What’s the Buzz About Voice Search?

Although searching the internet by using your voice has been around for some time—in a fairly rudimentary form—it’s been picking up steam the last few years. With the introduction and proliferation of voice-powered technology as well as smart speakers (Google Home and Amazon Echo) and voice assistants (such as Google Assistant, Siri by Apple, Cortana by Microsoft and Amazon’s Alexa) searching by voice is here to stay.

The Growing Popularity of Searching by Voice

Here are some facts for you to mull over:

Before You Begin Panning For Gold—A Note of Caution

Every company will need to prepare for the voice revolution that’s coming. For marketers, it may not take over all of search, but it will definitely grab a big slice of the search pie. So marketers should already be taking their first steps within SEO to prepare for it (more on how to prepare in part 2 of this blog series). For paid search, at this point, it’s not clear how voice search will be monetized as it’s less likely that a consumer will tolerate much in the way of ads before hearing the answer to their query when using a voice assistant (unlike current voice and non-voice search queries in which answers are shown and they display several ads before and after the search engine results).

In an interesting article for SearchEngineLand Bryson Meunier argues that there will be limited marketing opportunities with voice search because when it comes to voice assistants and smart speakers, the vast majority of the time, the queries are not about searching for information per se, but for playing music, turning lights on and off, setting timers, alarms and so on. At least this is what he found when he analyzed his own families usage, but he also points to a study by National Public Radio and Edison Research where they cite that the number one reason for using a voice assistant is to play music. It seems there’s a lot of cooks who don’t want to wash their hands before changing the music.

Currently, for Google, the only opportunities for marketers are for Actions on Google (a listing of skills that people can ask Google to do, for example, a company can give the recipe for making a banana caramel cheesecake), Facts & Info and Local Guide. And since the vast majority of the search queries aren’t valuable to business (i.e. play music), the opportunity for marketers is fairly limited.

That being said, I was just in a store last week trying to find a comparable product to the battery I was trying to replace as the store didn’t carry the same brand.

I asked the stock person a question and he pulled out a phone in which he searched by voice to see which product in store was comparable. He got his answer and I bought. Even though I didn’t think to do the search on my own phone to resolve my problem, as part of great customer service, he did. And he got the answers easily, right when I needed the help to buy. SEO marketers should take note. It’s not always about researching a product ahead of time, but could be about satisfying a customer need during the shopping experience. And when they search, you’ll need to come up if you’re going to compete.

Although of the total searches, the searches that are relevant to business may be small, there will be stiff competition to provide the answers or to help the consumers (or to advertise if voice search goes this way) to buy your product. The same NPR and Edison Research study also found that respondents were using smart speakers to buy and/or research products (although currently Amazon benefits the most):

  • 31% added an item to their cart so they could review it later for purchase.
  • 29% researched an item they might want to purchase.
  • 22% reordered an item they have previously purchased.
  • 22% ordered a new product that they have not purchased previously.

Thus, although the opportunity will be low, the competition will be fierce. So it’s best to start getting prepared now for the voice search revolution. Need help? Contact us now (and read Part 2 of our blog series).