of a popular voice assistant.

In a word, yes! Voice search is constantly growing in popularity and this is only expected to continue going forward. Part of the reason for this growth is due to the introduction of voice assistant technologies from companies such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google. More and more people are becoming accustomed to asking a question to virtual assistants such as Alexa or Siri rather than typing out the query themselves. If that is not enough to convince you then the below statistics further emphasis the fact that this is a trend that is here to stay.

  • 50% of online searches in 2020 were estimated to have been made via voice
  • 55% of all American homes will own a smart speaker by 2022
  • 72% of people who own voice-activated speakers say that their devices are part of their daily routines
  • Voice shopping is set to jump to $40 billion in 2022

Does this mean text search is dead?

Not exactly. While voice technology has increased in popularity it is not without its limitations. These limitations are the reasons why text search has not yet been made completely obsolete. Therefore, using a keyboard to find an answer online has not fallen out of fashion yet. This will continue to be the case unless voice search is able to find a way to overcome the following constraints.

Online Shopping

A keyboard with a 'shop' key in the centre. Text search is still preferred when shopping for certain items online
People are still more likely to shop for certain goods online with their keyboards.

Voice search has its limits when it comes to shopping online. That is not to say people will not order certain goods online via this search method.  For example, products they have already used before or cheap items where they do not care about the brand. However, customers are likely to prefer text search for items that require more consideration.  You probably would not use your Amazon Echo to purchase an expensive item such as a car for example. Furthermore, people are unlikely to purchase items like clothing without first scrolling through pictures of the product.

Accuracy in answering queries

Voice recognition devices can still occasionally fail to understand what the user is asking them. Anyone who owns a smart speaker can probably relate to this. You ask what you think is a simple question only for the device to say it does not understand you. You repeat the question and this time you do get an answer, but it is completely unrelated to what you were searching for. At this point many will give up and instead revert to typing out the query instead. Experiences like these can cause frustration among users and limit how reliable they perceive voice technology as being.

“The ability to recognize speech as well as humans do is a continuing challenge, since human speech, especially during spontaneous conversation, is extremely complex”.

Professor Julia Hirschberg, Computer Scientist at Columbia University

Privacy concerns

An image of a computer screen of data. People still prefer to use text search when dealing with personal data due to privacy concerns
Privacy concerns has left people questioning how secure their data is when using voice technology.

People are still more likely to use a search method that they are more familiar with when searching for sensitive topics such as healthcare or banking. The reason for this is that skepticism still exists about how secure people’s personal data is when using voice search. You probably have heard at one time or another someone express concern that they think their device is listening to their conversations. This kind of thinking is far more common than you might believe with over two-thirds of internet users worried that their voice assistant may be spying on them.

So voice search is on the rise, but text search actually isn’t dead yet?

Precisely. Voice search is a trend that is only going to become more and more popular in the years ahead. However, unless it can also evolve in a way that overcomes its current limitations then this new technology will not spell the death of text search. From a marketer’s perspective this means that their focus should be on optimising their website’s search engine results for both search methods. A good place to start here can be to focus on search engine optimisation for voice search as this is something many companies still fail to do. Does your firm also fall into this category? If the answer is yes then we have just the blog to help you change that right here!