Google Reveals Future of Search at #SMX: Voice Search & Virtual Assistants


SMX is a must-attend conference series for any search professional, and a staple of any SMX show is a highly anticipated keynote by a top Googler. Well, Tuesday morning at SMX West in San Jose was no exception. Google’s own Jason Douglas took center stage to kickoff SMX and reveal how the search giant plans to change the search experience – both on and off the SERP – in 2017.

             google smx from search to assis

Image credit: Thomas Ballantyne

Voice Search Is The New Focus for 2017

We may have stopped calling it “the year of mobile,” but we’re seeing Google continue to follow its mobile-first game. The next frontier for both Google and Bing appears to be voice search. Windows’ Bing may have the head start by partnering with Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Window’s own Cortana voice assistants, but Google has big plans to make up the gap with its Google Assistant.

The Google Assistant helps people get more done online and offline and rivals Apple’s Siri and Window’s Cortana as a voice search assistant. Previously, Google Assistant was only avalaible on Google’s wearable tech, Google Home, and Google’s newest mobile device, the Pixel. Over the coming weeks, Google will roll out the Google Assistant to many more smartphones running Android 7.0 Nougat and Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which will greatly expand its reach and use!

google virtual assistant voice search SMX

While these new searches are certainly exciting, there is a considerable difference in how people search using a voice search platform like Google Assistant. We’ve grown accustomed to typing short syntax language searches from our browsers in a traditional search setting, and ultimately search for keywords like “Coffee Mass Ave.”

Voice searches are much more unique, complex, and use more natural language. Consequently, we’re more likely to search for long-tailed keywords like “Where can I get coffee on Mass Ave” as Google Assistant and similar assistants become more prevalent. The implications of this trend in more longer, natural language searches has big implications for SEOs and PPC advertisers alike.

Google Assistant Delivers Personalized Results

Think of the things you’d count on a human personal assistant to know about you – how you take your coffee, your contact lists, your calendar, maybe even your dress size. Google’s virtual assistant hopes to be equally helpful and knowledgable.

Google sees the key to making its assistant valuable as a true personal assistant is in remembering your what you’ve searched for in the past and using the information you provide to it. Knowing this, Google can provide more personalized results with less context, ultimately driving a relevant and hopefully satisfying result.

The Internet of Things

As everything from our cars, TVs, watches and even lightbulbs are becoming connected to the web, we’ll see similar kinds of assistants on other devices. Today, we’re already seeing voice assistants emerge on smart TVs, gaming consoles, and cars. Bing’s partnerships with its own Xbox devices and Apple’s Siri-enabled devices and its announced partnership with Lexus give them a headstart to reach users in a SERP-free world.

Google has ambitious plans to reach these searchers off the SERP – both in home and on the go. Over the coming months, Google intends to announce plans to integrate the Google Assistant to more Android devices, starting with Android watches and its other wearable tech devices. Google also announced plans to scale their integration with Android TVs and other smart TVs connected to the web.

Although the future of a Google car is uncertain today, Google also has its eye on integrating Google Assistant into other brands’ cars as well. Understanding that users engage with these devices differently, our engagement with Google Assistant on these different devices will provide more detail as to where and how users search on the internet of things and will ultimately help Google cater the answers (and potentially the ads) it delivers on these devices.

About the author:

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream with a background in SEM, SEO, and Statistical Modeling. He was named the 14th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google +.

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Drew Kleppe
Mar 24, 2017

From a marketers side, do you think we'll have the ability to see data specifically from voice search versus manual searches? Currently we can adjust bids for d/m/t because Google separates the data collected. Being able to adjust bids for voice searches specifically would likely be a huge plus, especially if the intent for voice search is to receive a quick answer (due to the reason for a voice search) - meaning position 1 may be even more important. Also - i have multiple clients who are lead gen, and the thought of showing up for some voice searches does not sound promising. Do you think excluding voice search would be a good start for a client who's conversion requires weeks of thought on the customers side?

Mark Irvine
Mar 24, 2017

Hi Drew,

I don't believe this is likely going to be available directly in AdWords or Bing in the immediate future. We still can't see other types of search, like seeing what's coming through maps, images, or instant search.

What I can say is that the share of very long (7+ word) search terms is MUCH more likely to be a function of voice search rather than traditional search. Knowing this, you may want to review those searches to see the impact of those queries in your account and let that guide your decisions.

If you want, another presentation from the event may be particularly relevant to your strategy here:

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