The Emergence of Voice Search and Global Translation – Part 1

Amazon alexa voice search

Chances are you’ve used your smartphone or a virtual assistant like Siri or Alexa to ask a question with the hopes of getting a quick, simple answer. Have you adapted your business strategy to account for being visible to queries from these sources?

To keep up with the competition, and perhaps even beat them to the punch, you need to make your business information and content as easy to find as possible by both voice and text searches. Start a conversation and connect with your audience regardless of the language they speak or the country in which they live.

So, What Is Voice Search?

TechTarget, an online media and technology editorial provider, defines voice search as a speech recognition technology that allows users to search by saying terms aloud rather than typing them into a search field [1]. You might use voice search for things like:

  • Querying a search engine.
  • Requesting specific information, such as the current weather or the time in another country.
  • Launching programs and selecting options.

Why Should You Get into Voice Search?

As a business with an international strategy, you need to be researching local search intent to effectively create multi-lingual content that starts a conversation and brings people to your site and/or storefront.  Even in the United States alone, our population is quite multi-lingual as individuals speaking more than one language has nearly doubled since 1980 (10.6% in 1980, 20.1% in 2016) [2]. Thus, it’s important to have a multi-lingual strategy for both domestic and international markets.

Can your target audience find your content in a likely crowded search landscape? Are your competitors showing up for voice search queries and topics that align with your business? Optimizing your website with keywords alone is no longer enough to engage your customers.

Smart watch on an arm being used for voice search

Where Does Your Business Rank for Voice Search?

When it comes to voice search, the search result that matters is “position zero,” which is typically a featured snippet at the top of all search results [3]. For example, if you query “what is translation” in Google, you’ll get a dictionary snippet about the meaning of translation, above the highest linked result (#1). Thus, position zero.

Now consider what kind of questions and queries your customers might ask. In general, voice search works best for queries about specific topics. Let’s say you’re known as Rugs Emporium and you’re in the business of selling wool rugs. Try asking Google or a virtual assistant questions such as:

  • Who is Rugs Emporium?

Does information about your business show up? Do competitors show up instead?

  • When is Rugs Emporium open?

This type of question should return your business hours, and ideally the hours for the day when the question is being asked.

  • How do I clean a wool rug?

Google often returns results for voice searches that are based on content with steps or instructions. If your site doesn’t have this type of content, you probably won’t show up for a voice search query.

Global Content and How We Ask Questions

The average reading speed for the English language is between 170 and 240 words per minute, but we type anywhere from 40-80 words per minute on a keyboard (data entry positions usually require the upper end), and even fewer on a smartphone.

Think about the types of search queries you’ve asked aloud. Were they just one or two words, or perhaps a longer sentence? These days we think conversationally.

Going back to our imaginary business, Rugs Emporium, a customer might query “wool rugs” while at the computer, but on their phone or to a virtual assistant they might ask, “Where can I find wool rugs with diamond patterns?” With long-tail searches, you have a much better chance of ranking for voice search – it’s more niche with likely less competition, fewer people search on it, and it’s specific. Ranking for wool rugs with diamond patterns is more plausible than ranking for wool rugs in general.

Language Implications

Implications for multiple languages can be complex for voice search. How we ask questions around the world can be influenced by language, region, and culture. The way in which someone in the United States asks a question differs from the way a Chinese native asks the same thing. It depends on the framework they were raised in. It’s not as simple as translating your English keywords verbatim. Cultural influence plays a major role here as well as the rising popularity in voice search.

The best way to avoid embarrassing gaffes and ensure your voice search strategy is effective is to work with a professional translation service company that has experience with website localization and works with native speakers of the language you plan to target. Choosing the correct words for the right message while remaining faithful to your core message is a delicate art. One misstep can be costly.


Looking for immediate assistance on a translation or localization project? Contact us today! 860-362-0812



[1] Tech Target

[2] Psychology Today

[3] Moz

Photo Credits

[1] Andres Urena

[2] Luke Chesser


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