How is Voice Search Changing Digital Marketing?

Written by: Phillip Nones

Voice-activated search has reached a tipping point.  Underscoring this, consider what’s been happening with personal digital assistants over the past year, like Google’s microphone and Amazon’s Echo as well as Windows 10’s big push for its Cortana PDA function.

Studies by Thrive Analytics and other researchers show that many smartphone owners are voracious users of mobile personal assistants – including clear majorities of people under the age of 45.

Google reports that the ratio of voice-to-text search volume is growing quickly, too.  And why not?  Small screens and even tinier buttons make text search a lot more difficult for many people compared to using their own voice.

Moreover, Google’s speech recognition error rate has plummeted to less than 10%, down from nearly 25% barely two years ago.

People are using “natural language” for voice search rather than “query language” for text search.  It’s much easier to ask, “What public transportation can I take from the Montreal airport?” rather than to construct a text search like “Montreal airport train bus public transit.”

Realizing that voice search is here – and growing quickly – the next question is how to adjust your online presence to thrive in the new search environment.  Here’s where to focus your attention:

  • Most voice-activated search queries cover the “5 Ws’” – who, what, where, when and why – plus how.  Adding “question” keyword phrases to your keyword listing is a very good idea.
  • The “natural language” people use in voice search often conveys intent better than what text search provides.  Questions beginning with “what” or “who” show interest … but words like “when” and “where” reveal more intent to act now.  This has implications for adjusting your SEM bidding on higher-value question phrases, along with optimizing content for those particular keywords on your web pages.
  • Voice search is more likely to be locally oriented when compared to text search queries (most smartphone searches are local, in fact).  That means doubling down on keywords that are relevant to local searching.  Consider everything, from how people describe your neighborhood in colloquial terms to including other types of information that are probable “cues” for searchers.

So, as voice-activated search expands, make sure you react accordingly.  A few key points will help you take full advantage of the opportunities this new form of search offers:

  • Voice search has longer queries
  • Natural language means more question phrases in search
  • Natural language reveals intent more clearly

Voice search has particularly high local value (plus, it impacts on third-party listings in addition to your website’s own presence)


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