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How and why brands need to adapt to voice search marketing

Aug 30, 2017
How and why brands need to adapt to voice search marketing

According to a range of HubSpot statistics, search marketing has huge value for marketers. Among the most striking of their statistics are: 

- Google gets over 100 billion searches a month.

- The first position on Google search results on desktop has a 34.36% clickthrough rate, followed closely by a 31.35% clickthrough rate on mobile.

- 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search.

With such high figures demonstrating that search has not only become a marketing staple but a central tool for driving sales figures, web traffic and ultimately profits, brands need to ensure that they remain on top of the industry and keep their strategy relevant.

Why do people use voice search? 

And yet search marketing is changing. According to the same HubSpot article, 20% of search queries on Google's mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches, with 19% of people claiming to use Siri at least daily. This increase in the popularity of voice search is a relatively new phenomenon, with developments in technology allowing ever more accurate and intelligent searches to be made with the click of only one button.

According to HubSpot writers Matt Barby and Amanda Zantal-Wiener, voice search ‘is changing the way people find information.’ Speed is one of the motivations, as voice search can deliver results at a pace inconceivable for regular desktop or mobile search. Insights from virtual assistant app Hound about the most-frequent voice searches show that 30% of users seek general information like recipes, news, travel, and banking, with 22% seeking local information like food delivery, store locations and the weather.

Why voice search matters 

While all this may sound like a specific set of requests that not every brand need necessarily consider, the impact of voice search is far more wide-reaching that it may seem at first glance.

Perhaps the biggest diversion from conventional search comes from the fact that when using voice search, the language and desired information is different. While traditional search algorithms piece together words and phrases to deliver relevant information (for example “coffee shop London”), an individual using voice search may ask ‘where can I find the best flat white near me?

This absence of key words and phrases means that the primary tools marketers use to ensure that their brand appears at the top of search results pages, or the content they create to hit key word searches, suddenly may not prove as effective when it comes to voice search, which is more akin to a conversation and the nuances that this brings.

How can marketers adapt?

Although voice search may not overtake desktop and mobile search in the coming years, there is little doubt that as the sophistication of this technology continues to develop, and our lives remain as demanding of instant gratification as ever, more and more people are likely to use voice search to deliver the results they need.

It is because of this that marketers need to adapt to the changing environment, and this can be done in a number of key ways:

1 – Fine-tune content based on differentiation

As voice search allows people to ask ever more specific questions, marketers will need to ensure that their content is rich enough to deliver the required results. According to Marketing Land:

            ‘it may be in your best interest to have specific natural language pages that come from CRM exchanges so that search engines can index them and return more accurate information to consumers based on past conversations.’

Arguing that simply queries like ‘best running shoes’ will quickly morph into ‘I need a size 10 and a half running shoe with a 5-star rating that’s on sale in-store on Newbury Street,’ Marketing Land suggests that ‘if you’ve optimised toward head terms like “running shoes,” you may want to revisit the core value propositions of your products and work towards always winning on specific and critical points of differentiation.’ 

2- Adapt voice search insights to your industry 

Although the most natural fit for voice search is shops, local businesses and B2C marketers, there is little reason that brands in other sectors cannot adapt their strategies to make the most of the opportunities that voice search can bring.

One such example of this is Ryanair, which has recently enabled Alexa voice recognition to allow its customers to search for flights, hotels, and flight status information on its website. According to an article by The Drum, the customer asks their MyRyanair account a query, and receives a verbal response detailing the information requested. The Drum notes that while ‘this is an “information service” for now, flight bookings are in development and should be rolled out in the coming months.’

3- Start working for ‘position zero’

Search Engine Land believes that whereas traditional SEO compels brands to work for the top spot on the results page, whether via organic or paid-for means, when it comes to voice search ‘position zero’ is the new number one. 

This can be done by working for featured snippets, ‘which appear at the top of the search results page, above the normal search results. The snippet contains the URL and page title, along with a “snippet” of the page’s content in an attempt to answer the searcher’s query.’ Designed to attract the user’s attention and delivering significantly increased click-through rates on desktop, these little-targeted snippets could in fact prove highly valuable for making the conversion to voice search.

Search Engine Land points out that ‘when a featured snippet is populated for a query, voice search devices read the snippet and source aloud,’ effectively declaring them an authority or expert on the specific topic and centralising the importance of snippets for performing well on voice search. 

Whatever your industry or brand offering, voice search is likely to impact on your SEO strategy in the coming years. Ensuring that you are aware of this now and able to make the relevant changes to optimise can prove useful for keeping up with the competition in the future.


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