Apple’s iPhone 4S launched last week and whilst it may seem little different on the outside, there is one feature of definite interest to search marketers. It is called SIRI and it is voice recognition software that may finally prove VR has come of age.
This is not just your “Phone Home” type voice command system, but seems to rely quite heavily on the development of AI (Artificial Intelligence) since Apple bought SRI. The software is sufficiently advanced to be able to complete several different processes in order to carry out a task, and Apple dedicated enough of the 4S launch to show that SIRI is important to Apple in future.
Let’s move beyond the basics of reminding you to order flowers for your wife and adding your anniversary date to your calendar though, and look at what this might mean for voice search.
For many people, computers are still an issue. The rise in smartphone usage and iPad/tablet sales even amongst the non-techies has highlighted that the days of the desktop, keyboard and mouse are probably numbered. Mainly because they are just too complicated for your average person. Ditto search engines.
Each month, the rankings regularly report top level domains in the most searched upon terms, implying that far too many people still cannot use search properly nor effectively. Whilst typing “google.com” into Bing may not seem a major issue, the implication is that even the most simplified browser with a location bar will not prevent enough people in the world searching for a domain they already know.
Imagine if you cut out all the faff of typing, Boolean operators, narrowing down a search by typing endless terms in to Google etc, and instead….
Well, instead you speak your search query into your phone. With AI, there is no reason why, over time, your phone cannot learn to recognise the type of queries which you most frequently make and tie these into the likely search result(s) you are looking for. This type of cognitive and responsive technology has been the end goal of AI for many years.
Could search queries using voice on a mobile phone take traffic away from a text based search service such as Google? One can only assume so, although the tie-ins with Wolfram Alpha, Yelp and Wikipedia point to a slightly different search audience (research more than consumer) at present.
If you have not yet designed a mobile friendly website for your business yet, nor made sure you feature on local search for mobiles, and also aren’t au fait with where mobile devices are heading, this would seem to be the time to take on board that mobile quite simply is not going away.
This means taking a new look at how you provide the information that you want to be easily found by your potential customers. If you sell raincoats and umbrellas and there is a convention in town, with a huge number of people asking SIRI about the local weather for tomorrow, wouldn’t you like to show up as an advert for the shop in the road behind the conference centre when they ask the weather forecast for tomorrow? Or is it just easier to go and hawk them on the street when the rain clouds open in the morning?!
There may be few occasions when Wolfram Alpha is yet the best search engine (it is a knowledge and computational engine after all) for the mass of consumers online, but if I could ask my phone exactly how many centimetres it is between here and my A Level Maths student’s school, I’d be delighted when it returned 1.643 x 10^7!
The more likely scenario though is that as people use more and more apps to get the answers they seek eg comparison apps to find the best price for an item whilst shopping in town, the use of the search engines for such research will inevitably dwindle. And it may be here that SIRI really begins to take a bite from search traffic. And it may be in this change from desktop searching to on the move questioning that we should be pointing our attention.