In this opinion piece, Performics Australia performance content account director Steve Robinson (pictured below) dives into the hazy relationship between marketers and voice-activated technology.
From settling family disputes, (“Hey Google, are fossil fuels really made from dinosaur bones?”) to running a household, (“OK Google, add toothpaste to my shopping list”), voice-activated systems are becoming more entrenched in family homes around Australia.
Google Home, the first to hit the local market in mid-2017, was a popular gift at Christmas.
Now, Apple HomePod and Amazon Echo are adding to the noise, giving consumers more options around aligning a smart device with the technology they already use within their homes.
The growing popularity of voice activated devices marks a new paradigm for marketers.
Just as mobile heralded a new era for location-based search, voice activated search is shifting the goal posts once more, with tactics like optimising for featured snippets and ‘near me’ phrases coming to the fore.
We’re entering a new era, in which marketers need to start optimising for voice – to help vocal searchers to find what they’re looking for. Have you started?
Following the US Lead
In the US, it’s estimated that the number of voice-enabled digital assistant users will rise by 14.1 per cent to 69 million in 2018, with 45.4 million of these users relying on smart speakers*.
Whether it’s via their smartphone or smart speaker, US consumers are using voice-enabled technology for things like: online searches (69 per cent), asking questions (67 per cent), making a call (61 per cent), finding a local business (58 per cent) and product research (53 per cent).
According to Google, the vast majority of people (72 per cent) who have a voice-activated device use it as part of their daily routine.
They see their virtual assistant as a means to multitask, get things done faster and find answers in an instant.
As the US experience shows, these devices are behaviour-changing. It won’t be long before voice-activated search hits its stride in Australia, and marketers need to be ready for it.
Challenges and Opportunities of Voice Search
The rise of voice search will require a shift in tactics for marketers who currently invest in SEO. Think about it. Voice-activated search doesn’t use Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
There’s no screen to scroll down; no scanning search results. Rather, your handy home assistant will throw up one answer – that from the holy grail of SEO, ‘position zero’.
Featured snippets (that is, position zero) are key to voice search success.
And figuring out how to rise above all the noise and get your search results up top is going to be a key challenge for marketers – particularly given that there is still no way of accurately determining which query will land at which featured snippet.
It’s still a volatile space; but by being aware of its importance now, you’re one step ahead in the race for voice search rankings.
Another challenge – given the infancy of voice search in the Australian market – is knowing how consumers will use their smart device to search up businesses or brands.
Will they be using it to order a pizza? Find out what time the local shopping centre closes? Look up a recipe and order the ingredients? Research new dishwashers when theirs breaks down?
Or, like mobile search, will we see a continuing trend for ‘near me’ and ‘opening hours’ type phrases to be used?
Early data coming from voice search says that these types of phrases will continue to be used, but may be woven into lengthier questions.
Instead of typing into a browser “Domino’s opening hours” you might ask, “What time is Domino’s open until?”
We’re seeing much longer search queries emerge, as well as the rise of long-tail search queries. This cool study from the States found 41.7 per cent of searchers use 5+ words; and 96.5 per cent of search queries have less than 50 searches per month.
In other words, they are longer and quite unique. These stats line up nicely with how users search via voice.
Voice Search Results
And we’re also seeing data emerge around how voice search works. This study on voice search SEO measures a range of SEO ranking factors – like PageSpeed, Schema
and HTTPS – and throws up some interesting results. For example, Google prefers concise answers to voice search queries, with the average result being just 29 words in length – and it’s written in language aimed at 9th graders. In other words, short and simple.
With voice search, things are changing fast. Marketers must keep a keen eye on the data that is being collected about how people are using voice-activated systems.
The good news is this data is growing day by day, presenting an opportunity to start putting plans in place to enable your brand to get a clear lead in the voice search revolution.
Brands need to start the research now and be ahead of their competition when it comes to voice search. This will be a game changer in Australia so now is the time to get on board.
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