The rise in smartphones and digital/home assistants (Google Home, Amazon Echo, etc.), and improvements to voice recognition via machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), and AI are a clear indication that the use of voice search will be increasing in the very near future. Like many other technologies before it, voice search is primed to affect how consumers search, the way in which brands adjust their SEO and content strategies, and how both consumers and the brands that serve them must adjust their overall thinking when it comes to how to win (or even remain relevant) in search.
During the height of holiday shopping season in 2017 (Thanksgiving/Black Friday), three of the four top-selling items in Amazon’s electronics category were various Echo models, suggesting 2018 will see these and similar devices installed in more homes than ever before. This, coupled with how prevalent smartphones with voice-search-enabled technology are and the advancements within voice search (machine learning and AI), could make or break whether or not the adoption of this technology is at the volume at which marketers and brands need to take serious action and adjust their strategies. It is important to remain aware of these technologies and become an early adopter of new methodologies and strategies that will align with consumer expectations and behaviors. Here are some stats that show how voice search is quickly becoming a primary focus for some:
• According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report in 2016, voice searches increased more than 35-fold between 2008 and 2016.
• According to Location World, more than 40% of adults used voice-based search on a daily basis in 2016.
• Predictions by ComScore estimate that more than 50% of searches will be voice-based by 2020.
The more specific effects on consumers will include shorter /more conversational search quires, audio-only search, shorter interactions, more competition for top search results, and more localized results. Whether or not this shift in how the consumer will be searching and its effects on the marketers trying to gain their attention and loyalty is a net positive or negative remains to be seen. It does, however, require all parties—including marketers, brands, and the consumer—to be primed and ready for the implications of this new format as well as the new ways we will structure strategies moving forward.
So what can we do now to prepare for the inevitable continued rise of voice search, digital assistants, smart speakers, and better AI? There are many tactics and strategies that can be explored and implemented today that will put your brand’s message in front of the desired consumer when performing voice searches. Marketers need to audit their current strategies and make sure they are optimized for voice queries and long-tail keywords (and balance the amount of head keywords, long-tail keywords, and general topic targets). SEO strategies should take a hyper-local focus, as locally based search continues to grow.
The increasing adoption of voice-enabled products and tech, as well as more mature and conversational machine learning, NLP, and AI, will put anyone who chooses to ignore or devalue a voice search strategy at a disadvantage. Understanding more fully the nuances of voice search and how it will help search engines and marketers do a better job of helping the consumer find exactly what they are looking for is imperative to any strategy moving forward.