Did you know that 28% of search queries in India are already done by voice? And that by 2020, 50% of all global searches will be voice searches? In fact, India is seeing 270% year on year growth in voice searches, as revealed in the recent Google for India event.
The rapid adoption of personal assistants - Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana - is changing the way consumers search the internet. Voice search is fast becoming the preferred mode for people to interact with their connected devices. The Mary Meeker 2018 Global Internet Report also noted the advancements made in voice technology and its growing adoption.
So how do we as marketers adapt to this change? Well, that's what this article is all about!
We'll talk about the growth of voice search, what it means for you as marketers and how you can use it to drive awareness, engagement and sales for your brand.
Well, to start with…
Over the last decade, laptop and mobile screens have been the primary ways users have interacted with the internet. However, with the advent and growth of voice assistants, particularly smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo, this is changing.. and changing fast!
The interaction has now started happening through voice, with smart speakers, without using a screen in most cases.
As marketers, we have spent years optimizing for screen User Interfaces and screen User Experiences but when there is no screen anymore, then these aspects become obsolete. The focus is now shifting to building conversational User Interfaces and screen User Experiences, which we will talk about later in this article.
The second thing which makes voice so important is the ability to reach new audiences.
Think about it - the next wave of India's Internet growth - the next billion or so internet users - are going to be largely from smaller cities and towns. For most of them, voice is a much easier and effortless way to interact as compared to typing on a small screen device. While there are indic keyboards to help these new users, voice is also a natural way to ask a question or query. Google is seeing a 270% year-on-year growth in voice queries in India. As a marketer, voice is your gateway to reach them.
Great, so now that we've seen why voice is important, how do we leverage it?
Almost all the keyword research that we do today is based on keywords that are typed into a search box.
However, the queries that people type in are drastically different from queries that people ask a personal assistant.
Think about it - let’s say you wanted to know who the CEO of Google is. If you're using a laptop, you would just head to Google and type "Microsoft CEO".
If you're using a personal assistant like Siri or Alexa, you would ask "Who is the CEO of Microsoft".
The first query was two worlds long while the second one was 6 words long!
Voice queries are almost always conversational, tend to contain questions and tend to be much longer. The average query length on desktop is 1 to 3 words, while voice is 7 to 8 words.
In fact, Moz pulled out data for query length for Cortana searches and compared that with the query length for general text searches. This is what they found:
This changes the way we as marketers should approach our keyword strategy. Brands will need to start optimizing for longer voice-based queries, as compared to shorter keywords that are more used with traditional typed search.
For those of you who use voice assistants frequently, where do you think the assistant pulls up most of its answers from? Well, most of it comes from something called an answer box.
Let me give you an example. Let's say you ask - "Hey Google, what are the top marketing blogs in India?"
Google gives you this answer:
You can see that the assistant credited the brand site here, from which it pulled out the answer.
Now, type in the same query into a Google search box and you will find that the assistant actually read out the answer from the first search result:
This is the answer box, also called a featured snippet or "position zero". To ensure your brand gets featured in answers to relevant voice queries, start building and optimizing content for the answer box.
Here’s a great guide from Moz on how to optimize for featured snippets.
A good percentage of voice searches are for local queries. For example, "What are the best Chinese restaurants around me" or "Where is the nearest coffee shop?"
Owing to this, optimizing for voice search becomes all the more imperative for businesses with a local physical presence. Ensure your local SEO strategy takes into account location-specific conversational based queries.
Here is a useful article on how to capitalize on voice search for Local SEO.
The smart speaker market, led by Amazon Echo and Google Home is projected to reach 225 million installed devices by 2020.
Currently, there’s no way to run sponsored ads on Amazon Echo or Google Home, though I personally feel this will roll out at some point in the near future. However, as marketers, you can use Alexa Skills and Google Home Actions to drive audience engagement, product use and even a new point-of-sale.
Quite a few brands have already started doing this. Just search for Alexa skills in India and you will find all the skills that are currently available.
Brands like ClearTrip, UrbanClap, Byju's and FreshMenu have been early movers here and are already using this to engage their audiences in different ways:
In the US, Tide has a very useful stain remover skill, with step-by-step voice instructions on how to remove over 200 types of stains - a great example of digital marketing for FMCG brands tailored for voice.
Another example of a brand using Alexa Skills really well is Nestle Purina, which helps you find the best canine companion for you, based on your lifestyle.
As the interface to interact with the internet moves from screen to voice, brands must start focusing on building more conversational user interfaces and experiences, modelled on natural human conversation. To start with, this could be as simple as adding voice functionality to the search bar on your website, which can now be done fairly easily by using the Google Web Speech API. Chatbots are another example of a conversational user interface
Voice is one of the biggest trends in digital marketing in India at the moment. As marketers, the faster you begin adapting to it the better.
So, which of the points that we have just talked about are you going to act immediately? Are you going to relook at your keyword strategy? Are you going to optimize for position "0"? Or are you going to try building Alexa skills? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!