The possibilities for the future of voice technology are endless, and at the moment one thing is clear: voice search is taking off among consumers who are smitten with the latest home voice assistant devices, including Amazon’s Echo and Google Home.
And just as quickly as voice is taking off among consumers, so too is it driving a need among businesses to develop a voice search strategy to incorporate into their digital marketing plans, because voice is changing the way people search for and find brands to interact with.
There are many reasons why it’s becoming necessary for brands to adopt voice strategies. Voice search is a hugely popular emergent technology that will only keep getting bigger, and as it does it will change the way SEO is done, can help you improve the customer experience and drive more traffic to your site, and help you stay ahead of the competition.
The inception of voice technology goes back to the 1950s, but in the last few years it has progressed in leaps and bounds, with the latest devices on the scene—Amazon Echo and Google Home—being the most sophisticated voice assistants consumers have ever seen.
What's more, the technology is improving all the time, and as it does consumers are becoming increasingly interested, which means that voice technology isn't going anywhere. In the last couple of years alone, Google has increased its word recognition accuracy rate from below 80 to over 90%, and this means devices are getting easier to use and interact with.
So just as smartphones and social media have become permanent fixtures in the digital world, so too will voice technology soon be an enduring part of life.
At the moment, there are already 45 million voice-assisted devices in use in the United States, and while screenless browsing is expected to account for 30 percent of browsing by 2020, 50% of searches will be conducted through voice technology by that same year.
Businesses who want to remain visible to consumers in the coming years will have to find a way to incorporate voice technology into their digital marketing strategies.
Adopting a voice search strategy isn't just about remaining relevant—it’s also about creating a unique and optimized customer experience that will foster relationships and build brand loyalty.
Because Alexa and Google Assistant can both differentiate between voices, they can provide valuable insights about users that can lead to more personalized messages and content, and this is great for improving the customer experience. Moreover, voice technology can make interactions with brands more natural and seamless, which encourages retention and loyalty.
Finally, voice search interactions take far less time than text-based ones, which makes life more convenient for busy consumers who expect a stellar experience and instant gratification every time they interact with a brand.
One example of a brand that has successfully incorporated voice technology into their strategy to set themselves apart from the competition is Whirlpool. They joined with Amazon to create a line of intelligent and voice-activated appliances that can converse with customers, answer questions, and even provide guidance about things like what ingredients a person should buy.
When you knock customer experience out of the park on this level, you’re guaranteed to have customers for life.
Another reason it’s important for businesses today to incorporate voice into their digital marketing strategies is because voice search is driving changes in SEO best practices.
One of the main reasons for these changes is the fact that people interact with search queries differently when they're posed vocally rather than textually. For one thing, voice queries tend to be slightly longer than text searches, and you can address this by incorporating some longer (at least three words) keyword phrases into your content.
Similarly, voice searches tend to be posed in the form of full questions (such as “will it rain today” versus just weather), so businesses can also start using relevant question keyword phrases that reflect what prospects might be asking. Another way that voice is going to impact SEO is through the increasing importance of local SEO because many mobile voice searches have a local intent, such as locating a nearby business.
Furthermore, with voice searches, users don’t see a full search engine result page and then decide from there which link to click, but rather are presented with the top result or answer. As such, businesses will no longer be vying for a place on page one, but rather for the top result every time, for every search term. What’s more, Google Assistant specifically seems to be focusing on featured snippets when providing answers to users, and this means businesses will have to incorporate these best practices into their SEO campaigns as well.
Although the possibilities of voice technology haven't yet been fully explored (nowhere close, actually) and there are still many questions to be answered, one thing that seems clear is that businesses with voice strategies will be rewarded with higher web traffic.
The way this works is that when a voice assistant provides an answer, it will also provide users with the ability to open the website from which the answer was pulled. For businesses that are successful with voice-optimized SEO, this could mean a great increase in traffic if you often appear as the top result or featured snippet that gets used for voice answers.
Having a voice search strategy today isn't just important for ensuring your customers can find you, but it’s also necessary when you want to prevent prospects from finding your competition instead.
For one thing, if your competitors have a voice strategy and you don’t, then there's a good chance they’ll be found more often thanks to their competitive SEO strategy and ability to adapt to new technologies. At the moment, voice technology is still new enough that not a lot of brands have jumped on the bandwagon, and this gives you a great opportunity to get a head start in the game and a leg up on the competition.
Another possibility with voice assistants is that they could actually send your prospects directly to your competitors. For instance, say you were a large hotel chain that didn’t have a voice search strategy. If a potential customer were to look for you using voice technology, the assistant might recommend a competitor instead upon not finding results for you.
Voice technology may still be in its nascent stages, but that doesn’t mean there aren't some great and exciting things happening with it already.
One thing your business can do to get involved is to create a Google action or Alexa skill, which are functions that allow voice assistants to react to user commands and queries. At the moment, there are more than 30,000 skills on Alexa and nearly 2,000 actions for Google Assistant. There are many businesses that are getting creative with their voice strategies, and here are a few ideas you can use for inspiration:
As voice technology continues to grow and become more popular among consumers, it will become increasingly important for businesses of all shapes and sizes to include a voice search strategy in their overall digital marketing plan.
Along with already changing the way people approach SEO, voice search is also giving businesses an opportunity to create an enhanced customer experience, and brands that want to compete and stay relevant will have to get on board.
Beyond that, voice search might also be a great tool for increasing web traffic and beating the competition, as long as you have a solid voice-optimized SEO strategy in place to get your brand to the top of the search engine result pages.