Let it be said: Voice search is here to stay.

If you listen closely, the chatter over voice search and digital assistants is getting louder and louder thanks to Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri and others. The power of the human voice and these digital repartees may be the future of search. And you don’t need many reasons to know why you should already plan to ride the wave of VSO.

It goes without mentioning that mobile devices have taken the lead when it comes to web searches. Many smartphone users don’t type their search queries: They ask Siri or Google or Alexa to look up information for them.

If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, you won’t show up for search queries — typed or spoken.

vso is important for marketers

People are buying and talking to digital assistants.

More smart speakers are entering homes. Gartner reports that consumer demand for voice-enabled devices — think Amazon Echo and Google Home — may generate around $3.5 billion by 2021. In Q3 2018, smart speaker shipments grew almost 200 percent year-over-year with around 22.7 million units sold in the quarter. People love talking to digital assistants.

In cases where a smart speaker device only provides a vocal response, you have one shot at getting your message heard — featured snippets.

As Perficient Digital’s Eric Enge wrote:

“The importance of featured snippets can’t be overstated. In a world where voice queries and voice responses become more common, what Pete Meyers coined as ‘Position Zero’ will become ‘Position Only.’ In other words, you will get only ONE result (initially, at least). Knowing how to become that result will be critical to thriving in a voice-centric world.

Hands-free driving laws are also a factor in the growth of voice search.

Another issue impacting the adoption of voice search is the growing number of states with some form of legislation pertaining to cell phones.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 states banned hand-held cellphones, and 48 states banned text messaging by drivers. More drivers have begun using digital assistants on their mobile phones so that they will be compliant with state laws and to be safer on the road.

People have begun to value the convenience of voice search while multitasking.

HigherVisibility surveyed 2,000 participants on their voice search habits.

  • 34 percent of respondents say they use voice search while driving
  • 22 percent use voice search when they weren’t able to look at their phones
  • 21percent use voice search when preoccupied with another activity or task

People are looking for easy, hands-free answers while they focus their attention on other things.

Voice searchers are becoming less shy about talking to digital assistants.

Perficient Digital’s Mobile Voice Usage Trends 2019 survey shows the top three scenarios for using voice search are:

  • At home alone
  • At home with friends
  • At the office alone

However, people also admitted to using voice search in a public restroom (27.8 percent) and theaters (26.1percent), along with less “odd” public venues, such as restaurants, public transportation, the gym or a party.

quick primer on why voice search is here to stay

Voice-enabled search is happening now and will continue to evolve and change how people search and how marketers develop content.

Renowned SEO expert Danny Sullivan live-blogged at the 2016 Google I/O (Google’s annual developer’s conference) about Google’s announcement that 20 percent of mobile queries in the U.S. are voice searches.

Google’s 2017 announcement that it has added 30 new languages to its voice-typing technology allows one to safely assume that voice search will continue to increase. You can even voice-type emojis now. Whether that makes you want to say “happy face” or “poop emoji”… Only time will tell.

Expert advice on voice search

As a voice in the SEO and organic search community, Scott Litvack of Wpromote encourages marketers to strongly consider the role of mobile design and the acquisition of featured snippets when it comes to voice search.

Here’s his advice:

Pay attention to voice search and digital assistants. While it is still early, two studies from Gartner and comScore suggest that between 30 percent and 50 percent of searches will be done either without a screen or via voice search by 2020. Creating content that is more natural-language-based and that answers consumer questions is going to be critical.

While voice search queries were initially more focused on trivia (such as “What is the capital of Spain?”), I envision that soon searchers will be asking more product and service related queries like, “Does that shirt come in green in a size six?” Or “find a plumber who is available on Saturday.”

As voice search becomes more common, here are additional considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Voice search queries are more natural and conversational. Think about your conversations with customers and how they ask you questions during those conversations. Mine those discussions for long-tail keyword ideas and phrasing that may match a spoken search query. Also, consider how to make your content more “robot-friendly.”
  2. In the case of mobile digital assistants, many user queries focus on local search intent. This is true whether the query is spoken or typed on a mobile device. As Search Engine Watch points out, a company’s Google My Business profile may be read to the searcher. Incorporating Google My Business and other local-intent queues into your SEO strategy is critical if you depend on local customers.

what to watch out for with voice search as a marketer

What to watch out for with voice search

In voice-enabled search, there will be few winners and lots of losers depending on how the searcher conducts his or her voice search. Those users who rely on mobile-phone digital assistants when speaking a search query will see a list of search results. These users will have multiple click-through options (at least for now).

Users of Google Home and Amazon Echo, on the other hand, will likely hear just a single answer to their inquiries. So, if you’re in charge of guiding what that search result is, you’ll want to keep reading to make sure you get it right.

Another thing to consider is how voice-enabled devices will change commerce as a martech disruptor.

In fact, it’s already happening. An annual report from PR and B2B digital media agency Walker Sands speaks to the rise of the connected consumer behaviors and how shopper’s expectations have changed.

“Nearly one in five consumers (19 percent) have made a voice purchase through an Amazon Echo or other voice-controlled device in the past year, and another 33 percent plan to do so in the next year.”

With Amazon Echo, you can guess where most of those purchases are happening, right? Spoiler alert: It’s Amazon.

To benefit from these radical changes in the consumer mindset, it would behoove you to take note of three top takeaways for your voice-search strategy:

  1. Optimize your mobile site experience.
  2. Focus on winning featured snippets and using natural language and long-tail keywords in your content.
  3. Align with the assistants to improve your voice search results.
    • Google offers these tips to help you use structured data to increase your content’s discoverability by Google Assistant.
    • Apple provides developers with the Sirikit for integrating Siri into apps.
    • Amazon provides instructions on developing Alexa skills for your audience to use on their Amazon Echo devices.
    • Microsoft provides instruction for creating Cortana skills.

Are you ready for voice search?

Think about your overarching business strategy and how to incorporate voice-enabled devices that can impact your brand’s awareness, lead generation and sales. Some of these changes you can handle easily on your own while others may require a developer’s help. However, before you go all-in with the big spend, think about how much bang for your buck you will get from this investment.

If your business depends on foot traffic from the local community, you need to be optimizing for “near me” and other local intent voice searches. Capture those shoppers while they are out driving around.

If your company sells commodity-type items or other things that people will ask Alexa or Google to reorder frequently, invest in some Google Assistant and Alexa skills.

But if you sell multi-million dollar enterprise software, voice search may not be quite as crucial for your business right now. By all means, investigate how your customers and prospects are using voice search, but don’t lose sleep over adoption yet.


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