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Google Reveals the Future of Search at #SMX West

March 29, 2018

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!

Margot da Cunha

Margot is a Content Marketing Specialist at WordStream and nutrition graduate student at Framingham State. She loves all things digital, learning about nutrition, running, traveling, and cooking.