What Is Voice Search?

girl using voice search

You’ve got a friend. Multiple friends. Alexa. Siri. Cortana. Google. These voice assistants and more are becoming better conversationalists as AI technology, data and machine learning evolve. The good news? No matter the question you have or where and when you ask it, you’ll get your answer. But voice search offers other obvious benefits too. It’s hands-free, it’s faster and it’s convenient, and the numbers show it’s on the rise: Consumers are starting to trust and embrace it. In fact, one-third of the U.S. population uses voice search features, and 71% of consumers prefer to conduct queries by voice instead of typing. Read on now to learn about voice search – what it is, how and why consumers are accessing it and how it differs from standard search. Plus, get marketing tips you can act on now to take advantage of it before this largely untapped channel becomes more widely adopted.

Voice search is when consumers give vocal commands – speak instead of type – to search the internet, a website or an app, and the technology is quickly becoming a part of the rhythm and routine of everyday life for many consumers.

How Are People Accessing It?

Voice assistants are popular for people using voice search today because they can handle voice commands across devices such as smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, smart speakers, game consoles – you name it, even cars, connected home devices (for instance, thermostats, security systems and doorbells) and appliances. In fact, eMarketer estimates a little over 135 million Americans will use voice assistants at least once a month on any device this year, which is over 45% of internet users and roughly 40% of the U.S. population.

Smart speakers, those devices that use voice assistant software like Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple’s HomePod, are also gaining ground. eMarketer estimates about 94 million users will use them this year – almost 28% of Americans – and just over 69% of voice assistant users.

People use voice search to fulfill different needs, but there’s some commonality in its usage. Microsoft ran a survey to find out how consumers were using voice technology, and among the top five reasons were searching or researching a product, service or business:

  1. Searching for a quick fact: 68% of respondents
  2. Asking for directions: 65% of respondents
  3. Searching for a product/service: 52% of respondents
  4. Searching for a business: 47% of respondents
  5. Researching a product/service: 44% of respondents

Of course, voice assistants have other functions as well, such as home management or voice commands, for example, playing music or adjusting the lighting. But those use cases have less impact on marketing compared to the reasons above, which present potential new opportunities for marketers to connect with consumers at key stages to better advertise their products or services.

Consumers are using voice search like regular search to find quick, convenient answers or solutions to their questions or problems. However, here are three key differences in how marketers can use it to their advantage:

1. Voice Search Is More Conversational.

Voice search is more natural, more conversational and more human. Not only are the queries more question-like (why? what? when? how?), they’re also longer and more specific compared to typical search queries since they’re spoken and not a typed string of keywords. Voice assistants are expected to quickly provide accurate answers in a friendly and conversational manner.

How Marketers Can Prepare

  • Research, analyze and optimize these queries around search engine optimization (SEO) strategies and pay per click (PPC) keyword lists. If you see a common or recurring theme or question among these queries, write as you speak and include conversational keyword phrases and clear and concise information possibly in the FAQ section on your site. Understanding consumer intent and answering your audience’s common questions simply and concisely could boost your chances of achieving coveted Google featured snippets in search results.
  • Voice assistants can provide different answers to similar voice search questions, so consider adjusting your strategy based on individual voice search assistants instead of just voice search itself, much like how you would approach Google and Bing differently even though they’re both search engine marketing (SEM) platforms.

2. Voice Search Is Primarily Mobile.

While traditional search is done across a multitude of devices, voice search queries come primarily from mobile devices.

How Marketers Can Prepare

  • Focus on mobile page speed. Create a fast mobile site with accurate information to appear in voice search results. (Without an optimized site, your strategy could fall behind compared to competitors that do.)
  • Make sure your business’s local information is accurate and relevant not only across your website but also on listing sites across the web such as Google My Business or Yelp. That way, consumers can easily find you, especially when they’re doing “near me” searches.

3. Voice Search Is the Future.

Voice search is part of our lives and affects the current marketing landscape and how consumers approach information gathering. Over the next few years, it’s projected to grow as technology continues to evolve and becomes more consumer-friendly and adoption rates rise. So voice technology’s impact on the current search landscape and its potential shouldn’t be ignored.

How Marketers Can Prepare

  • Keep up with new voice search opportunities and a careful eye on privacy concerns, technological updates and emerging AI trends.
  • Adapt, test and experiment with voice search now to ensure your marketing strategy is optimal to build awareness and loyalty with your target audience that will last.

More people are using their voices. When they do speak up and ask questions, make sure your brand shows up and has good answers. Reach out now for a no-commitment consultation to discover how you can make the most of voice search and supplement and optimize your standard search campaigns to ramp up your visibility in search results.

Robert “Bobby” Fitzgerald is a Media Solutions Manager at Goodway Group. He has a graduate degree in media studies and uses this to his advantage to ensure his clients have the optimal SEM campaigns and marketing strategies for their needs. When he isn’t applying strategic thinking to marketing, he applies it to the multitude of video, tabletop and board games he plays in his off time.