The last year — even the last six months — has seen an exponential increase in the adoption, acceptance and usage of voice search technology. Google has revealed that 20% of searches are now voice searches, and Siri receives 2 million voice queries a week.
What should marketers be doing right now, and how can they prepare for the massive opportunities in local marketing that voice search offers?
In a recent Digital Marketing Depot webinar sponsored by Rio SEO, voice search experts from Rio SEO, MindMeld and iProspect took a deep dive into the state of voice search today and in the future. Each offered their best tips for on-page content strategies to optimize for voice search, personalizing content at the local level, and meeting consumer needs with accurate, complete data.
Sophia Elson, Marketing Director, MindMeld
As technology has evolved to meet our expectations, our expectations have also evolved and now, consumers simply expect that voice and natural language-driven technologies will be as accurate as the human voice.
By 2020, it’s estimated that over 200 million searches per month will be vocal. All of this activity is driving the self-perpetuating cycle that is AI; the more it’s used, the more data there is to train the machine, the more accurate it becomes and the more it’s accepted.
MindMeld conducted two surveys of smartphone users recently across the US and saw that significantly more than half of users, in all age groups, use voice assistants and search.
Even those aged 65 and older are trying voice search! Users are putting voice search to use more frequently, as well. Many now use it daily or weekly to get results to their queries faster (voice search results come back 3x faster than other types of search) and when they need to be hands-free.
There’s room for improvement, Elson said. In a recent survey, 13% of users indicated they’re dissatisfied with voice search. We tend to think of voice as an on-the-go service, but the leading use case is actually in the home, with 43% of respondents saying that’s where they use it. Voice needs to work in transit, but also across multiple devices in the home and at work.
So what happens next? Elson recommends that forward-thinking marketers:
- Utilize voice and language technology to spread outside the confines of smartphones, and include messaging apps even outside of tech by brands like Dominos, Whole Foods and others.
- Pay close attention and begin strategizing now for use cases in your own business in the future.
Steve Beatty, Head of Owned Media, iProspect
What is Google afraid of? Beatty opened his discussion with this quote from Amit Singhal, former SVP at Google, whose job was recently replaced by AI.
“…has actually made us very vulnerable because the future is nowhere close to what we earned over 12 years of hard work… We are having to start from scratch again.”
What could he have been talking about? Surprisingly, it was this: mobile. It’s an area in which Google has clearly excelled, and yet they were afraid at one point of the challenges it posed.
Marketers too need to get right with mobile and understand both declared intent and inferred intent, Beatty said. Declared intent is determined by the actual language in the query, while inferred intent includes signals like location, time of day, history and more. To capture a searcher in their moment of need, marketers need to have optimized, relevant, local content to answer these voice searches on consumers’ moments of needs.
He recommends that marketers:
- Look beyond Google-only when you’re focusing on voice search. Bing has revealed that 1 in 4 searches per day on their platform are voice searches.
- Focus on local-mobile. eMarketer predicts that 141 billion local searches via mobile will take place each year by 2019.
- Consider that the future of voice might not mean search engines, but content layers. Search engines are behind the scenes surfacing content but the intersection of voice, content and AI is going to be critical in future.
- Understand that Local Home Voice means a consumer won’t even need to have a device in their hands to speak their needs and expect that those will be fulfilled.
- Prepare for the acceleration of indexing of voice content. Keywords will still be important, but proximity relevance will become more important.
- Ask of your brand: what is our local opportunity? Do we need local content right now? What is the opportunity for us to build local voice content in our vertical?
What can you do right now? Beatty advises that his company and its clients have seen great success at:
Tyler Ludwig, Director of Product, Rio SEO
How does voice search tie into local? In a big way, said Ludwig. Brands need to make sure their presence is seen in every logical place online; accurate information across the local ecosystem is key. As searchers are using voice to answer their immediate needs, brands must ensure the information they’re returning through search engines, apps, social sites, directories, review sites and more is complete and up to date.
- Ensure each location has its own landing page. Google is using location to determine which result to show searchers.
- Integrate conversational language into web content, through reviews, nearby points of interest, geographically accurate language, etc.
- Capture users in their moments of need by being present with in-car GPS providers, identifying sources for personal assistants, using reviews to your advantage, and integrating local information across platforms.
- Identify trends from your Google search console and compare desktop & mobile queries to better understand your content optimization opportunities.
- Take a local lens to your web analytics to understand where people are searching and how they’re landing on your landing page. This allows you to create really hyperlocal content (consider the proximity but differences between San Francisco and Oakland, for example).
- Use a comprehensive local reporting tool to fully understand how your brand is represented across the local ecosystem and identify opportunities to optimize campaigns.
Local landing pages are key, Ludwig said. Cortana, Alexa and other voice search applications are pulling data from these most relevant places on the web, and you need to make sure you’re feeding them the best information.
Mobile-friendliness is key, and using photos, consumer generated content, reviews and other engaging content creates a “sticky” experience that will keep consumers with you from voice search, all the way to conversion.
National retailers and brands with hundreds of locations can even use their search analytics to help make business decisions around expansion. Local data including voice search has applications far beyond the local level.
Voice search is becoming so prevalent that it’s not unrealistic to expect that every app will one day have some voice functionality. Is your brand prepared to capitalize on voice? Failing to do so isn’t just a missed opportunity, but a failure to meet consumer’s express expectations.
Watch the Webinar recording