It’s hardly a revelation at this point that voice search is likely to become one of the defining features of web use in the next decade – and that it will change the way we use search engines forever. Now, it’s a question of how drastic this transition will be and how soon it will become a reality. What will the new world of voice search look like?

The Unstoppable Rise of Voice Search

Voice search has rapidly become a larger and larger part of the “conversation” around search trends, as it’s become more popular over the past several years, and the past year in particular – driving a reported 20% of all searches in Google. (Comscore projects this number may be as high as 50% by 2020 – and reports that one in two mobile users regularly use voice search – and a third of those use it daily.) Much of this has no doubt been driven by the surging popularity of smart speaker technology, a once-distant fixture of science fiction that now makes up a significant part of tech companies’ push to win customers. But the new popularity of voice search is hardly limited to one format, much less limited to a few brands, with even music platform Spotify reportedly testing its own native voice search functionality.

The technology behind Apple’s Siri, Google Voice Assistant, and now Alexa from Amazon has been in the works for more than a decade now, gaining popularity and improving dramatically in usability with every new year. It’s clear that this is the future of search – so what does that mean for us now, and where will it take us? Here are our top five insights.

Google and Amazon are #1 Adversaries

Much has been made of the tension between Google and other innovating tech giants- Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and more. But Google’s push for voice search technology, especially in recent weeks, underscores their need to compete with a different sort of adversary – that is to say, the retail behemoth that is Amazon.

Google’s recent announcement of its Shopping Actions program is the clearest signal yet that they intend to directly take on Amazon in search results, allowing transactions to be completed entirely within a conversation that starts and ends with a voice search – rather than taking the customer to a retail website, whether that be Amazon or another property that ranks highly for that search. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes, and how successful it is or isn’t at helping Google and its partners earn back market share from Amazon.

Screens, And What’s On Them, Will Become Less And Less Relevant

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to keep in mind for digital advertisers given that screen real estate and visual media have long been the name of the game in digital. Visual impact – and the psychology of it  – have played a key role in both online and offline advertising for decades, often making or breaking the difference between success and failure even with the exact same message. That may well cease to be the case in coming years, and as voice assistants improve, they may even pick and choose what information to read from a given ad or headline – meaning the advertisers’ role in crafting and depicting their own message will steadily diminish over time. So it’s time for all of us to revisit our own approaches to advertising and messaging – because what we’re saying is about to become a lot more important than how we’re saying it.

Machine Learning Is The Future Of All Things Search

Google has not been shy in depicting the investments they’ve made into machine learning technology, nor their importance in the role of Google’s future on the web. Voice search technology is at the heart of this, and it’s reflected in the massive improvements in accuracy seen with Google’s Voice Assistant. We can expect that machine learning will continue to drive many of the newest, biggest innovations from Google, including improvements to their existing technologies and services.

“Voice-first” May Take On New Importance For Websites

There was a lot of noise made several years ago of the importance of mobile-first website design, and while the effect of certain warnings or updates from Google may have been overstated, there’s no doubt that mobile-friendliness is a must in today’s design world, and rankings reflect it. So it makes sense that sooner or later, Google and other search engines may begin to roll out “voice-friendliness” requirements of their own – especially considering how important this technology appears to be to the future of their platform as they envision it.

Sherry Bonelli over at SearchEngineLand has written an excellent guide to “voice-first” optimization, but the top takeaways are these:


  • With most voice searches being read from the featured snippet, earning these snippets should be a top priority for SEOs
  • People (especially younger users) tend to search using much longer phrases in voice search than text, so adjusting your target phrases and terms on your website to reflect this is important
  • Using ad copy and headlines that mimic the actual questions that people ask, rather than merely the topics they’re asking about, will most likely help improve CTR and probably rank higher as well

The next few years are sure to bring even more developments and new trends to light as voice technology rapidly improves. In the meantime, we’ll be looking to Google to see how they both respond to this growth from their competitors, and how they leverage the technology themselves to alter the experience of using the web for customers everywhere.