Once upon a time, search engines took marketers by storm, as many of the top brands struggled to stay ahead of the digital world, first came search engines, then came social media, now we have a mobile and voice search experience.
As of 2014 we know 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search on a daily basis. Now with virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa and voice recognition technology from Shazam and SoundHound, the number of users adopting voice search is only increasing, and the technology for understanding humans is advancing as well.
What is Voice Search?
Before we get too deep into the implications of voice search, let’s go through a quick run through on what it is and how it works.
Google’s Voice Search uses a combination of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Text-to-Speech (TTS) to understand a user’s voice search request. This is then processed in a powerful database which aims to match the question with an answer which is then returned to the user, rather than a list of search results as you see with Google & Bing.
NLP technology’s role is to determine the intent behind the user’s voice request based on searchers query history and context behind the phrase. The more customers use voice search, the more powerful the technology will become.
Apple’s Siri, Window’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa and other up and coming voice-activated search technology are following a similar technology, which will return a direct result rather than a search result page.
Four ways to capitalize on the growth of Voice Search through your website
In order for your brand to benefit from Voice Search, various SEO techniques should be employed so as to enable search engines or other app technologies to easily extract ‘answers’ from your brand’s ecosystem.
Below are four ways to set up your digital ecosystem for success:
1) Maximize Schema markup opportunities
Schema is a markup language – an add-on to the HTML coding onto a webpage that provides further information to the search engine’s to help them understand the contents behind a web page. The more context being presented to the search engines, the better they’ll be able to understand the content.
2) Readable feeds (location data, prices, etc)
XML Sitemaps, location data and other micro-data are vital components that the search engines use to provide quick answers to the searchers requests. 40% of adults use voice search to get directions, making location specific data readable on the webpage absolutely critical in order to be found through voice-activated search.
3) Humanize content; use conversational phrases
As NLP technology advances, it will fall in line with the users search query focusing on the meaning behind the query rather than a set of query keywords. Re-evaluating the content and changing the tone to be more conversational by focusing on natural phrases and sentence structures, rather than keyword, will help the visibility in voice-activated search.
Using adverbs such as “Who”, “What’, “Where” and “Why”, which are common terms used at the beginning of voice search queries will help humanize the tone of the content.
4) Making the search experience quicker
Voice-activated search users are looking for direct answers to trivia questions. This makes FAQ content crucial, in helping the search engines identify quick answers for popular requests or questions.
What media opportunities exist for brands?
Right now, there’s isn’t a huge paid opportunity that exists around Voice Search. Google has been trying to figure out a way to monetize and Jerry Dishler, VP of Adwords Product Management said that voice search is an emerging platform that Google continues to work on:
“I have long-term plans for advertising,” he says, adding that voice search volumes continue to rise, and Google has ideas for the future when the queries become “pure voice dialog.”
Outside of Google, Shazam and SoundHound are leading the monetization of Voice Search by serving display ads within their apps. It’s estimated that Shazam has over 100 million monthly users (+34% YoY) and SoundHound with around 15 million. Both currently allow the purchase of various display, video & text ad units within their apps.
The future of Voice Search?
Unfortunately we don’t have a crystal ball that can foresee the future for us, but no need to fear, we have something better, it’s called… speculation.
We know from the Northstar Research study that 45% of teenagers that use voice search wish this technology would be able to order their pizza. Domino’s has reported $4 Billion in global digital sales, which is attributed to both their website and mobile app, which features hands-free ordering through voice search.
Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Shazam, SoundHound, Google, and most, if not all, major TV manufacturers are all heavily investing in voice recognition technology. It’s only a matter of time before voice input starts catching up with keyboard entry, especially on mobile devices.
In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Only you can control your future”. Sadly, in the world of digital, it’s the search engines and machine-learning technology that controls ours.
Jos Smyth, VP, SEO, National Lead, contributed to this story.
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