Do you use Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Shazam, SoundHound, or Google Now to conduct voice searches? I use voice queries all the time—for search information, directions, to make phone calls, send text messages, ask questions, etc. Even more importantly, my ten-year-olds intuitively opt for voice queries or commands over typing. Think that doesn’t show you the path to the future—think again. Chances are good that if you’re not yet using voice search, you’ve just not discovered how stinking awesome it is.
Voice Search is on the Rise
Whether or not you’re a devotee of voice search, your customers are. Google reports that 20 percent of all mobile queries are voice searches. Google’s Mobile Voice Study reported that 5 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults use voice search every day. Why voice search? That’s an easy one—people want information. That device in their hands? It’s an information machine. And when they can talk to their information machines and get answers, it’s a beautiful thing for them. When they can talk to their information machines and get answers that lead them to you and whatever it is you sell, that’s a beautiful thing for you.
What’s even more beautiful, to marketers anyway, is that whether your business is a small local one or a large national chain, you can get a lot of traction by leveraging local search with a mobile mindset—and factoring voice search into the equation will only make you even better at it. Why focus on local intent? The data is pretty clear …
Source: Think With Google Research
How Voice Assistants and AI Are Changing Everything
“Voice assistants” and the artificial intelligence (AI) that powers them—are built into smartphones, refrigerators, robots like Amazon Echo, TVs, and even your car—and they are changing everything about the way consumers search. Search engines have evolved to better understand longer, more specialized searches, and natural language processing capabilities continue to evolve in the process. What is vitally important to businesses as a result is simple—56 percent of all mobile searches have local intent. Mobile voice search, for example, is three times more likely to have local intent than somebody manually keying in text, which closely mirrors the fact that most smartphone searches are local anyway.
As more voice searches take on a local focus, it’s also important to realize that more searches in general are going to be fueled by voice search. My ten-year-olds’ natural disposition toward voice search is actually common in the younger generation. Tom Anthony shared a great example of voice searches his daughter had done on his smartphone while he was at SMX Munich in March of 2016:
Thrive Analytics is one of the few companies conducting research on the use of voice search by age group. Their study confirms that young people are all in—with 71 percent of 18-29 year olds and 59 percent of 30-43 year olds using voice search.
Voice Search and Your Marketing Strategies
Marketers must realize that voice search is here to stay, and its adoption is growing at a rapid pace. Content—whether it’s content on a corporate website, in blog content, in search engine ad campaigns and beyond—should be shifting toward marketing with a more “natural speak” approach than ever before, thinking about natural language queries that make sense to a conversational human rather than a search robot. For example, instead of thinking so much about relevancy and keywords, you’re going to want to think more about geo-relevancy, and mentions of landmarks such as stadiums, or neighborhoods such as “Brookside” or “Hell’s Kitchen.”
Think about how you would search on a desktop or mobile device versus using voice search. For instance, on a desktop I might type in “Chuck Taylors Kansas City” when I want to find a new pair of Converse sneakers. If I’m using voice search, it’s highly likely my query would sound like this: “Where can I find some Chuck Taylors near me.” See the difference? This is an example of natural language queries and important for marketers to factor into their search and marketing strategies. Note that in my Google query screen captured below, the search engine knows that “Chuck Taylor” is a slang term for Converse sneakers. What you can’t see from the screen shot is that below the ads, Kohls, JC Penney, and Shoe Carnival, all national brands with locations that happen to be near where I am as I write this article, appear as search results.
Speaking of near me, Google knows where you are, so even if your query has a specific location in it, the results you’re served will be specific to where the search engine knows you are. Cool? Creepy? Yes. But convenient, which is what most consumers are interested in.
What Marketers Can Do to Embrace Voice Search
So where do we go from here? Start thinking about the differences between text queries and voice queries. Text queries are generally short keyword phrases, while voice queries tend to be more conversational and longer. Develop your website and blog content with this in mind, answering questions that are “who” and “what” related in a natural, conversational way. Develop your search engine marketing ad campaigns using action-related keywords.
It’s also going to be important to realize that local search is more likely to return options to users that will allow them to complete their intent without actually going to your website. So using things like “call now” or “book now” buttons, and reviews from crowdsourced sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor are going to have an impact on action. Case in point: I rented a boat this last weekend because of a review I read on TripAdvisor, using information provided by TripAdvisor to reach the boat captain.
It’s critically important that your business’s hours of operations, phone number, and address are always up-to-date and that you’re maximizing the power of business listings and keeping them up-to-date as well. In addition, responding not only promptly but also appropriately to customer reviews from third-party sites can also have an impact on whether or not you attract visitors, let alone convert and make customers out of them.
The Future of Voice Search
As artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to evolve and as the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes more widely adopted, voice search will likewise evolve and grow in popularity. Imagine the convenience of a future where your smartphone and virtual assistant know more about you than you know about yourself. Maybe it’s a Monday morning, 9:00am, and you’re just walking out of your second meeting with a little time to kill before the next one. Suddenly, your voice assistant asks: “are you hungry?”
If you say “yes,” your voice assistant will pull up a list of local cafes that meet specific parameters, including how quick service is, whether it’s a preferred location of yours, whether or not you can make it there, order, and make it back in time for your next scheduled meeting—tons of things specific to you and your situation. This is called predictive response, and represents the not-too-distant future of voice search.
Voice search is happening now, with millions of queries taking place on a daily basis. Make sure that as you’re developing your marketing strategies, especially your local marketing strategies, that you’re taking into consideration how prospective customers use, or might use voice search, and model your strategies accordingly.
Image credit: StockSnap.io