Voice search is most commonly used by AI (artificial intelligence) enabled personal assistants, installed on Google, Apple, and Microsoft devices. Think Cortana and Siri. Alexa, from Amazon, has also entered the market, clearly demonstrating that everyone is looking to corner this market.
Siri, Cortana, and Google Now are smarter than they ever have been before. They employ machine learning algorithms that allow them to get better at what they do based on user behavior. Already they are better at understanding context, interpreting intent based on past queries, breaking down multi-step queries, and more.
Keyboard users are a dying population, and it’s important for businesses to recognize the next generation of searchers – voice users. If you spend time with young kids, and even many adults, you’ll notice that they favor voice assistants over keyboards. Those of us who grew up texting on our flip phones are probably the only die-hard keyboard users left! Think about it – whether you suffer from fat thumbs, the keyboard is too small to see, or you simply look for the easiest and faster way to accomplish something (GenX!), voice texting solves all of that.
Marketers need to be thinking about this shift because voice search will have a significant impact on content discovery. Although currently there is no simple or precise way of identifying voice vs. non-voice queries, “Okay Google” queries are becoming far more common in search query reports, and they’re even showing up as rising terms in Google Trends.
For the longest time, we have all talked about ‘content is King’. Voice search won’t change that fact, but it will change the nature of the content. Google has been diminishing the relevance and power of keywords because too many search marketers fell into a habit of over-optimizing their content by stuffing keywords into content and as anchor text for backlinks, and not enough webmasters were focusing on content that delivers value. The Panda algorithm update, which started rolling out in 2011, started to eliminate keyword-based search results in favor of broader and more sophisticated means of populating relevant pages in search results.
Voice search makes keywords even less relevant; rather than typing individual words into a search bar, users speak their query, usually into a phone. Doing so naturally encourages users to speak in a conversational way, creating unique and different queries to be processed by search engines, bypassing the need for keywords and instead rewarding sites with content that falls in line with the user’s request.
What’s Changing and How To Take Action for Voice Search
1. Query Length
The length of a keyword search on a keyboard is, not surprisingly, very short. For example, “marketing firm, Atlanta, GA”. However, when using voice search, the search query is much more natural and will look like “Give me a list of marketing firms are in Atlanta Georgia.”
Take action by testing out longer keyword phrases that are more conversational. While broad or phrase match targeting may help account for these longer keywords, it’s not necessarily conversational and may not cover the way people search with voice.
Natural language more clearly defines the intent of the user. As opposed to searching the shortest keyword “dishwashers”, I will now more clearly define my intent with voice search by saying “where to buy dishwashers in Atlanta, GA”.
Take action by identifying your highest value phrases tailor keywords, ad copy, and landing pages to these phrases.
3. Quick Results With Quick Actions
Voice search will continue to trigger more quick answers on the search engine results pages. Users will see reviews, call now button, etc., right on the SERP. They no longer have a need to visit your website to take action.
Take action by ensuring your NAP (name, address, phone number) listings are always up to date. Many sites aggregate that information and they have a great deal of power when the user never leaves the search results page.
4. Voice is Local
Mobile voice search is 3x more likely to be local-based than text search. This is closely related to the fact that most smartphone searches are also local.
Take action by ensuring your local physical presence is a key part of your marketing strategy.
Bonus Voice Search Related Takeaways:
- Businesses need to create a consumer-centric approach to marketing which frames your business through its products and service areas, language, its context, and the intentions of its customers.
- Businesses should be thinking about how to create content that answers questions using voice search and optimize for longer keywords and semantically related keywords. The most important thing to remember as we move toward a bright, new digital future is that these changes will be for the better. They are going to provide more ways to connect with consumers and more opportunities to gain exposure in searches.
- Another area that will have an impact on voice search will be the ‘Internet of Things’. Between wearables and connected household objects, we’re communicating more with objects using voice commands. One of the biggest expectations we have from this specific use of technology is the expectation that it will anticipate our needs – or predictive response.
It’s clear that the marketing and technology industry is undergoing a massive seismic shift. For businesses, staying ahead of (or at least with) the technology curve will be paramount to capitalizing on these positive changes.