Google Reveals the Future of Search at #SMX West


The sun was shining and the hotel pool was glistening, but at the San Jose Convention Center on Tuesday, search marketers at SMX West were not lounging in the 70-degree weather under the clear blue sky; rather they were jam-packed into an over-air-conditioned room to hear Google’s Behshad Behzadi reveal the future of search.

Behshad Behdazi

How can this Behshad guy see the future? Well, he can’t, but with an impressive 10+ year background in engineering at Google, he’s pretty darn qualified to predict.

Before jumping to the future, Behshad kicked off SMX West by reflecting on the past. Back in 1998 the Google algorithm was quite simple and unsophisticated; in 2002 synonyms were introduced so advertisers didn’t have to predict the exact search every time; in 2012 Google began to understand “things” instead of just “strings” and there came the Knowledge Graph.

Fast-forward to 2015, when mobile searchers overtook desktop! This last stat laid the foundation for Behshad’s predictions for the future of Google search.

smx west voice search

Drum roll please… The future of search lies in voice search!

Here are four key takeaways from Behshad’s voice search predictions:

Voice Search Is Growing Faster than Type

According to Behshad, speech recognition word error is as low as 8%. This is a huge improvement over two years prior, when the error rate was over 20%, and has led more and more people to rely on voice over type because it now actually works.

“It’s kind of a magical experience. Just take your phone and ask it about the things around you,” says Behshad.

Behshad also noted that there are other devices, aside from smartphones, where voice search will come into play, such as wearables and even smart cars.

future of voice search on mobile

Voice Search Is Conversational Search

Marketers must acknowledge that we simply don’t search the same way with our keyboards that we do with our vocal chords.

With search, people tend to speak naturally, as if they were communicating with a spouse or colleague. For instance, on desktop you’re more likely to type “weather paris,” but with voice search you’re more likely to ask: “What’s the weather like in Paris?”

Understanding the difference between the two will be important for marketers in the future.

Speaking to Your Phone Will Soon Integrate Seamlessly into Your Life

I’ll admit, when my dad talks into his phone to type a text or call his brother, it’s hard not to chuckle, but little did I know that my dad is more in-line with the future then I am. According to Behshad, speaking into your phone is now seen as normal behavior.

Before we know it, voice search will become an important part of our day-to-day.

According to Behshad, voice search will become “an ultimate mobile assistant that helps you with your daily life, so you can focus on the things that matter.”

google voice search

The Ultimate Assistant Will Understand Your Intent

You know that 8% error stat I shared with you earlier? That rate will continue to go down as the ultimate search assistant improves. Behshad spent the second chunk of his talk just talking to his phone, and the amount that can already be done with voice is pretty impressive.

voice search recognition

According to Behshad, the ultimate assistant should understand the world, you and your world, and your current context. It will be an intent expert. He demonstrated voice searches like “When is my next flight?” where the time, date, etc. of his upcoming flight were pulled up. Behshad then voice-searched “Show me my pictures of dolphins” and his photos of dolphins from a recent trip were pulled up.

Behshad also showed how voice search can complete actions like setting your alarm, and interact with apps like Yelp to find restaurant reviews and YouTube to play music.

To sum things up, the future of search is speech!

About the Author:

Margot is a Customer Success Coach at Wistia. She previously worked as a Content Marketer at WordStream, loves all things digital, and spends her free time running, traveling, and cooking. Follow her on:

Twitter: @ChappyMargot

Google+: +Margot da Cunha



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andrea scarpetta
Mar 08, 2016

Don't you feel embarassed while speaking to your device in public ? I do it a lot while in private, but i don't like the other people to hear my queries while on the tube or at the restaurant...

scott flear
Mar 11, 2016

They said this at SMX London in 2015.

I don't think voice will overtake type at all.

Who the hell wants to talk into a device all the time? I prefer listening to music with my headphones on and browsing with my keyboard.

Voice will become bigger and bigger for questions about the weather, where to eat, stats etc but not everything and far from taking over.

I definitely won't be changing tactics to try and please voice search in the near future. For e-commerce sites I don't see how it will even benefit to try and target voice search users?

Jun 09, 2016

Another public space I can see this never taking off is your local library... Many if not all offer search portals, could you just imagine everyone 'shouting' / sorry whispering into their desktops?

It would be awkward in many other spaces too, shared / open plan offices just another example...

Voice search will have its place and time I guess.

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