Whether it’s Alexa, Siri or Google, one thing is certain: sales of voice assistants and related devices grew 63% in 2018—and they’re predicted to keep growing at an exponential rate. Add to that smartphones and other voice-enabled devices and it’s staggering how many of us are using voice search.
Yet many marketers continue to underestimate its potential, which could be an oversight.
Because, while the tech isn’t quite at the level imagined by sci-fi writers, it’s catching up pretty fast. And, more important than that, people are adopting the technology.
The stats prove it.
For instance, some 20% of all searches on Google are now by voice; the proportion is even higher among younger demographics. Some 65% of 25- to 49-year-olds use voice search at least once a day, and some 50% of those have bought something using voice search.
All of this will have huge repercussions across all kinds of industries—some sooner than you might think. But how will this affect marketing specifically, and what can your agency or brand do about it?
Find your voice
The good news is great voice-search marketing is grounded in existing best practices. Successful brands already have years of investment in their own sites, and voice search isn’t going to do away with any existing SEO or web-based marketing. Instead, the focus should be on optimising content for voice.
This is especially true when it comes to mobile sites.
Simply put, without a mobile-friendly site, you won’t show up in voice-search rankings. More than that though, for Google specifically, this will boost your rankings in desktop searches too, since mobile-first indexing is now the standard. A good mobile site is therefore more important than ever, because it affects much more than voice search alone.
Also, it’s important to note that both Alexa and Cortana use Bing—so don’t neglect your presence there.
The big change in voice search is the way we search. Gone are the list of keywords and instead come questions. So you need to make sure that your content is conversational as well as question-and-answer based. Combined, this should increase the chance of your content being picked up by search engines.
Unlike social media, you can often use your existing SEO here—or optimise it for voice search. While this may still require external expertise and investment, it’s on a totally different scale to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn (plus any new emerging platforms that are sure to come along).
The silver lining is this: Many businesses already have the foundations for brilliant voice-search marketing, but they may not be using it yet. And here comes an opportunity.
Asking tough questions
Most brands continue to stay quiet about voice search. Perhaps they’re unsure about its application or underestimate the impact it will have. But the data shows voice search is a long-term trend and on the rise. So we need to ask ourselves and our clients if we’re sufficiently future-proofing our businesses.
Rather than treating voice search as if it’s another social platform that may or may not catch on, we should invest in it and, at the very least, start factoring it into our planning.
For those who do, there’ll be increasing opportunities to gain competitive advantage through voice search over the next few years.
Luke Janich is CEO of Vietnam-based agency Red².