The 3 Biggest Questions About Voice Search: Answered

The voice search revolution has already begun, but a lot of us are still not sure where voice-enabled devices and smart assistants are actually taking us. Despite the statistics suggesting that voice search is gaining prominence at a rapid pace and that it is the future, there are a lot of questions about the subject that linger in the minds of marketers.

This blog post is to address some of those questions with answers and predictions about how voice search will reshape the world of marketing in the coming years.

#1 Why should brands invest in voice search right now?

Let’s take a look at FAMGA (Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon) shall we?

FAMGAs Market Cap

The biggest tech companies of the world (commanding a combined market cap of over $3.5 trillion today) are investing a ton of money into voice search technology at the moment. Google’s been a pioneer of voice search tech for over a decade. Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo is considered to be one of the most popular consumer tech devices of 2019. Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana have impacted millions of users across the globe over the past few years.

FAMGA invests in core technology that will have an impact across business lines. Voice has ramifications across several verticals—search, accessibility, last-mile delivery, the list is endless. Every single one of these brands see potential in voice search to impact humankind, and they’ve been tirelessly working on improving voice search tech over the past few years.

Now, if history tells us anything, it’s that when FAMGA invests in technology, that tech will simply tend to become successful, and consumers will adopt it. We weren’t Googling anything 20 years back. We can’t live without Google now. Social media wasn’t a thing before the 21st century, but there are over 2 billion active users on Facebook today (source).

In simple words, there is no going back. Voice search will soon be inescapable, and this next decade will see all of us using voice search as much as the average teenager uses Instagram today.

And therein lies the answer to why brands need to start investing in voice search right now. Changes in consumer behavior and technology adoption will affect the vendor ecosystem. UX will transition from interactions on screens to conversations with a screenless device. This means that brands—and the way they market themselves or process transactions—will have to change to accommodate consumer behavior.

Next question, please!

#2 What are the biggest industries that will be impacted by voice search?

Back in 2018, Ford announced that it would be adding a voice-activated assistant to provide navigation guidance and other capabilities to drivers via their own voice commands. AirPlay and other smartphone/smart-assistant powered functionalities started becoming a part of connected-car ecosystems even before that.

In just a couple of years, people could find, choose, and call up businesses, or perform other voice-powered actions as they were driving. Over the next decade, this will be the norm.

The automobile industry has been quick to adopt voice search and will continue impacting people’s lives with voice-enabled functionality. But that’s not the only industry that will be disrupted by voice search.

I predict that the healthcare industry will soon start to increasingly use voice recognition and voice-powered tech to maintain records and notes. Some of the other big industries that will be reshaped by voice are:

  • Education: Teachers and students will soon start using voice recognition to teach, learn, and take notes better. Voice can also greatly improve efficiency while building online tutorials and courses, and it can provide improved accessibility options as well.
  • Office Productivity: Amazon is pushing heavily to make this happen—they want you to install an Alexa device in every meeting room in your workspace. This vertical is sure to be disrupted by voice-enabled assistants very soon. There will soon be no more executive assistants or personal assistants; CEOs will have voice-assistants helping them do their jobs better.
  • Commerce: This is already a reality in a way—Amazon Echo and Google Home devices can help users buy products off the internet. We can expect technological advances in this realm over the next few years.

Moving on.

#3 How does one really optimize their brand for voice search?

Two years ago, we had no idea how we could optimize websites for voice search. In fact, we didn’t even have enough data to create an actionable checklist around it! We were using the same checklists that we used to optimize for local SEO for voice search as well.

Cut to 2019, this has changed (well, kinda). For example, we have markup data formats like speakable that we can use to mark content from a webpage as quintessential for text-to-speech conversion. This is huge, right? There are a ton of smart speakers being sold, but most voice searches on Google are not happening on a mobile device/desktop/laptop. And speakable schema will help users and brands leverage this.

That’s just one small part of the actual solution, however. Much like with all things SEO, there is no “one right answer” for this question; so I’m going to break this universe into two ecosystems—Google vs non-Google—to better explain how voice search optimization works today.

The greatest disparity between these two ecosystems is the depth of information present in them. Google does a great job of absorbing, using, and disseminating local business information. However, that’s not the same case with the non-Google ecosystem.

Amazon does a good job of giving users shopping & music-related voice search results, but is poor at answering questions that are of local intent. Apple is still playing catch-up with Google.

However, the interesting thing to note here is that both Amazon and Apple are using third-party data to power these results, as you can read in this post. A lot of the data you get (menu, restaurants, etc.) is actually coming from Yelp. This might change eventually, but for now, this is the case, and I predict that this is the way it will be for at least the next 12-24 months. In other words, be found where the data is being fetched from, and your brand is already optimized for voice search results with local intent.

Beyond that, there are other widely covered topics like optimizing for position zero and working on getting found better on voice searches using other best practices—you can check these out to get more insights on this topic.

The Future of Voice Search

We’re right on the brink of being launched headfirst into a world that will be run on voice searches and voice-powered devices. Marketers and decision-makers in brands need to stay ahead of the curve, invest in voice search, and improve their chances of being found on voice searches by consumers to avoid risking being left behind.

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