Sales of 100 million Alexa devices from 4500 manufacturers, including 28,000 new smart home devices, signals that voice-assisted search will skyrocket. Current estimates of voice search volume range from 35 million per month (eMarketer) to 446 million monthly mobile searches (Google) or 1 billion voice-assisted searches per month (Alpine AI).
Oral queries of Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and their peeps will approximate the all-knowing, unseen, obedient computer aboard the Starship Enterprise. But searching orally will dramatically change the stakes and the tactics for search engine marketing. Comscore expects half of all searches to be made by voice in the next 24 months.
To reorient search tactics marketers must address several new realities.
A single definitive response. Unlike a SERPs page, voice search returns a single, hopefully, relevant and valuable, response. We expect machines to respond seamlessly and intuitively as if they were humans. Assuming that Google and Bing use similar matching algorithms that are regularly upgraded, new ways of constructing websites and selecting and seeding keywords will be required, on top of existing keyword and backlinks, to become the singular response to a range of queries. Many non-specific search requests, like general information, broad topic searches or philosophical questions don’t lend themselves to a single answer. Marketers will need to split tactics to manage different search channels and intentions.
Voice recognition. Speaking is different and more challenging than typing. Accents, word choice, grammar, slang and ambient noise can all negatively impact understanding and recognition. Google claims to have achieved 95 percent word recognition, a level of accuracy similar to human speech, but practitioners are skeptical because most voice devices aren’t engineered to optimize search.
Segmented searching. Voice search lends itself to specific queries based on immediate needs, geography and device. Smartphones and voice assistants are the leading sources of voice searching. Both report and respond to geographic locations. Understanding usage patterns and the customer experience attending these devices should give marketers useful search clues.
Search intention can be sorted by need and by device and by location. It’s a fair bet that voice search will best serve those on the move, in the moment or searching for fast, immediate answers. It’s unlikely that people will conduct detailed educational, scientific or business research using voice search, which, is a fast-acting utility rather than an encyclopedic source of information.
Voice search lends itself to seeking specific information or data, navigational information or directions and transactional information like specs, price, reviews or where to buy. The implication is that voice will be more important in local areas and must be optimized and segmented by geography to be optimally effective.
The tactical implication is that marketers must anticipate short, useful queries and draft long tail keywords of 3 or more specific words incorporating city, state or region and the detailed features, reviews or rankings of products or services to increase the odds of being the winning answer. Including keywords like “near me”, “today or tonight” and “to buy” can become a more precise way to zero-in on the immediacy of voice searchers.
Voice search doubles the need for strategic thinking and tactical moves. Getting ready for widespread voice search now is the prudent and forward-looking play.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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