I was going to write a post titled 'Google Voice Search: What does it mean for marketers?'

But then I realised it would be apt to sum up Google's update with as few written words as possible.

It's great fun exploring Google's voice search and knowledge graph, so here's my summation of Google's update through some choice screenshots.

Google understands superlatives

Even if the knowledge graph isn't all that flattering to English footballer, Phil Jones.

As you'll know if you're a voice search user, the knowledge graph speaks right back at me, announcing 'Manchester United roster by height'.

MUFC roster by height

Google can serve information from specific points in time

As one of the user comments on the Google blog post points out, some of the examples given by G seem hardcoded.

They're not, but language is important and the knowledge graph doesn't understand every verb yet.

So, for example, when I ask for 'what songs did The Searchers release in 1963', the knowledge graph is silent. But replace 'release' with 'record' and she responds eloquently 'The Searchers songs, 1963'.

Impressive, even if one has to know the right way to ask.

the searchers songs, 1963

Google can combine information from the knowledge graph

Again, the voice searcher has to make sure the query is correct here. When I asked 'who was the US President when Elvis was born', Google misheard the word 'when' and so did not serve me the answer.

I asked once more, though, and the result was impressive, with the knowledge graph lady nonchalantly replying 'Franklin D. Roosevelt'.

Google lets the side down though, when I ask the trick question 'Who was US President when Elvis died', replying with 'United State of America President, 1977'. Elvis lives (and it was Jimmy Carter, so Google seems to only work on years, not specific dates).

who was US President when Elvis was bornwho was president when elvis died

But there's still a long way to go...

It's arguably a little prescriptive for Google to correct its searchers. Still, I wondered what Google would make of my query below, given the engine is pretty hot on dates and presidents.

Obviously, there's a way to go on the grammar front, whether or not you think Google should take the tone of Siri and put me right.

Google admits as much, but its progress so far is startling.

By the time it's got voice search licked, who knows, maybe we'll be more comfortable talking to computers. These things take time, after all.

google voice search - when did miley cyrus become president

For more on the knowledge graph, see this post on semantic search.

Ben Davis

Published 18 November, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)


Joanna Piekos, Consultant at spacedealer GmbH

Hi Ben,

great overview, thanks for taking the time. This actually is pretty much confirmed by google brandcast presentations this year; they had roughly the same examples (and problems) you describe.

The more interesting question will be, what a search engine will answer on generic, commercially relevant, queries like "what is the best toy store in Berlin" and it has then only one (!) chance to answer and does not offer a selection of 10+ options for users to chose from. I believe that this is something that is holding up voice search. All technical problems will be solved sooner or later.

over 2 years ago

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