The Human Factors That Affect Voice Search

Updated on June 4, 2020
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.

Voice search optimization or conversational search engine optimization is affected by many things. What are the human factors that affect voice search? What issues do you need to take into account so that your audience can find your content?


Pronunciation matters, and it varies by region. The United States has multiple dialects: southern, mid-Atlantic, New York City, inland northern, north central and western. Canada, too, has several distinct dialects. We’ll ignore Quebec for the sake of simplicity. The Atlantic Canadian dialect stands alone, with full Canadian raising but lacking the Canadian shift that is part of “standard Canadian” to the west. Standard Canadian is spoken west of Quebec all the way to the Pacific; Pacific Canadians have a sub-dialect that shares some similarities to that in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Inland Canadian is a minor sub-dialect of “standard Canadian”. Aboriginal Canadian is restricted to the far north.

How does this affect your conversational search engine optimization? Using search terms and voice search examples from Vancouver could capture visitors from Portland, Oregon. The user in Vancouver will say lag and leg the same way, and similar vowels will be misrecognized by your language interpreter. Relying on speech samples from the Atlantic Provinces means the information appliance may not always recognize the Albertan’s request. Conversely, the California shift of vowels is similar to the Canadian shift, so using voice recognition algorithms by a Californian firm may work for Canadian companies.

Fortunately, Canadian companies rarely need to record samples of their customers speaking since the companies developing voice recognition are working on this issue. The issue for your conversational SEO is factoring regional dialect into the text of your content. Think “spendy” instead of expensive when describing something to someone in Vancouver. You can gather this data by working with an SEO specialist targeting potential customers in your desired area and ask them for examples of how they’d ask for certain things. Then you can tailor conversational SEO content to the questions your ideal customers actually ask.

Don't forget to take local references into account for local SEO. For example, the terms locals use to refer to landmarks or major streets may differ from the official name.


Accent affects the ability of information appliances to recognize words. Accent impacts voice recognition by informational appliances but doesn’t affect the content you need to create to capture voice search queries. The question is how you may deal with it beyond using regional words and phrases in your content.

Word Choice by Demographic

Your teenager isn’t necessarily going to ask for a play list the same way parents do. Engineers asking about technical information may use different queries than the less educated. In-group language affects even technical disciplines such that acronyms used in biochemistry differ from those used in proteomics. Don’t even think that computer science experts will ask for information the same way that general users or liberal arts graduates will.

A classic example is the term router. Latent semantic indexing must be done right if you're talking about the routers used by craftsmen instead of internet routers.


Age can be seen as separate than demographic, because a young child may use the same words as an older teen sibling but has a higher pitched voice. An elderly person may use the same query to search as a middle-aged one, but hoarseness due to tobacco use and respiratory problems alter how they sound when they ask it. Stammering, slurred speech and other physical speech impediments may need to be taken into account.

The verbal shorthand people use varies by age. Generation Z uses the term “ship” as shorthand for “relationship”. “Vacay” is periodically used in place of vacation. Totally has been shortened to “totes” while probably is condensed to “probs”. Understand when your ideal audience would use verbal shorthand in their queries, but only incorporate it in your content if that’s what they would expect to hear and respect hearing read back to them. The last thing you want is to use slang out of place as part of your search engine marketing and end up with jokes about your off-key advertising campaign becoming what you’re known for.



Someone asking for information on local service providers when talking to Cortana at home may be relaxed, but a harried parent desperately seeking guidance while driving uses a different tone of voice and likely speaks much faster. Your conversational SEO needs to take into account queries like “Where is the hospital?” when someone is in a geographic area, in addition to “Where is the hospital in southeast Calgary?” A casual query about plumbers in a geographic area becomes a panicked “What plumbers are open right now!” request of the information appliance.

Evolving Word Use

Ten years ago, any mention of an evangelist was strictly for a Christian faith leader. Now you see technology companies going from calling their geniuses gurus to evangelists. This role is a hybrid of marketing the technology product or service to the public, development and advocate for the tech within the industry. “Woke” is now being used in place of “awakened” in awareness. Catfishing refers to one person pretending to be another online. A question about peeps is as likely to refer to one’s friends as the marshmallow treats. Salty may refer to profanity laced language by someone older or mean “bad mood” for someone who is younger. On a more mundane note is the use of “wait” as both a call for attention and start of a sentence.

All of this means you must know the slang your target audience is using, and if they’re using it in their conversational search queries, you should, too. SEO companies can study the data to see what questions your customers are asking, and they’ll save you the embarrassment of creating content that sounds hip and cool but comes across as terribly out of touch.

© 2020 Tamara Wilhite


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