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Let’s Talk Voice Search

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Voice search isn’t new; voice-to-type or voice-to-text software has been around since the 90s, but frequent errors and “auto-correct” mishaps previously left something to be desired. Now, with staggering adoption rates and improvements in recognizing human speech, the changes are happening faster than you think. The “Voice” revolution is not coming – the revolution is here.

CommScore predicts that by 2020 there will be over 1.6 billion digital assistant users and over 50% of all searches will be voice queries (Digital Marketing Institute, 2019). Digital assistants have grown much more popular, and smartphones have been joined by smart-speakers, which spiked in sales during 2017 driving voice search into the mainstream (Koetsier, 2019). In your personal life, you might still be weighing the trade-offs between privacy and convenience, but as a business owner or marketing professional, the real question is: how can you benefit from this rise in voice search volume?

There are several potential approaches. In a recent Facebook live video presented by the Calgary Marketing Association, we reviewed some tactics to optimize your marketing efforts for voice search. Here are five top takeaways:

1.    Localization

Mobile voice-related searches are three times more likely to be local-based than text (Sahlool, 2019). Voice searches aren’t inherently more likely to be local, but a significant percentage are. Users are on-the-go, close to the point of purchase, and often seeking an immediate solution such as a restaurant recommendation. To optimize you should keep location data accurate and up to date; Google Maps, Yelp, (and yes) Bing – Alexa is powered by Bing, not Google. Also, it may help if you try to incorporate local flair, such as naming your city, state, or region in your content., e.g. Where to get a great steak in Vancouver.

2.    User-Generated Content

User reviews and ratings are essential for queries including “Find the best…”. You need to ensure you’re present in multiple third-party apps and local directories, especially those dedicated to reviewing products or services like yours. The more reviews you get, and the better those reviews are, the higher you’re going to rank in local results. So if you’re not listed in “tripsavvy.com,” email whoever owns that site, and ask to be added (or offer them lunch to decide!)

3.    Integrate to Deliver Value

Brands can take control of voice by providing user experiences that deliver service and value. A great example is how the ride-share company, Uber has leveraged voice  for voice activated ride requests. Another voice integration example is with Tile, a product that uses crowdsourcing to retrieve lost items. The integration now allows a user to merely prompt voice assistants with, “Alex, ask Tile to find…(purse, keys, et cetera).” 

4.    Content Curation

We need to re-think the way we write answers to match the way our customers ask questions. Try writing in a more natural voice, and you’ll naturally optimize for keyword phrases that your audience is likely searching. Consider FAQs; put yourself in your customer’s shoes and brainstorm some potential questions they may ask about you or your products/services. Consider trying more long-tail keywords, longer phrases with several words, typically in a conversational format. For example, try expanding a search like “Coffee,” to something like “What’s the best latte near me?” You need to pay close attention to the types of queries your audience is making, and why they’re making them; try to glean what the search user intends to do.

There are three types of search intent:

  • Informational, where a user is only looking for information, e.g. What time is it in Denver?
  • Navigational, where a user is looking for a specific destination site or product, e.g. Fastest route to the airport
  • Transactional, where a user is ready to buy something or engage with someone, e.g. Book a massage in Calgary

5.    Media Amplification

The answer to voice-based queries is organic, meaning, you cannot currently pay to be the response.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t ignore paid media. Firstly, you can find out what people are searching for through paid media search reports to use to build content for voice search. Look for searches that are conversational and new search queries. Secondly, for e-commerce driven organizations, it’s crucial to optimize your product feed which is still driven mainly through paid channels.

The adoption of voice search is likely more widespread and rapid than you think; 73% of consumers said that they would like to be able to complete a task by speaking to a digital assistant (Sahlool, 2019).  However, not many organizations are ready to leverage this technology. Voice search will be a significant disruption in the marketing world, in turn providing substantial opportunities. In fact, 15% of all voice-activated search queries are NEW each day (Sahlool, 2019). If you’re proactive and willing to adapt, you can be ahead of your competition by being the answer to your shared audiences. Like any good marketing tactic, it’s important that your efforts are relevant, consistent, and integrated. Your strategy should ensure that every step in the customer journey aligns with your Brand.

Digital Marketing Institute. (2019). Digital Innovation and the Future of Digital Marketing. [Online] Available at: https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/en-ca/blog/2018-01-21-digital-innovation-and-the-future-of-digital-marketing [Accessed 23 Jan. 2019].

Koetsier, J. (2019). Smart Speakers Are Eating Mobile: 66% Of Owners Use Smartphones Less, Accenture Says. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoetsier/2018/01/08/smart-speakers-are-eating-mobile-66-of-owners-use-smartphones-less/#14441c7913ad [Accessed 23 Jan. 2019].

Sahlool, N. (2019). How Voice Search Is Changing Everything – Calgary Marketing Association. [Online] Calgary Marketing Association. Available at: https://calgarycma.com/news/voice-search-facebook-live/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2019].

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Jenelle Peterson
About the Author - Jenelle Peterson
What do Oil and Gas, IT, Duct Tape and Dental Products have in common? Seemingly not much, but they've taught Jenelle that great marketing leads to measurable results - regardless of the industry or product. She brings an extensive background in developing strategic plans and executing marketing campaigns on both client and agency sides - from start-ups to multinational organizations.  Jenelle loves the outdoors, making bad art, and all things Sci-Fi. As if that weren't enough, she is also a board member for the Calgary Marketing Association and teaches part-time in digital marketing.

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