How big will voice search be in 2020?

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  • April 24, 2017
Stephen Kenwright

Stephen Kenwright

Director of Search

Gartner thinks that 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020. comScore thinks 50% of all searches will be voice searches by that point.

Google now handles at least 2 trillion searches each year, up from 1.2 trillion in 2012.

How many searches does Google process graph

Assuming this trend continues Google will be processing around 2.4 trillion searches in 2020.

Year Annual searches Growth (Raw) Growth (%)
1999 1,000,000,000
2000 14,000,000,000 13,000,000,000 1,300%
2001 55,000,000,000 41,000,000,000 293%
2004 73,000,000,000 18,000,000,000 33%
2009 365,000,000,000 292,000,000,000 400%
2012 1,200,000,000,000 835,000,000,000 229%
2016 2,000,000,000,000 800,000,000,000 67%
2020 2,380,000,000,000 380,000,000,000 19%

So does this mean that there will be 1.2 trillion voice searches in 2020?

Well, no.

Google’s voice search product lags behind Microsoft’s. So even though Google is still dominant in search volumes overall – and absolutely annihilates Bing and Yahoo! in mobile search volumes – less voice technology is powered by Google than by Microsoft.

Audience of search engines (millions) comScore

Recently Google has been making progress with Home and Now – and Windows Phones have made little (if any) progress compared to Android – but Cortana isn’t just woven into Microsoft devices, powering both Siri and Alexa (Amazon’s Echo products, powered by Alexa, were the best selling products on Amazon over the holiday period, despite selling out mid-December).

Regardless of this, Microsoft does not serve anywhere near as many searches as Google does – and it isn’t going to take over anytime soon.

The most recent statistics I can find suggest Bing serves around 320,000,000,000 searches per year compares to Google’s 2,000,000,000,000. Note that the Bing figure doesn’t include Yahoo! or AOL searches – I didn’t add them up because it’s complicated: some mobile results were and possibly still are Google-powered.

I’m convinced Bing will continue to increase market share. Right now 35% of search is MS-powered, 65% Google.

But for 50% of search to be voice powered we must be anticipating a huge shift in user behaviour. Either:

  • Searchers will start using Bing en masse
  • Google will nail a voice search product (which it so far hasn’t, and every Echo sold means Bing pulls ahead)
  • A new player will enter the market right at the fucking top (obviously this means Facebook, who so far haven’t even tried).

I’m all in on voice search. It’s going to be massive. Mike already took a look at some voice search stats and the impact it’s having on SEO. But, in the same post as its voice-browsing prediction, Gartner admitted we might have gone overboard on how big apps would be – so I’d advise caution when putting a number against it.

…but then, I’ve heard some people say we’re underestimating the figures. What do you think?

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