How voice search is shaking up the digital marketing landscape


During May 2016’s Google I/O keynote, an interesting statistic jumped onto the scene, which has the potential to have far-reaching implications for the future of content, SEO and digital marketing as a whole. Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, claimed that 20% of searches on Google’s mobile app and Android devices are voice searches. This trend is similar across the board. The switch from typing on a device to using natural spoken language to search shows a shift in human action and will provide more opportunities for personalisation and disrupt current search strategies. 

With the type of data generated by voice search, digital marketers will have ample opportunity to learn more about customer behaviour, intent and cater their provision accordingly. The sophistication of voice search and the digital assistants that users interact with will improve, as limits and capabilities are tested by long, multi-part and specific searches. 

Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, has talked about the demand for developers to build “conversational canvases”. Apps that are centred on conversational interactions are integral to digital life and other online services are being made more user-friendly by providing a digital assistant as an entry-point. Users are activating a search function using their voice. So, who’s using voice search the most? Unsurprisingly, a study by MindMeld found that in the 6 months previous to their study, there’d been a 40% increase in voice search by smartphone users and this is set to steadily increase.

Voice search combines convenience and quality, with users adopting natural language in their searches and receiving more conversational copy. Conversational copy is going to more important than ever. It gives a brand personality, but it will also help to complement the colloquial language used in voice searches, so ad-copy and landing page copy should be optimized with natural language in mind.

Users are not using short keyword-based search queries when they use voice search. Their language is more natural and conversational, in sentence form and as if they are asking a question to a friend. This is in stark contrast to the ‘computer language’ used in keyword searches, which is short, snappy and to the point. Digital marketers need to think about how people will phrase their searches and how they say them aloud. What are the extra words that are used in voice search instead of standard keyword searches? Moving forward, it’s going to be really important for marketers to identify and test voice-friendly keywords. The whole process encourages digital agencies to think more from a consumer perspective, instead of a marketing angle.

Specialised voice searches can provide more contextual information and help marketers to inform SEO strategy. When people use standard keyword searches, their intent is often unclear. Using a couple of terms such as ‘Kindle Fire’ doesn’t indicate which part of the buyer’s journey a customer is in. Are they researching or do they want to buy? Voice searches allow a question to be framed around a product, digital marketers can arrive at more conclusions and they can gain more insight. SEO strategy should identify high value phrases and create content around them. 

Digital assistants also have the potential to cross reference information to provide users with the most appropriate localised voice search results. Voice search is a really useful tool for local businesses that agencies work with, so ensuring their physical locations are listed on geo-location social media sites allows local voice searches to include them. By asking digital assistants such as Cortana or Siri which cafes are in users local areas, they can take a look at the weather, the time, discounts and other useful information to give users the most effective answer.

Voice search is still a young trend, but it’s sensible to begin to adapt SEO, content and overall digital marketing strategies to account for the inevitable upsurge. Digital marketers can capitalise on a trend that is showing traction, so they can provide a more personalised, localised service to their clients. At the moment, it’s important to use lots of testing and experimentation with natural language processing, so that strategies can be implemented that will accurately reflect how users will use voice search. How users ask questions, what language they use and how this changes across demographics and locations will be important too.

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