Not more than five years ago, asking a question to a phone, a car or any other hardware device and getting a useful answer only happened in sci-fi movies. (Raise your hand if you’ve never dreamt of driving a talking car.)
Today, about 41% of adult Americans and more than 50% of teenagers regularly talk to — or better, with — their phones to get directions, search for places, make calls, get help with their homework and do all sort of things that used to require manually touching a smartphone.
While people often say using voice search makes them feel more "tech savvy" and they do it "mostly for fun," this is definitely a trend to watch. More and more interactions with mobile devices will become touch-less, and marketers, developers and entrepreneurs will have to adapt their strategies and tools to accommodate this new way of searching for answers online.
What Do People Do With Voice Search Today?
Let's start by understanding what people are currently using voice search for. Our goal at such an early stage is to try to identify some trends, so we can anticipate what users, prospects and customers might be doing in the near future when this technology becomes more mature, and tools such as Google Now, Cortana and Siri become more widely adopted.
According to the study commissioned by Google mentioned above, which surveyed 1,400 Americans across all age groups, these are the top reasons why people are now using voice interaction on their smartphones:
- To ask for directions (40% of adults and 38% of teens)
- To call someone (31% of adults and 43% of teens)
- To dictate texts (39% of adults)
- To get help with homework (31% of teens)
- To play a song (11% of adults and 30% of teenagers)
The key takeaway here is the most popular answer, "To ask for directions." Unsurprisingly, more and more people are relying on voice search to get actionable and immediate information that often results in a purchase or another kind of economic transaction.
To prove this further, when people were asked what they wished voice search could do, the top answer was, "Send me pizza" (45% of teens and 36% of adults). While we all love pizza and can definitely relate to this desire, this statistic shows even more clearly how users are prepared to do anything that reduces the friction and the effort required to reach their goals and fulfill their needs.
In this increasingly frictionless world, it is becoming even more vital to anticipate your users’ intentions — to answer their questions in advance and present voice-enabled search engines and natural language user interfaces with some sort of information that is easy to understand, extremely pertinent to the query at hand and perfectly consumable on the device being used.
5 Tips to Optimize Your Online Marketing for Voice Search
OK, now that you are fully convinced it is time to add voice search to the things you need to consider when defining your future marketing strategies, it’s time to act. So we put together five actionable things you can focus on to get ready for the upcoming surge in voice searches.
1. Be Mobile
Well, this is a no-brainer. Since we talk about "voice searches," we are referring to something that happens on smartphones and mobile devices. Yet many businesses and marketers are lagging behind in adapting their online strategies to the mobile revolution we are currently living in. Many still think their old desktop pages are "good enough" or that a poorly-curated, responsive site is the panacea to all problems.
The first essential step in optimizing for voice search and other future technologies is to adopt a mobile-optimized (sometimes even mobile-first) approach to the web, so that your products, services and information will be presented to users in the most appropriate format and with the best interface.
2. Be Local
The vast majority of voice activities that translate into purchases are and will continue to be related to local searches. A few good examples of transactional queries one might ask their phone are, "Find me a good Thai restaurant around here," "Where can I buy a pair of shoes?," "Who's a good barber in this area?" and so on.
To give visitors useful answers, tools like Siri and Google Now gather information directly from local search engines and Yelp pages. It is, therefore, extremely important to add, update and consolidate your business’ details, which will ensure the accuracy of the available information about your venue on Google+ Local, Foursquare, Facebook, Yahoo and Yellow Pages.
3. Get (Positive) Reviews
Siri and other "virtual private assistants" usually rank results by number and average vote of the reviews gathered from various sources, from Google to Yelp. Therefore, it is important for small businesses that have already claimed their local listing to ask their most loyal customers to add reviews about their venue. This will definitely help conversions in general, while boosting their site’s rank in voice results.
4. Be Semantic
To answer questions in a natural language, some sort of "knowledge" is required. Knowledge, entities and relations are expressed on the web by tagging texts and contents with semantic data, telling in a more computer-friendly way what something is about.
Google calls this the "Knowledge Graph” — a huge database of "entities" (e.g., a book, an event, a venue, a person) and their relationships to one another that can be used to increasingly recognize a search query as a distinct entity, rather than a set of keywords somehow related to one another.
As you can imagine, implementing and explaining all this in detail would require quite a few articles on its own; but, a good starting point is the Schema.org website, where you will find tutorials and examples on how to use structured data markup to tag the information contained within HTML documents, as well as how to allow voice search engines to better understand what a page is about and which questions it is able to answer.
5. Answer Questions
When we talk, we don't use "keywords;" rather we use complete and naturally long tail sentences such as, "Is there a good, cheap plumber around here?" or "Where is a pub where I can watch the football game tonight?"
When producing new content for a website or optimizing the copy of existing pages, it is useful to keep this fact in mind and avoid thinking exclusively in terms of single words. Instead, focus on answering general questions that could lead a customer to find your product or shop on your site.