Voice: The Future of Search
“Alexa, can you write this blog post for me?” Amazon’s amazing tech that everyone seems to have in their homes probably could write a blog post, but I assure you…I didn’t cheat on this one. Of all of the changes that we’ve seen in search marketing in the last few years nothing quite compares to the implications of voice technology on search. 2020 has long been predicted as the year that voice eclipses traditional text-based search. On the verge of 2020, it certainly looks to be tracking to that prediction. So what does this mean for voice search in marketing for the coming year? Let’s get into it.
The nuts and bolts of machine learning
There’s something very interesting to consider right off the bat. Despite all of the platforms (Siri, Alexa, Google Home, Cortana) effectively working in the same manner they do, in fact, use different search algorithms. Thus, they will likely provide somewhat different responses to the same questions. This is also a function of the machine learning that runs behind the scenes on each platform. They are all competing to provide the most user-friendly responses to our inquiries. It’s really a very interesting bit of technology that is working to make all this happen. These devices use speech recognition technology to understand the voice inputs of a searcher. After that, machine learning and natural language processing take over to ultimately provide you with the response. Super futuristic…also is super helpful. But of course, it makes life just a little more difficult for SEO experts.
Fundamental differences between text and voice search in marketing
Fundamentally the process of voice search in marketing is really the same as text-based search with a subtle difference – people don’t speak the way they type. Search marketers have to be aware of this variation in speech patterns and apply it to the content that’s being created. While it isn’t necessarily difficult, it’s something that we will need to account for and potentially apply it in reverse. Think about all of that content created and optimized for text-based search – will it perform as well for voice?
The structure of our content and framework of our sites might be adapted at some point as well. After all, the victory in voice search is to be concise. This is not exactly the case in text-based searching.
There is also a very interesting generational consideration that needs to be accounted for. For instance, voice search opens the floodgates for a much larger percentage of the boomer generation to be targeted in search. Conversely, there is a much younger persona that previously couldn’t use text-based search. Combine this with the proliferation of inexpensive voice platforms and we have the makings of a large-scale shift in the way we gather information.
What are people searching for?
This brings us to the less-subtle variation from traditional text-based search. Not only do people speak differently than they type, but as it turns out they are also using voice assistants differently than the old search bar. First and foremost, voice queries tend to be longer than their text-based counterparts. If you think about it, this makes sense. We are largely more comfortable speaking than we are typing and this shows in the data. It also seems that in the past year quite a significant chunk of the voice-searching population used their queries for grocery shopping orders! And a large chunk of the voice-searching population started queries with the same 25 keywords.
My perspective on this is elemental: voice search is still in its relative infancy and the bulk of the population doesn’t really know the full breadth of the service. As a result, people will use the platform for its low hanging fruit…for now.
But we can be certain that the adoption of voice search will only expedite in the coming year. Manufacturers are making sure of it – and production is ramping up accordingly.
What does it mean for marketers?
Well, it’s like every other Martech advancement: monetization will ultimately determine the technology’s trajectory. Will we be served ads? Yup. Will other advertising formats target us based on our voice-search history? Yup. Will we buy things directly through our voice assistants? Absolutely. As a result, you can be sure that SEOs and other digital marketers are quickly beefing up capabilities around voice search.
However, we have to be hyper-focused on the experience because that is another KEY difference between text-based search and voice. When we ask Alexa or Siri a question we expect a fairly straight forward answer…not be redirected to a web search. Early in the learning process marketers must understand the current limitations of the tool, and the proposed advancements coming down the pike…and create campaigns accordingly.
As a consumer it’s all very exciting, but still a little foreign. This is the biggest opportunity for marketers if I’m being honest. A great campaign would be for a company to educate its consumers on how to use voice search to help themselves on behalf of its products and/or services! Go ahead, steal that idea..it’s a good one! Because in reality I plan to keep asking Alexa what the weather is today.
So now what?
Well, this piece is written as a resource for marketers – so my suggestion is straightforward: Get out there and learn as much as you can about voice search, particularly as it pertains to proper optimization of your content. As we move forward through 2020, we can be sure that our methodologies around content creation will change as a direct result of voice search.
After that, figure out how to build unique campaigns leveraging this new technology. Just think of all the things you can ask your persona to simply “ask for” 😉