Voice search, powered by technologies such as Amazon’s Alexa, may still feel like a gimmick, but it’s quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. Voice search isn’t a novelty. It’s already quite popular.
In this article, we’ll explore its incredible growth as voice technology becomes more powerful and more commonplace.
In 2017, about 20% of all mobile searches were voice search instead of text. In 2018, we know that roughly 40% of all adults use voice search at least once every single day.
While actual advertising specific to voice search has yet to come to fruition, there are still ways you can get a leg up on your competition by optimizing your existing strategies for voice search. This gives you a great advantage now on the significant number of voice searches already being made and puts you in the driver’s seat as it becomes more prominent.
Research suggests that 20% of searches via a mobile device in 2017 were voice searches, and approximately 40% of adults used it on a daily basis in 2018. Do you still think you can afford to ignore this trend? We didn’t think so.
There’s no doubt – voice search is the new big player in the field of digital marketing and we’re here to get your ready for it!
And according to Mary Meeker’s annual Internet trends report, which was posted by SearchEngineLand last June, displays that voice search queries are now 35 times larger than they were in 2008. 2008 is widely considered the launch of voice searching technology.
Online Marketers now understand that voice searches matter, and they are taking the time to adapt their online business before they get passed by.
No longer the perceived subplot of some science fiction narrative, it is quickly becoming embedded into the traditional American family’s daily happenings.
- 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information within the last year.
- 46% of voice search users look for a local business daily.
- 27% visit the website of a local business after conducting a voice search.
- 76% of smart home speaker users conduct local searches at least once a week—with 53% performing daily searches.
- 1 in 5 adults uses mobile voice search at least one time per month, according to Global Web Index.
- 22% of smart home speaker owners have made a purchase using their device. (Edison Research)
- 2 of 5 adults perform a voice search at least once a day. (Location World)
50% Of All Searches Will Use Voice By 2020
Further feeding the beast is a statistical search analysis by ComScore which predicts that 50% of all searches will be accomplished by voice search in 2020.
If you spend the next couple of years not regarding voice search as a massive cultural change, you are likely investing in your own demise.
Device Saturation Drives Voice Search
Searching on Siri when it first came out in 2011 on iPhone 4S was hardly a sophisticated undertaking. At the time many dismissed that growth was of any valid concern. Siri was innovative and fun, but often your searches were misinterpreted, leading to all types of inappropriate results. “I said tool stores near me, not pool tours beer me!”
Initial fascination with voice technology capability was often short-lived for some people who did not quite enjoy the technological growing pains. However, innovation and advances were quick to remedy blundering Siri’s one IOS update after another.
Apple was sold on it being the future which led them to an unwavering focus on the advancement and refinement of the technology.
It was not long until Siri’s microscopic pin sized ear was better than your grandmother’s and more sophisticated than your coworker’s.
Google Home Search Data
Back in 2013, Google was not much better than Siri’s debut blunders. In Meeker’s statistics, Google voice capture ability was around 78%.
That may sound high, but the inability to competently capture 20% of a surfer’s voice commands is a recipe for confusion. Google is now above the 90% marker in voice search capture ability and likely headed towards near 100%.
Voice capture technology is almost as reliable as a keyboard search on the Google search traditional platform.
More and more consumers are figuring out that voice search can help them lead simpler lifestyles. The concept of being enslaved by a machine is driving more people than ever to devices which seemingly offer such freedoms.
You no longer have to leave the room during the Cowboys game to grab your laptop to search for a local pizza delivery service. You do not have to look down at your smartphone and navigate a browser while fat thumbing a search for “Starbucks near me.” You can quickly order more diapers while changing a dirty one. Mobile marketing will never be the same.
Google has stated that 20% of all searches are voice related. And Google search statistics regarding voice most certainly entice, and maybe shock, the most successful Internet marketers.
While it is all impressive and astounding, it indeed isn’t surprising.
There are several driving factors in the meteoric rise of voice search trends. When it comes to voice search statistics in 2017, you can expect this trend to continue to rise into 2019 as more and more people become voice device enabled.
Pandora’s box has been opened; the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are evolving to meet the growing demand for voice-enabled devices. Every holiday season, more and more households become voice search enabled.
So what are the products that serve to reshape search logic as we know it?
How Many People Use Voice Search Devices?
By the year 2020, Activate predicts that 21.4 hands-free devices will be in homes. That stat prediction alone should compel any and every marketer in existence to get on board with voice search. But things get even more imperative for marketers with the voice search stats prediction by Voicelabs, who claimed in 2017 that 33 million of these devices would be in circulation.
Were they correct? No! They missed the mark by 12 million. That is to say; their prediction turned out to be short 12 million devices. In 2017 Q4 alone, 18 million smart speaker devices were shipped out, which brought the overall circulation total to 45 million devices.
When voice search stat predictions are not keeping up with the furious trend’s speed, you know you need to prepare. The home voice assistant is here to stay. Every passing holiday season, a new segment of the herd becomes more exposed to the remarkable benefits of having a personal home assistant. It is indeed changing the way search functions. What we are seeing is a massive cultural change happening, and if we are not adapting to it, we are falling behind.
There are over 20 million hands-free device activations on the horizon which is prompting online companies to take a serious look at where their businesses are going to fit in.
Someone is going to be cooking and have raw chicken on their hand and suddenly call out “flower shops that deliver,” the question is, will they be exposed to your flower shop or your competitors?
You do not need to understand the ins-and-outs of every hands-free search device to begin your local search preparation. Just accept that voice search will be an expansive, deeply-reliable, and culturally comfortable search method.
If your business is ill-prepared for the influx of massive home assistant technology, you will suffer the dire consequences.
Who Are The Industry Players?
Amazon Echo Was Top Selling Holiday Item
The Amazon Echo is a top-selling personal voice assistant. With a bevy of marketing campaigns on major network television stations, millions of Amazon Prime users being exposed to the benefits, the Amazon Echo is a massive influence in the voice search market share.
Amazon Echo may be second to Apple’s Siri, but it is not riding in the backseat regarding success. In fact, the Amazon Echo was the top selling product on Amazon.com during the holidays.
Amazon advertises the Echo as a single-function, purely one-dimensional experience. You call out your request or curiosity and seconds later you stand enchanted awaiting your Uber. They also advertise ease of use with their voice capture technology through Alexa (that is what Amazon calls their Siri). Because so many people have this perception of bumbling voice capture environments, Amazon aims to curb such inhibitions by painting them as misconceptions.
Amazon takes on this issue, as well as the poor application of voice capture, brilliantly in their ad campaigns.
Google Home, while a newer kid on the block (not HomePod new, but still newish), must not be overlooked in the voice search market share conversation.
Google is an early adopter artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Google is Google, and that means massive reach, infinite marketing spends, and almost unrivaled influence over consumers. Google’s desktop and mobile search are voice capable, as are their calendars and Google Drive documents. Amazon Echo remains the dominating device, but Google remains the earliest adopter with the most influence to expand in the voice search market share.
Google Home is now making a massive push to flood the market and capture a great deal of Amazon’s surging market share. They are doing so by replicating Amazon Echo’s marketing campaigns. They focus on simplicity and freedom.
Siri is often camouflaged in a sea of mindless, wasteful apps and absolute necessary functions.
You pick up your iPhone because you need to text your business partner or family member or friend. You need to make phone calls.
Those two essential smartphone functions are already buried underneath of app games and calculators and retail store points apps.
The point being, Siri is often a casualty of functional saturation. Additionally, Siri must be activated by the user to operate, which means you must have the iPhone in hand.
While Siri has been the “rock” of AI voice assistants in the market, the recent uprising in competition by Amazon and Google have cast a shadow over it.
Siri can hold court due to it being the primary personal assistant function on the world’s most popular device, the iPhone. However, it has found itself losing market share due to having to have the iPhone device on hand to use.
This is Apple, and they are about to remedy all of this.
First, it should be noted that Apple recently announced a massive hiring plan for 2019. The new tax plan, Apple’s renewed promise to bring in billions of off-shore dollars back into the states, and their subtle loss of AI market share are all likely contributors to Apple’s plan to expand employees.
Yes, they have billions of dollars and a new motivation to upgrade Siri so you can expect massive technological advances.
Wait, you thought Apple was just going to rest on their laurels?
Siri’s main weakness and apparent strength both reside in the fact that she is located on the iPhone.
Most people use an iPhone. However, new personal assistants do not require the device to be in hand. On February 10th, Siri moved into your hands-free living room space.
While many believe they have focused on the music/speaker aspect of the Homepod, it will also serve as a smart assistant. What could go wrong with the HomePod? Once again, Apple is playing to their extensive following of loyal iPhone users.
If you do not have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you cannot set it up.
I am not sure if it will be possible to set it up using a MacBook Pro, it seems senseless that you will not be able to. However, there is no confirmation either way.
The HomePod will set up in seconds, but it is not about to allow for non-sanctioned Apple use.
Apple realizes its monstrous market positioning, so it is willing to take a few bumps and bruises in disallowing non-IOS folks access.
Here are some simple tactics to improve your existing digital marketing strategies to account for voice search.
Focus on Conversational Keywords
Think about how most people use text search versus voice search. Using a keyword, you might enter something like “Philadelphia bakery”. By using voice search, you’ll probably say “Find me a bakery in Philadelphia”. The difference is subtle, but it’s important. Think about how people would ask questions relevant to your business via voice search, and what it would sound like conversationally.
Inevitably, you’ll end up with a substantial list of long-tail keywords. You’ll want to create content around these conversational long-tail keywords and keep the tone conversational and natural. Additionally, you should consider developing a fleshed-out knowledge base. These allow you to put common questions right on your page, giving you a chance to grab traffic from people asking those exact same questions.
See What’s Already Working
One of your very first steps should be to see what traffic you’re already getting from voice searches. As long as you have an AdWords account, it’s extremely simple. Simply download a search query report and filter search terms for the most commonly used voice search assistants. Specifically, you should look for “OK Google”, “Siri”, and “Alexa”.
With this list in hand, you’ll see the phrases that drive voice search users to your website. It’s not important to focus on every single term, but you’ll be able to take a strong guess at what they were trying to say. Use this information to figure out what long-tail phrases are important to focus on.
At the same time, use this information to build your negative phrase list. If you’re seeing any search traffic driven that isn’t really relevant, pull the common phrases among them and add them to your negative list.
Refresh Your Local SEO Strategy
Google doesn’t provide information on exactly how many voice searches are local, but consider how people use voice search. You might be hands-free in a car looking for a local restaurant, or on the run looking for an answer right away. There’s no doubt that improving your existing local SEO strategy will also benefit your voice search strategy. You can do this easily by reviewing the following advice:
- Take control of your online presence– verify your page on platforms like Yelp, Untappd, or whatever is appropriate for your business. Encourage reviews and respond to inquiries. This enhances your presence on these platforms and also in search results.
- Include relevant local terms in your SEO strategy– for voice especially, include conversational terms in addition to proper names. For example ‘San Fran’ instead of San Francisco, or ‘Philly’ instead of Philadelphia. Think about what locals the area and let that dictate your strategy.
- Add location pages– this is important especially if you have multiple locations. Include hours, directions and contact info, reviews, anything you think will be important for people on the run.
- Mobile optimization– local searches tend to be mobile, and sites that aren’t optimized get penalized heavily.
More On Local Voice Search
Voice search and local search go together like a toddler’s hands and mittens. In my recent local SEO service trends and tips for 2019 roundup with industry experts, local voice search was a common theme.
Consumers are being trained by the likes of Amazon and Apple to just shout out their needs and expect expedited local solutions to accommodate them.
People are not afraid of the machine anymore; they have gone beyond a period of discomfort and hesitance and into a place of comfort and instantaneous gratification. When we consider the full scope of voice search, we eventually break it down to a consumer being able to gratify a search need without ever having to pull away from decorating the Christmas tree.
The question for online marketers has now become, “will my goods or services fill the need?”
Voice search optimization is a hot topic that I will break down in another article.
It is most certainly a question many online marketers are now asking themselves and maybe even aloud.
Local voice search is an interruptive consumer behavior based on questions and answers that are changing the way traditional optimization is approached.
Many SEO’s are finding themselves shell-shocked by a conventional search disfigurement and scrambling to adapt. Technology, search engines included, move with furious and reckless paces that often leave inattentive digital marketers in pandemonium.
The good news is, you are not late for the inauguration of your adaption process into voice search. However, the clock is ticking which means the time is now to better adjust to an apparent future that is local voice search.
The Impact of Voice Search on Businesses
Voice search is gaining in popularity as we speak. You might not have realized it yet, but it will play an enormous role when it comes to the organic growth rate of small and medium-sized businesses, as well as bigger enterprises.
Still not convinced? Then you must have missed the fact that 22% of people who use smart speakers have made a purchase via their devices. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
Let’s first take a look at who uses voice search the most, why and what for.
Who Is Using Voice Search?
Millennials use voice search nearly as much as baby boomers and Gen Xers combined. However, in 2018, the two older generations have caught up with the millennials, so the number of voice commands was similar for all three generations.
It should be mentioned, though, that the environments in which people feel comfortable enough to use voice search differ substantially according to age. Namely, those younger than 24 (now dubbed as Gen Z) were 33% more likely to use voice search in public places, that are by many often considered taboo (such as a public restroom, mind you), as opposed to those older than 24 who prefer to use voice commands in a more private settings.
This tendency younger generations have to use voice commands in public and on wearable devices indicates that people will turn to voice search even more in the future.
The Benefits of Voice Search
The novelty of voice search is definitely not wearing off and the reasons are many. Aside from it being fun (let’s face it – it is fun), people use voice search because it helps with:
- Daily routine– Google revealed that 72% of people consider their voice-activated speakers a crucial part of their everyday lives. Voice search is a great tool that can help you browse for anything that comes to mind without interrupting your daily flow. Virtual assistants are slowly replacing handwritten notes and are increasingly used for routine tasks, such as setting reminders, creating to-do lists, or checking commute times. Moreover, they are often placed in the living room to be even more accessible.
- Multitasking– Being able to look something up while keeping your hands busy is a true game-changer. Let’s say you are in the middle of preparing a delicious pie but can’t seem to remember a crucial ingredient. Using voice commands to check the recipe when your hands are covered in flour is much more convenient than any alternative. Considering, it is no wonder 34% of people use voice search while driving – they don’t have to stop to check directions or to get search for a business address.
- Instant feedback– It goes without saying that the majority of people are much faster when it comes to talking than typing, especially when using a touchpad. Plus, it is easier to ask questions out loud when we are on the go and get immediate feedback.
Why Would Anyone Use Voice Search?
Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps – music requests, asking for directions, checking the weather forecast, looking up contact numbers, setting the alarm clock… need I continue?
People who use voice search technology and artificial intelligence are embracing the opportunity to look up and interact with various brands and business just by using their voice. This implies an increase in direct day-to-day interaction between customers and services offered by both the local enterprises and global corporations alike.
Furthermore, searchers frequently use voice commands to find additional information on local businesses, such as their address, directions and phone number. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that the top five things people search for using their voice are restaurants and cafes, grocery stores, food delivery, clothing stores, hotels, and bed & breakfasts. Voice commands are utilized to make a restaurant reservation, book a medical appointment or a beauty treatment, and to inform themselves about prices.
With a potential customer base of 53% voice search users performing local searches every day, it is high time businesses got on board and reaped the benefits of having their brand appear first in voice search results.
How to Prepare and Optimize for Voice Search Results?
Don’t Forget the Human Element
There is a big difference in the way people speak as opposed to the way they type when searching for information. If a person is looking to buy a new washing machine for their home, they’d probably type in “washing machine brands”, but if they wanted to use voice search, they’d say something along the lines of “What is the best washing machine brand?”
Therefore, try focusing on questions and word formations people might actually ask, which are related to your target keywords. When optimizing, try to think of long-tail keywords and conversational phrases to ensure the discoverability of your business.
Create FAQ pages
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages can do wonders for your voice search optimization. Leave room on your site for an FAQ section or an elaborate knowledge base. Content archives such as these can be a deciding factor in the never-ending ranking race, since they address issues and answer questions many people tend to look for.
Aim for Featured Snippets
You know when you search for something and you see a box at the top of the search results page offering a summarized answer? That is known as the featured snippet, or position zero – the answer Google considers the most relevant to your question.
70% of voice search results are based on the featured snippet in your website’s SEO settings.
Why is this important? Because featured snippets can have a great impact on search results. And in the world of voice search, the rules are simple: once you ask the question, there will be just one answer provided. That answer will, more often than not, be the featured snippet.
When you use voice search to ask a question, Google is likely to collect information from a featured snippet and read it out loud to you, while stating where the information came from. That’s an excellent opportunity for your site to appear in voice search results.
Make Sure You Are Mobile-Friendly
Search engine market is already tuned to be mobile-oriented, due to the ever-rising popularity of portable devices. It wouldn’t be a surprise that, one day, voice search results become the norm and gain the upper hand over the conventional results. Luckily, the process of optimization for both of these search environments has the same strategy – the majority of things you can do to optimize your site for voice search can be used for mobile-first optimization as well.
Just keep in mind that 88% of “near me” searches are conducted using a portable device. Moreover, the majority of commands are made using a mobile device. Thus, making your site mobile-friendly can definitely bring you many benefits.
Local SEO Is a Must
Although voice searches, in general, are not strictly local in their nature, an outstanding number of local searches are carried out with voice. When people are on the street, driving, or are in the middle of another activity, they are frequently looking for an instant fix, like finding the nearest pharmacist or a local market.
Also, people tend to use their mobile device to ask for an address, working hours or a phone number when they are getting ready to visit a local restaurant or a beautician.
Our advice – put additional efforts into optimizing your website for local search results – it’s definitely worth it.
We are all witnessing a major cultural shift which will could alter the future of digital marketing and internet search as we know it. If you don’t want to stay behind your competition and see your business go belly up, your company should start adapting ASAP – you owe it that much!
Prepare now so you don’t lose the race for high rankings because voice search is definitely here to stay!