It’s no secret that the internet has become a cornerstone of our personal and professional lives, but the way we access it is always improving and evolving.
However, due to the vast size of the internet and the exponential rate at which it’s growing (90% of the data in the world was created in the last two years!), one of the most important aspects in our internet usage is how we find the data we’re looking for.
It probably goes without saying that Google is sitting very firmly at the top of this key to the internet.
But there’s a (relatively) new kid in town: voice search. So how does voice search work and why is it important for marketers?
Below, we’ll explore exactly what voice search is, how it’s growing in popularity, and how it’s changing the shape of digital marketing.
Voice search is a type of technology that recognizes your speech so you can search for things by simply saying your search term out loud, instead of typing it into the search bar. The growth of smartphones and other handheld devices has led to an increase in its usage.
You may use speech recognition technology to:
Make a query on a search engine.
Request specific information, e.g. a sports score.
Search for video or audio files.
Launch a program or select a specific option.
Clarify your request.
However, this isn’t a completely new software idea.
Rather, the history of voice recognition software dates back as far as the 50s when machines started to recognize numbers.
Since then, this same type of software has been applied in a number of different ways, including helping to route customers to the right service department through the voice receptionist function.
Voice typing is also something you may have come across. Nevertheless, in previous years, this often resulted in more time spent correcting errors in the text.
This ineffectiveness led to a period of mistrust for voice recognition software as people couldn’t see how it benefited them when it saved little or no time and made some tasks even more time-consuming.
Fast forward to the past couple of years and it’s clear some companies have spent a lot of money on developing and tweaking this software to make it worthwhile. Now, software is able to easily understand our speech, even recognizing the different accents and tones of our voices.
In fact, the majority of platforms offering this type of software are now enjoying an error rate of under 5%.
Even though it’s clear that there are a number of industry-leading products on the market that offer users the ability to search for things using their voices, is this just another “fad” that’ll come and go?
It’s not looking that way, no.
eMarketer notes that over 35 million Americans used one of these devices at least once a month.
So what are they using them to search for?
According to Google’s recent study on how voice assistance is influencing consumer behavior, they’re simply becoming part of their daily routine.
Google noted that:
Because users can multitask, do things quicker, and get instant answers to their questions, a voice-activated speaker is rather like having your own personal assistant. It helps you get things done in next to no time.
Here’s an email from Amazon Echo featuring the different things you can ask Alexa:
People are placing these devices in the center of their lives by putting them in their common rooms, e.g. living rooms (52%), their bedrooms (25%), and their kitchens (22%).
72% of people who are using these types of devices say they’ve become part of their daily routine. They’re using them to set reminders, check commute times, set alarms, and other things that help them get things done quickly and efficiently.
See the scenarios presented in this email from Google Home:
People like to treat their devices as though their humans, often using words like “thank you,” “please,” and “sorry.” 41% of people feel like they’re talking to a person or even a friend when using their voice-activated speaker.
Brands are welcomed by users of voice-activated speakers as part of their overall user experience. They’re willing to hear information that pertains to their lifestyle.
Google found that owners of these devices are happy to hear from brands about:
Promotions, sales, and deals (52%)
Personalized information and tips that’ll make their life easier (48%)
Upcoming activities and events (42%)
Business information, e.g. opening hours and locations (39%)
Customer support or service (38%)
However, perhaps most significant is the fact that many consumers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of making purchases through these types of devices.
For example, Google’s findings suggest that:
62% of people who use a voice-activated speaker on a regular basis are more likely to use it to make a purchase within the next month.
58% of people who regularly use a voice-activated speaker say they are managing or creating their shopping lists with it at least once a week.
44% of those who use their voice-activated speaker regularly say that, at least once a week, they are ordering household items, groceries etc., through it.
And, as the popularity of these voice-assisted devices grows, isn’t it likely that these figures will rise, too?
It sure is!
With Activate predicting that there will be 21.4 million smart speakers in American homes by 2020 and comScore suggesting that 50% of all searches will be done by voice by 2020, voice searches are something marketers need to take note of (if they’re not doing so already).
Where voice-activated searches will take us is still, to a large extent, unknown.
But one thing’s for sure—it’s definitely going to disrupt the current state of marketing, especially with search being such an integral part.
When it comes to SEO, everything has been optimized for screen-based results. Remove this screen, however, and all of this hard work becomes obsolete. And that’s why voice assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo are even more disruptive than the likes of smartphone voice assistants, e.g. Siri.
Therefore, if you can picture a future where you’re only given a handful, or even one, answer, then how we gain top rankings is completely different.
How are you going to ensure you’re coming up as the most relevant search result? Will you be able to sponsor search results?
All of this will remain largely unknown for the foreseeable future—and, as we know, Google has a habit of making its own rules up whenever it wants to.
Even though voice search is still a bit of an unknown entity, this doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for the changes ahead. There are some steps you can take to ensure your business is optimized for voice search in its current state.
Performing a search with your voice is often quite different from typing it—The chances are, you’re going to be really specific with what you ask. This could be the price of something, the opening hours of a local shop, whether a business stocks a certain product and so on.
Therefore, when you’re putting together the content for your website, you need to take this into account by answering these potential questions.
Make sure all of this information is readily available by making it easy for spiders to find this content, i.e. using HTML and not hiding it in images.
This is also relevant to the fact that voice searches are often far more specific and in-depth than typed searches. They’re more conversational and tend to reflect a person’s speech.
If you can ensure you have content that contains these key phrases and conversational keywords, you’re more likely to rank well for these types of queries.
Plus, long-tail keywords are far less competitive (accounting for 70% of all web searches)—but they aren’t any less significant.
You might also want to build on this with your advertising campaigns as long-tail search terms are often far less expensive to bid on but have great click-through rates.
They’re more specific, which means a customer searching for this is far more likely to find your content useful.
For example, if you type in “email marketing” you’re inundated with results. But if you searched for “email marketing for restauranteurs” this refines your results to give you far more relevant ones.
Appearing for these relevant search terms helps you not only come out on top but also increases the likelihood of the user finding your content useful. They’re less likely to click on it and bounce straight back off the page.
Keeping this information up to date is imperative for voice search SEO, especially when it comes to capturing those “near me” searches.
Try to ensure it’s as comprehensive as it can be, including nearby parking, opening hours, and so on. You might also want to add images.
Essentially, the more information you can offer your customers, the better. And ensuring this information is easily accessible for those spiders crawling your site will help keep you coming up to the top of search engine rankings.
Whether you’re already trying to embrace voice search or you’re reluctantly joining the party, one thing’s for sure, it isn’t something you can ignore.
With there being a high chance that this trend will increase dramatically over the coming years, it’s far better to get up to speed, or even ahead now.
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