Voice Search Trends

Sarah Stevens
By Sarah Stevens

By now, we have all likely said the words “Hey Siri,” “Ok Google,” and “Alexa” more times than we can count. The novelty of asking your phone or home assistant to tell you a joke, or to order something extravagant ebbs and flows, but the role of voice search in our everyday lives is growing with each passing day. I personally am not an avid voice search user (unless driving) or asking Siri for the occasional reminders, however, I was recently gifted smart light bulbs.

At first, I was hesitant – do we really need these? No, but asking Alexa turn to on/off the light, so I do not have to get up or walk into a dark house is an amazingly convenient feature. While there are light bulbs that come with remotes, who needs another remote to keep track of? With the rapidly evolving voice search and AI technology and the growing number of integrations with virtual assistants, it’s clear that voice search is not simply a fad. It allows us to multitask, go hands-free and save us precious time, even if it is only seconds. In our fast-paced society those seconds count and as technology continually updates, voice searches capabilities will also expand.

We’ve come a long way from the days when only a few talked to their phone. Just take the Google and Walmart partnership announced in August 2017, which allows users to shop effortlessly just with two simple words, “Ok Google.” Imagine, those times when the battery in your remote control runs out, or the last bit of 2% milk rains down over your cereal, you can now clear your throat and say, “Ok Google, order 2% milk please.” The world that was at your fingertips is now patiently waiting for any and all vocal requests.

Voice search is not just a trend changing how we shop for toilet paper and household supplies. It is a growing technology that seeks to avail us of the search for the perfect keyworded phrases and just spit out what we would like to have answered.

A recent study by Stone Temple Consulting highlights just how much voice search is becoming more of the norm and that based on the results, people want more. Voice search today (early 2018) is only just scratching the surface.

  • Compared to 2017 – voice search is no longer only reserved for at home or in more private/personal situations, people are talking to their phones much more in public than a year ago. Although the home is still the most common place to use voice search, people are actually using voice search less at home than they did in 2017. When not at home, the next most common areas for voice search are at the office, on public transportation, or at a restaurant. No surprise here, but the most uncommon place to use voice search is at a theatre, however, usage more than doubled compared to 2017. (Don’t be that person using voice search during a movie or show.)
  • The survey discussion yielded results that the most common users of voice search on smartphones tend to be married men on the West Coast, aged between 25-44 with a college degree making $50-$99k.
  • When users were asked what’s their first choice when performing a search, 44% of people choose mobile browsers and 16% of people choose to use voice search. This number is interesting as it aligns with the 16% of people chose to use a search engine app. In addition, the percentage of people using voice search is just below searching through the phone, which lands at 18%. Only 6% of people chose to text their friends to answer questions and gain information.
  • When asked what applications users control with their voice the most, the answers went in this order: texting, making a call, and navigating. When asked why users prefer voice vs. keyboard, responses included speed, no typing, accuracy, and the answer read back. And, not to mention it is especially convenient when driving.
  • In terms of satisfaction, the study found that users were satisfied with voice search’s performance. Over 70% of people were happy with how well their virtual assistant understood them.

Lastly, the study reaffirmed that the use of voice command and search is only going to continue to become more refined and capable. It found the top three new features related to voice command that people would like in the future –  more direct answers, more custom voices, and more app integration.

As voice search continues to evolve, there will be even more opportunities for brands and marketers to better optimize their products and services.

Another voice search study by ROAST revealed how Google understands and responds to voice searches. This is where brands and marketers have an opportunity to test and innovate to leverage voice search. The key findings include:

  • The voice answer is often related to rich snippets; the featured result Google shows to the user in the search results.
  • According to the study, a good amount of the questions you ask with voice search garner the same answers as they would with your desktop. When Google Home provided an answer, 80% of the answers were the same as the Answer Box.
    • So, if you have the Answer Box result, there is a strong chance your answer will also be featured by a virtual assistant.

How Can Brands Leverage Voice Search?

Companies can optimize for voice search and should focus on continuing to provide the best quality answer to the search query. Keep in mind what works today may not work next year or even a few months from now, especially with a rapidly evolving technology. Here are a few ways we can leverage existing tactics to optimize for voice search today.

Use Structured Data – Concerning SEO, first, your plan better includes optimizing your structured data, also known as Schema Markup. Essentially structured data helps make various pieces of information on your website more accessible to the search engines. This information can, in turn, enhance your result in the search results. And in a crowded space, standing out makes a difference.

Create Strong, Relevant, Quality Content – We need to understand and consider how key phrases are going to differ for written searches vs. voice searches. Typed searches tend to lean toward phrases and sentence fragments where voice search has become more conversational and question-based. For example, if you are in the market for soccer cleats, you might type “soccer cleats,” but with voice search, you might ask your phone a question like, “where can I buy a new pair of soccer cleats?”

On your desktop you might type, “July weather in San Diego,” but your voice search may sound something like “what is the weather like in San Diego in July?” Because of this, you need to create high-quality content that answers the who, what, where, when, and why questions. At Power Digital Marketing, this has always been at the core of our integrated SEO & Content strategies. If you content answers the vital five, you’re answering all potential aspects of the query. And that benefits desktop and voice searches.

Optimize for Local Search (if applicable) – For companies with a physical location, Local SEO is becoming more and more important. Most voice search related queries are made by people looking for places, such as “where is the nearest ice-cream shop” or “top nail salons near me”. To optimize for Local SEO, you’ll need a Google My Business account which you can learn more about here and here.

While we’re in a new, somewhat uncharted territory, it’s an exciting one with lots of opportunities for marketers and brands. The evolution of voice search in just the last few years has expanded what we can accomplish in just one day and adoption growing rapidly. As technology advances and more integrations come to market, the opportunity is there for those who are willing to test and innovate this powerful technology. As with desktop and mobile searches, this will be a continuously evolving search method that will likely be led by the organic results and then move into paid ad opportunities. Life is an excellent journey, and along the way, we want to remember the times we didn’t have to worry about what we didn’t know and just ask because we want to know. What will you be doing? Typing or asking?

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