The future is now; the latest trend in technology is voice-enabled search.

But what is it and is it relevant for marketers?

ComScore says that by the year 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches. This could be due to the number of difficulties people are suffering in regard to the limited screen size of phones, allowing voice enabled search and command to navigate (Feng, Banglore, & Gilbert; 2009).

This tech seems futuristic, but since Thomas Edison and his phonograph and Alexander G Bell et al with their ‘dictaphone’; we as humans have been striving towards efficiency between command and function, the brain and the outside world.

Functionality in voice command began to appear in the 1970s with two professors: B.H. Juang and L. Rabiner, and their paper “Automatic Speech Recognition – A brief History of Technology Development”.

It discussed the two broad directions that speech technology was branching into: Spoken word converted to text; and directory assistance (or digital operator) a spoken query searches a database for an answer, whether it be a phone number from someone’s name or todays Google Assistant and Siri.

Spoken dialog systems (SDS) are often categorised into three generations:

  1. Informational
  2. Transactional
  3. Problem solving

The first generations focuses on providing the user with the information that they requested, such as weather or flight status information. The second conducts transactions for the user, purchases tickets, etc.; and the final generation supports the user to diagnose problems they are experiencing with a service or device.

These generations can also be categorised technically into:

  1. Form filling,
  2. Call routing
  3. Voice search

First and second-generation use a and b, and problem solving uses a combination (Wang, Yu, Ju, & Acero, 2008).

In some spoken dialog systems, users’ words may contain only what the system has prepared or tagged for, which is often specific information; while in other more advances one the tagging would be more inclusive of users vocabulary and colloquial language, this is the reason that Google Home was delayed in Australia for 9 months, so users can speak naturally.

What are the marketing implications?

  • Marketers and developers will have to include ‘conversational keywords’ to catch people using these technologies to match users natural speech. For example: ‘Best pie Brisbane, may be spoken as ‘what is the best pie available in the Brisbane?’
  • Developers will need to also add question phrase keywords to catch users queries, such as who, what and where to provide more efficient answers. Also assigning more value to ‘where’ and ‘when’ keywords as they indicate intent.
  • Research has to monitor the age and device of the target audience to see if voice search is relevant to their campaign or product.

Overall, there isn’t a lot that marketers can utilise about this technology, unless you are Google or a brand that can use it as a unique selling point. Web developers and content writers need to provide relevant keywords for search engine optimisation, and keep an eye out for any new developments that may be more useful for strategic employment.

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  • Feng, J., Bangalore, S. & Gilbert, M. (2009). Role of natural language understanding in voice local search.. Conference: INTERSPEECH 2009, 10th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association, Brighton, United Kingdom, September 6-10, 2009, 1859-1862.
  • Google Assistant – Your own personal Google. (2017). Google Assistant – Your own personal Google. Retrieved 15 October 2017, from
  • iOS – Siri. (2017). Apple (Australia). Retrieved 15 October 2017, from
  • Juang, B. H. & Rabiner, L. R. (2004). Automatic Speech Recognition – A Brief History of the Technology Development . online:, 1 – 24.
  • Mangles, C. (2017) Is voice search a rising trend for Gen Z mobile users? | Smart Insights. Smart Insights. Retrieved 15 October 2017, from
  • Virji, P. (2016). How Voice Search Will Change Digital Marketing — For the Better!. Moz. Retrieved 15 October 2017, from
  • Wang, Y., Dong, Y., Yun-cheng, J., & Acero, A. (2008). An introduction to voice search. Signal Processing Magazine, 25 28 – 38.