Hey Siri, will voice assistants replace search?

With competition heating up between technology giants as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant transition from phone to living room, it’s clear that voice assistants are here to stay.

Back to the Future Part II introduced us to a 2015 with flying cars and hoverboards. Although I write with great disappointment that neither of these came to fruition, the 1989 movie did foresee the rise of the voice-powered smart home.

This concept has existed in the dreams of science fiction writers for decades, but with early voice recognition being more frustration than revolution, it wasn’t until Apple’s Siri launched in late 2011 that the prospect of a conversational voice assistant became a reality.

Fast-forward to 2018 and Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant are now capable of leveraging big data and machine learning to interpret conversational context and seek information from the internet, independent of pre-programmed responses.  For brands that may already be struggling with SEO, the fear that consumers will abandon search in favour of voice assistants is rational, but ultimately misguided. Unless your business revolves around telling the weather and setting alarms, you probably won’t be replaced any time soon.

You can however optimise your content for voice assistants through conversational and fact-focused copy, asking questions informally and from the first-person perspective like:

“Can I claim public transport on my tax return?”

“Does manuka honey cure the flu?”

“How do I generate 1.21 Gigawatts of electricity?”

Questions are best placed in the page title itself, allowing search engines to quickly index and identify your content as relevant.

It should be noted however that we are yet to see a working model of monetisation for voice searches outside of brand recognition, but I believe the day will soon come where “What’s happening in Rohingya?” can be followed up with “Make a $20 donation from my credit card”.

Richard Burleigh

Richard has lead high-performing digital and data teams at some of Australia's largest organisations, founding Mira Digital to address the growing need for high quality, affordable digital solutions in Australia.