The evolution of marketing: why voice search will disrupt more than mobile

Marketing in the hands-free era is almost upon us. Google’s voice recognition accuracy is now at 95% in its ability to understand what you say. Now, says Chris Schimkat in this guest post, is the time to adjust strategy to optimise for voice search.

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Even if it isn’t clear just yet, the biggest disruption to marketing since mobile is on the cusp of a monolithic rise to centre stage. In fact, voice search has been making its way towards some impressive user statistics that closely resemble those at the beginning of the mobile era.

It may come as a shock to many, but 41% of adults and more than half of the teenage population use voice commands on a daily basis.

As data released by Google shows, over 41% of users used voice search for the first time within the past 6 months — this sort of uptake doesn’t just point towards a change in the digital marketing sphere, but to the dawn of a new era in marketing, and what is being touted as the ‘death of the keyboard’.

voice-search-chris-schimkat-voice-use-graph

Although it has myriad of uses, it is the size of the ever-growing user base that specifically uses voice search for connecting with products, services, and information that is most exciting for businesses.

Voice search will create as much disruption over the next decade as mobile has in the past decade.

How users are connecting with brands through voice search

To better understand how we can utilise this new medium as marketers, we must first understand how consumers are utilising voice search. Although voice search closely mimics traditional text input search (like a Google Search), there are a number of unique considerations and opportunities that voice search presents.

This calls for digital marketers to make a big shift in their thinking. This article aims to highlight those differences, and also explain how businesses can prepare to pivot in the wake of these exciting new opportunities.

[Source: Google Australia, 2014]

What information are users looking for?

Users will rarely ask their voice input platform a question that they don’t think it will be able to answer. With this in mind, users will generally make verbal requests that they know an app on their smartphone will already have the answer to.

For this reason, many searches involve queries directed at Google Maps, Youtube, music apps, shopping and local businesses.

Because users are confident that if the request is given to a platform that supports voice input (eg. Google Assistant, Siri, Google Home or Cortana), the device will have the app required to fulfil that request.

Many voice requests at present involve telling the device to provide directions, contact someone, find a video and, increasingly, to request information that aligns with what Google calls Micro Moments.

To those who may be new to the concept, Micro Moments refer to the types of queries placed by users that businesses need to capitalise on to get in front of motivated users through their respective search journey.

Typical examples include: I want to knowI want to go; I want to buy, and I want to do moments where users have a demand that needs to be fulfilled.

Demand fulfilment marketing (as opposed to demand generation) is the key concept that marketers will need to master in the voice search era. It works as follows:

  1. A user has a need
  2. The user searches for the solution to their need (in the form of a product, service or information).
  3. A business’ products or services are identified as the solution to this need and is engaged to fulfil that need.

More long-tail searches

For those not well-versed in search marketing, long string search terms are searches that include a large number of words. For instance, a short-tail query may be “car insurance”, whereas a long-tail version of this query could be “cheapest car insurance for people over 55 years old”.

In traditional search marketing, popular search terms are generally these abridged short tail versions of full queries. This is because users are lazy or time poor, and thus, type fewer words in their queries to save time or effort (because typing more than two words can seem like a cumbersome task to a slow typer).

Conversely, with voice search, users don’t feel as constricted as they do when typing with a keyboard. Correspondingly, voice search is delivering a higher number of long-tail search terms.

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[Source: Google Australia, 2014]

As an example, fewer people will search ‘coffee shops near me’, and instead they now may ask ‘find me a local coffee shop with good reviews’. While long-tail keywords are on the radar for most search marketers, they will require more attention than ever before.

What are consumers using to make voice searches?

Most users are familiar with Siri (for Apple Devices), Google Assistant (for Android and Google Devices) and Microsoft Cortana (for Windows Devices). At face value, voice activated personal assistants may not appear to have made big changes in the past couple of years. But in fact, they have come ahead in leaps and bounds with their ability to accurately interpret what we’re saying, and have massively improved the quality of responses returned.

Google’s voice recognition now boasts 95% accuracy in its ability to understand what you say, even if you speak ‘Strayan‘.

Some new voice search queries that you can try out that include colloquial Australian components:

  • OK Google, take me to the nearest Maccas.
  • OK Google, send a message to Darren, are we on for footy this arvo?
  • OK Google, where is the closest servo?
  • OK Google, remind me to buy milk next time I’m at Woolies.
  • OK Google, what’s the temperature like in Brissy?

In the past, the reason that many users have resisted voice input to devices was centred around a lack of accuracy in understanding what a person said. With ever-increasing recognition accuracy, these barriers for use are being torn down and more people are giving voice commands a second chance, just in time for the new wave of voice-activated products.

The new product that I believe will be a catalyst for the proliferation of voice search is Google Home.

This product (which is yet to be released in Australia), sits idle all day, waiting for you to summon it with a simple “OK Google” before serving your requests. This is what’s known as an ambient device. While there is a plethora of existing ambient devices such as the Xbox One and Amazon’s Echo, what makes Google Home special is the infinite wealth of information and intelligence that it pairs with relatively flawless voice input. This device is like having your own personal assistant on hand with Google open, always ready to answer your questions and find or do what you need.

How to be ready today

Although voice search may appear to be a long way in the future for many businesses, it is here, people are using it and now is the time to start leveraging it.

The only tricky part is, how do you get in front of customers that are literally asking for you? It’s surprisingly easy and the people who can help you are your current digital marketing team.

Disciplines such as SEM and SEO are currently the two primary departments who can help you with voice search because they already have the right tools at their disposal through traditional search.

These are the tools that you will need to start using in order to be seen in voice search:

Search Engine Marketing

  • Bidding for Google Search Ad placements for Google Assistant and Google Home devices
  • Bidding for search placements on Bing for Siri and Cortana (Windows)

Search Engine Optimisation

  • Ranking well in search engines for topics that are highly relevant to your business
  • Using structured data to clearly outline your business’ services, products, service area, contact details and address
  • Ensuring that your local business listings are all accurate with details filled out comprehensively
  • Targeting topics (instead of keywords) to maximise your effectiveness for long-tail keywords (as well as using a content-driven strategy to target long-tail keywords)
  • Simplifying (humanising) language to match how people speak — this will make your copy a closer match to search queries that are made verbally
  • Optimising for answer snippets by including lists or steps that answer a question

With this in mind, you should feel excited instead of intimidated by the inevitable rise of voice search.

I would advise you to discuss these topics with your team to decide what is going to work for your organisation. However, it is crucial to keep up to date with this ever-changing landscape — information used here is only at its most accurate on the day that it’s published.

Anything could change in the coming weeks, months and years.  Remember, he [or she] who is resistant to change is destined to perish. And, with this change comes a big opportunity for those able to proactively respond.

Chris Schimkat is SEO account manager at Alpha Digital.

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