Forbes Magazine named 2017 “the year of voice search,” as 43% of US online adults now use a digital assistant and 97% say they like to get general information from digital assistants today. According to Techcrunch, the Echo Dot was the best-selling product on all of Amazon in the 2018 holiday season. That’s a big reason that 60% of people started using voice search over the past year according to Mindmeld. These statistics make it clear that the $100B global search industry is getting ready to pivot in a new direction. How will voice tech effect your brand’s marketing strategy? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the difference between voice tech and voice search?

  • Voice tech is a broad term for all voice enabled systems like phones, Iphones, Siri, Cortana, voice to text transcription, etc. Voice Search is a Google product that allows users to use Google Search by speaking to a mobile phone, computer or a connected home device (Google Home, Amazon Echo, etc.)
  • The main benefit of voice tech is that we can find information when our hands or eyes are otherwise occupied. Plus, humans can speak quicker than they can type.

How long has it been around?

Voice recognition actually dates back to 1877 when Thomas Edison invented the Phonograph, but we have come a long way since then.

Milestones

  • October 4, 2011, Apple announces Siri, a digital personal assistant. In addition to being able to recognize speech, Siri can understand the meaning of what it is told and take appropriate action.
  • April 2, 2014, Microsoft announces Cortana, a digital personal assistant like Siri
  • November 6, 2014, Amazon announces the Echo, a voice-controlled speaker. The Echo is powered by Alexa, a digital personal assistant like Siri and Cortana. While Siri and Cortana are not the most important features of the devices on which they run, the Echo is dedicated to Alexa

A massive shift in voice use has already begun. ComScore states that 40% of US adults used voice search in 2017 and predicts that more than 50 percent of searches will be voice-based by 2020. The trend continues exponentially.

 

How is Voice Search currently being used?

  1. Google provides a single direct answer to queries since a standard SERP result would not be helpful. Rather, having the answer read out aloud provides immediate gratification and a much better user experience. Therefore, Google created the Answer Box.
  2. Google’s Answer Box is powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph & machine learning capabilities; it is Google’s way of understanding the intent of the user and giving the best answer. Google’s Answer Box is the ONLY answer to voice search queries, it is the result that appears above all other results on the SERP, “ranking zero”.
    • When you win the Answer Box, your result will be the one that is read to the user conducting the voice search.
    • It is NOT based on industry or category relevance, but by a variety of keyword triggers.
    • Creating a content marketing strategy based on common consumer triggers will help increase your odds for gaining top organic position via the Answer Box – powered through a query or voice search.

How to Prepare

Start with the basics: Voice queries are different than text queries

The first step for any brand would be to conduct a comprehensive analysis to understand how consumers are searching for your products. Unlike search keyword phrases that you type into your computer, voice search is more conversational and natural in tone and often locally focused.

  • Where can I buy…?
  • What is the best…?

The broader implication, and opportunity, is that SEO is shifting from keyword optimization to topic optimization.

  • Topics better address the real needs of users and the vast variety of ways in which they search.
  • Shift from the single-word keyword searches to the more specific long-tail keywords to natural language.
  • Tighten your brand description: Answer Boxes contain between 3 to 5 words.

Get ready for a paid voice search advertising world

Since Google nor Amazon are allowing voice search advertising (yet), this will most likely change within the next year or so. Take action today by:

  • Brainstorming new keyword targets. Pay close attention to your keyword strategy. How many of your targets are head keywords, how many are long-tail keywords, and how many are general topic targets?
  • Become eponymous (Kleenex vs tissues). Choose your battles. Consider fighting harder for top spots on a handful of key SERPs, while forgoing the battle for keywords that aren’t as important to you.
  • Consider local. If you aren’t already investing in local SEO, now’s the time to start. This is perhaps the most important area to concentrate on as “near me” searches become the norm for this medium.
  • Rethink your advertising mix. If you use PPC ads, you may need to rethink your approach; soon, consumers will start interacting with your ads differently, and you may need to upgrade your targeted advertising to a different format.

Next Steps

As marketing professionals, we must anticipate how data collected from voice searches can inform other media decisions. As voice search extends to platforms other than the personal assistant space, DMP’s are beginning to gather data from other devices such as refrigerators, cars, watches, etc. Especially in closed environments like Google or Amazon, the opportunity presents itself to retarget consumers in the purchasing funnel. So, while perhaps maybe we cannot run search ads right now, we can work with Amazon/Google to segment and retarget on GDN/YouTube and other media.

We still don’t know exactly how a voice search revolution will manifest, so it pays to remain flexible when the changes come. Ultimately, the best preparation for the future is to make sure your brand conforms to traditional marketing standards: clarity of benefit, clear brand message, terse call to action and ability to be loved and shared by your customers.

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