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Google Home, Amazon Echo, and the future of voice search marketing

The Future Of Voice Search

With Google Home and Amazon Echo in more homes, here’s where voice search marketing stands in 2017

Maybe you own one. Or, you’ve seen one in your neighbor’s home. Home assistants such as the Amazon Echo and the Google Home are increasing in popularity throughout the United States. As a result, “Ok, Google” and “Hey, Alexa” have entered the popular lexicon as more and more people use voice search in the home.

In this blog post, we’ll review what home assistants are, how they work, and—most importantly—what impact we think voice search marketing might have on the larger marketing landscape.

The rise of the home assistant and the smart home

Let’s start with a basic question: What is a home assistant?

Also referred to as a “digital assistant”, “smart home device”, or other names, these devices have some common elements:

  • They’re meant to be permanent, in-home devices, and not like a phone that you can take with you.
  • They’re powered by hands-free voice search, using minimal button entry.
  • They integrate with other smart home devices and features, such as smart lightbulbs and smart TVs.

Depending on the device and what company it’s from, these digital assistants live within an ecosystem of other devices. So, the owner of a Google Home can ask it to play a show on the Google Chromecast plugged into their TV, and an Amazon Echo owner can do the same thing with Amazon Fire TV.

Who is using these devices?

Overall, data suggests that millennials (broadly defined as people born in 1981 or after) make up the largest group of home assistant users. The marketing data firm eMarketer predicts that, by 2019, 39.3% of all millennials will have a smart assistant in their home.

The Amazon Echo has a larger market share

According to eMarketer, Amazon has more than 70% of the U.S. market share for home digital assistants. There are a few reasons for this. First, the Echo (with Alexa built in) was the first digital assistant introduced to the market, so other brands are still playing catchup.

It has the most cultural cache—along with Apple’s “Siri”, “Alexa” became late-night show comedy fodder after its release—and has released a number of side-products, such as the inexpensive Echo Dot and the new Echo Show.

The Echo and Alexa aren’t just for shopping on Amazon. With Alexa’s help, homeowners can search for things nearby, find businesses, and connect with news, weather, and events.

The Echo also supports voice calling—something Google hasn’t caught up with just yet, although they’re rolling out an update in the late summer to address this.

As we’ll discuss with Google in a minute: Amazon has been experimenting with monetizing voice search through the Echo.

The Google Home has the backing of the world’s primary search engine

Even though the Google Home is lagging behind the Amazon Echo at the moment (only 24% market share), the system has a puncher’s chance of catching up.

After all, being a product of the Google / Alphabet system brings inherent benefits that Amazon can’t compete with in some ways. For example: many experts agree that home digital assistants will eventually get better—and will have people interact with them more—at answering questions typically left to search:

  • “Where’s the top-rated pizza place near me?”
  • “What are some 24/7 plumbers in my area?”
  • “What hours is that ice cream parlor open on Saturdays?”

In other words, as digital assistant searches transition from asking questions about news and weather and asking Alexa / Home to play music to full searches, the digital assistant market moves into an area that is comfortably in Google’s wheelhouse.

One problem: in March, Google experimented with ads in Google Home to nearly universal condemnation, and they quickly stopped the test. There’s not really an appetite for people to hear traditional advertising in their home when they ask for the weather.

Maybe something akin to Google AdWords can help steer voice searches toward certain businesses that compete and pay for the top spot? Some are skeptical. Google likes advertising revenue, but they rely on the public trusting the authenticity of results. It’s possible that purchased voice search results could erode that trust.

Apple enters the ring. Can the HomePod catch up?

It’s best not to underestimate the allure of Apple products. And many consumers are already familiar with Siri thanks to the iPhone’s enduring popularity. However, the HomePod isn’t launching until December of this year. At a retail price of $349, it’s hundreds of dollars more expensive than the Google Home or Amazon Echo.

Finally, Apple is much more focused on music, as many tech writers note that Siri is laps behind competing voice assistants when it comes to search. By the time the HomePod comes out, Home and Echo will have rolled out new updates that expand their functionality and improve their search.

So, what do we draw from this? Apple is late to the party, and they’ll need to work to catch the other tech giants. The HomePod will have buyers, but it might be niche than the more mainstream Google and Amazon offerings.

What does this all mean for businesses?

We’re sorry to be anticlimactic, but we just don’t know yet. The truth is that digital assistants are still pretty new, and they’re working out major kinks and features on-the-go. Plus, companies like Google and Amazon are still trying to figure out monetization for search on their devices.

Once—and most experts agree it’s a matter of when, not if—they figure out how to build ads into their digital assistants, there’s a whole field for voice search marketing that can take off. Imagine Google paid ads with an extension for search. There’ll be new types of optimization for us to study and adapt to when that happens.

However, that doesn’t mean we’re not prepared for a brave new world of voice search marketing. Here are some of the things we’ve been doing to improve and optimize client campaigns that lead to positive organic voice search outcomes:

Improved local listings

We’ve been optimizing local listings for our clients and making sure all information—especially that contained on Google—is up-to-date. We’ve also been incorporating new Google features, such as Google Posts.

Studying micro-moments

In an earlier blog post, we talked about how micro-moments involve capturing an intent-rich prospective customer at the time when they need or want something.

What’s more “intent-rich” than a voice search? Our optimization in this area will fit right in with what’s happening with digital assistants.

Improved Google Maps presence

We’ve put a lot of time and effort into optimizing client listings in Google Maps.

This stuff matters. When voice searchers ask Google (or Amazon, for that matter) for the “closest” place, “directions” to a place, or “the service area” of a place, we want your business to be the one that it picks. That’s where voice search marketing optimization becomes important.

So, what does the future hold for voice search marketing?

We’ll have to see. However, we’ll keep on top of updates in the world of digital assistants and report back to you about new updates. Who knows: maybe Apple will surprise the world and release the HomePod to universal acclaim and love.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about what other marketing experts think about voice search, check out this article over at WordStream.

Have other questions for us about voice search marketing and the research we’re doing at 5 Fold? You can give us a call at (480) 939-3203 or send us an email at