Skip to content

Black Friday, the voice-controlled speaker, and the age of voice search

Less Typing, More Talking

This Black Friday may fully kick off the age of the voice-enabled home. Is your marketing strategy ready?

The Amazon Echo and Google Home have become cultural touchstones, parodied by late night hosts and car commercials alike.

The voice-enabled smart speaker is going to be a hot item this Black Friday, and for good reason. The offerings from Amazon and Google allow you to do more in your home than ever, from playing music to buying groceries to searching for restaurants.

In 2016, Google revealed that 20% of all searches were voice searches. With more Echoes and Homes in, well, homes this holiday season, that number is sure to skyrocket.

Next year, similar products from big players like Apple, Samsung, and even (possibly) Facebook are set to enter the market. Welcome to the age of voice search.

Of course, we’ve recently discussed smart home speakers in this space. However, that mostly focused on the devices themselves. In this blog post, we’re going to do a deeper dive into the ways that voice search is set to change SEO, PPC, and digital marketing itself.

Voice search is intent-rich search

This is something we touched on the last time around. Voice search is often more intent-driven than mobile search, which is even more intent-driven than desktop search. When people ask their Echo or Home a question through voice search, they’re seeking a direct and succinct answer.

They’re not browsing. They’re not just looking around. When someone asks, verbally, “What’s the nearest Pizza Joe’s near me?” they’re seeking to know where they can go get pizza from this specific chain. Voice search needs to return short and effective answers to user queries.

Google has coined these searches as “micro-moments.” That’s because, in that moment, the potential customer is searching for something specific and immediate.

Voice search is ripe with these moments. It’s also a world where the lengthiest or most-detailed answer might not be the best one.

As this SearchEngineLand article argues, context matters. That Pizza Joe’s question requires a simple answer about cross streets or an address. In contrast, a question along the lines of, “What is chewing gum made of?” would have a more complicated answer, and would need to be pulled from a detailed, authoritative source.

Optimize for how people talk, not type

The way people search with a keyboard or with their thumbs is distinctly different from the way people search with their own voice.

Let’s say that you wanted to find the best hamburgers in Indianapolis. On a phone or on a desktop computer, your search might look something like this: “best hamburgers Indianapolis.”

Yet, if you’re doing a voice search, chances are you wouldn’t say the exact phrase, “Hey, Google. Best hamburgers Indianapolis.”

People don’t talk like that, and that’s not really phased as a question. A far more likely search query using your voice would be: “Hey, Google. What are the best hamburger places in Indianapolis?”

This transition to voice search opens up a whole new world for how content and sites are optimized. If nothing else, this signals the continuing, declining influence of an exclusively keyword-driven strategy—and the corresponding emphasis on facilitating user experience.

Visual + voice opens up a whole new world of options

This is where things get tricky and, well, a bit weird. The Amazon Echo Show is basically an Echo with a touchscreen. Not quite a tablet, the Show allows for people to watch videos on voice command and communicate with others through video chat.

The Show is pretty new, and its Google equivalent (not officially announced, but almost a guarantee in this arms race) has yet to debut.

This could once again change the face of voice search. Would visual allow for greater text ad potential with voice search? We’ll have to wait and see with this one.

Are ads coming next?

Speaking of ads: what is the future of voice itself as an ad platform? What would that even look like?

Both Amazon and Google seem to be playing it safe. This is such a critical juncture for devices like the Echo and Home, and neither company probably wants to do something that could kill user interest and tip the advantage to the other device.

However, the potential for ads on voice search has to be huge, for all the reasons listed above.

Let’s go back to that intent-driven search for hamburgers in Indianapolis. If your search for “the best hamburger places in Indianapolis” returned a list, and then an ad for one place over another, that could very well be the difference.

There are major hurdles. Voice ads are far more intrusive than text ads; many think they may very well kill the user experience on voice search and erode trust in the authenticity of search results. You don’t need to work at Google’s Mountain View campus to know those two things are sacred to what Google does.

In a recent study, only 18% of voice assistant owners said they were willing to hear ads embedded into answers. That attitude is a huge roadblock. Up to 30% said ads would be okay if they could determine whether or not the ad played. That’s not much better.

Those might be tough numbers to overcome. However, there was once a point in time where the placement of ads in desktop search results—the very core of pay-per-click advertising—was just as unthinkable.

There would need to be a significant culture change amongst users, and Google / Amazon would need to get creative. We’ll keep you informed on this topic.

Don’t neglect mobile and desktop

Yes, voice search is very exciting. Yes, we’re going to be hearing a lot about it this weekend as thousands of Amazon Echoes and Google Homes ship out. At the same time, it’s important to not lose sight of where search stands at this moment.

Voice search made up 20% of all searches last year, but many of those were probably on phones, not in-home devices. Even if Google and Amazon exceeded their sales expectations for voice-controlled speaker systems this Black Friday, it’d only be a drop in the water compared to the number of Americans with smartphones.

That only underscores that mobile search is more important than ever. Another way to put it? The age of voice search has dawned, but mobile and desktop still dominate—something we talked about in this blog post.

Your guide in the world of all things search

5 Fold Marketing provides more than just advice. We manage digital marketing campaigns for clients across the United States. To learn more about our services or products, give us a call at (480) 939-3203 or connect with us on Facebook.