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Voice Search: Is Your Brand Ready?

“Hey Alexa, when was voice search technology invented?”

Voice search technology might seem like a very recent advancement. However, IBM introduced the first digital speech recognition tool in 1961, followed by companies like Carnegie Mellon and Microsoft, but it wasn’t until 2011, when both Apple and Google introduced their voice assistants (Voicebot.ai), that the technology began to gain traction.

Today, many of us often say, “Siri,” “Alexa,” or “Google,” when we ask our smart devices for directions, ratings, recipes, or make smart home requests or ask specific questions. It has truly become a part of our everyday lives. In fact, 62% of those in the U.S. over the age of 12 use voice-operated assistants (Edison Research, 2020). And of those users, 52% use it several times a day or nearly every day (The Smart Audio Report, 2020).

So, why is this important to your brand? Simply put, voice search marketing provides another valuable, and fast-growing, channel for you to connect with your customers. It may also, quite frankly, become the primary way we get our information and shop online in the very near future.

What explains the popularity of voice search?

Smart devices – like smartphones, Bluetooth speakers, and smart wearables – have become mainstream. We rely on these devices to make our lives easier. Combining the connected devices we already use, with the ability to access unlimited amounts of data via voice, is the ultimate convenience tool. Here are some reasons why we love it (Re-Work):

  • It’s quicker than typing and hands free.
  • We’re able to do long tail queries that reflects our natural speech.
  • It’s fast and convenient. We don’t have to go to a computer to access information. We just ask our smart device for what we need.
  • We can avoid confusing website menus.

Who is using voice search for shopping online?

Millennials lead the voice-assisted trend with 39% of them using it to simplify the online shopping experience, followed by Gen Xers (17%) and Baby Boomers (10%). Men still outnumber women in the number of voice searches per month with 66% using a smartphone (vs. 55% women), 53% a  desktop/laptop (vs. 30%), 49% a tablet (vs. 31%), and 46% a smart speaker (vs. 26%) (Re-Work).

Chart showing voice speaker usage by generation.

 

                                        Source: Review42

What search queries are most common in voice search?

Voice queries follow natural patterns of speech and tend to be longer than text. They also tend to be in the form of questions using words such as what, when, why, who, or how. The three most popular question starters used are how, what, and best (Quoracreative).

The most common voice searches on smart speakers are for music (70%), weather forecast (64%), fun questions (53), online search (47%), news (46%), directions (34%), smart home commands (31%), ordering/online shopping (30%), take out food orders (17%), and flight and hotel research (16%) (Adobe Analytics).

Here is where you can make your brand stand out. About 41% of the answer to voice search queries are pulled from “Featured Snippets” on Google (Backlinko), which are short snippets of text that appear at the top of Google’s search results in order to quickly answer a search query.

Snippet of a Google search result showing a Featured Snippet.

 

                                          Source: Google

Also, good page rank is helpful. If your page ranks in the top 3 search results on a non-voice-activated search, there is a 75% chance you could be featured in a voice search result for that same query (Quoracreative). So, it’s important that your website SEO is optimized, but also that it’s optimized for voice search.

<strongWhat brands are currently using voice search marketing?</strong

What’s really exciting to see is what some brands are already doing with the technology. Here are a few cool examples of brands using voice assistance (voicebot.ai):

  • Nike has used voice assistance in combination with their smart sneakers for creative campaigns such as an NBA basketball game-related sneaker sale, but also for connecting their Nike Adapt lacing system, which allows customers to adjust the fit of their sneakers via voice command and also track their run.
  • Walmart introduced voice assistance in their Ask Sam app for employees to get information about products, prices and locations.
  • Automakers, such Mercedes, Honda and Buick, have added built-in Google or Alexa voice search features to their most recent models.
  • The Mayo Clinic developed a voice-activated app to provide accurate health information and food advice.
  • Coca Cola has tied voice assistance to ad campaigns, allowing people to get a free sample of their energy drink or share a personalized bottle with someone’s name on it.
  • US Bank created a voice-activated app that allows users to use the technology to do most of their banking – handling transactions, pulling up bills, and managing their credit cards – all via voice commands.
  • Spotify started to run voice-activated ads that which allowed listeners to get a free sample of a product sent to their home.

Why should I invest in voice search marketing?

We live in a world of instant gratification. Today, few users want to take the time to sit down at a computer or look something up on their phone. We’re busy and we want to be able to access information quickly when and where we need it.

As more brands adopt voice technology and create more ways for users to connect with them, voice search will continue to drive and change consumer behavior. A PwC study found that 57-61% of smart speaker users and 71% of wearable device users predict they’ll be using voice even more in the future.

PwC study question asking people how often they issue commands to their smart devices.

 

                                                    Source: PwC

 According to Google, voice-activated speaker owners want to hear these things from brands:

Google survey of what smart speaker owners want from brands.

 

                              Source: Google

Also, 62% of those who use their voice-activated speaker say they are very likely to purchase something using voice search in the next month.

It is expected that by the early 2020s, 50% of all searches will be voice-activated (comScore), and for online shopping via voice assistance to become a $40B industry by 2022 (Mobile Marketer). 

 What can I do to get my brand get ready now?

While large brands are actively developing new and creative ways to use voice search, you can take small, yet important steps, to help improve your chances of being featured in a voice search result. Here are some quick tips (Re-Work):

  • Make sure you have a secure website that begins with HTTPS. About 70% of Google Home results have this.
  • Make sure your website has quick loading pages. The average voice search result loads in 4.6 seconds.
  • Write in a way that reflects natural language. Think in terms of how a user might ask a question to their smart device.
  • Write posts that are at least 2,000 words long. The average length of a voice search result page is 2,312 words.
  • Create a detailed FAQ page to increase the chances your post will become a Featured Snippet and keep your answers short, as the average voice search result is 29 words.
  • Increase your Domain Authority. The average voice search result page has a 76.8 Ahrefs Domain Rating.
  • Use structured data markup to help Google identify what important in your posts (Entrepreneur).

The reality is that the near future sounds more like a voice assistant and brands need to get ready for it now. You do not want to miss out on a captive audience that’s in-market for your product or service or the opportunity to be considered an authority in your industry. Start by rethinking, restructuring, and optimizing your website content today to fit the voice search format.

Who knows, soon your customers might be saying, “Hey, [INSERT VOICE ASSISTANT NAME HERE], order more [INSERT YOUR PRODUCT NAME HERE] from [INSERT YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE].”

While it may sound like a far-off vision, it is highly possible right now. As voice search becomes more widely used, it could be known as the easiest-to-use channel for shopping, learning, locating, and automating among the endless possibilities for this technology.

About
THE
AUTHOR

Cindy Hernandez is the founder of Ilumas, Inc., a marketing intelligence agency focused on leveling the marketing playing field for small and medium-size businesses that until recently didn’t have the information, tools and insights to compete with bigger brands.

Contact Cindy today at info@ilumas.com or follow her on social.