What Voice Search Means for Digital Marketing in 2017

One of the largest digital marketing trends for 2017 is voice search. Voice search is a form of digital personal assistance, and many people find it more efficient than text searching. Companies like Microsoft are responding to voice search’s popularity, building more “conversational canvases” for their applications.

How Voice Search Works

Without realizing it, people alter their search behavior whether they are speaking or typing. When typing, you probably use a short search phrase like “Secretary of Education.” When speaking to an app like Siri or Cortana, though, you most likely say, “Who is the Secretary of Education?” You use natural language instead of forming a “correct” search phrase to get the results you want.

Increasing numbers of devices, from laptops to smartphones, are using entry points that allow voice search, such as Amazon’s Echo app or Google’s microphone. Activating an entry point with your voice lets you personalize your searches much more than you can with a traditional search engine. If you routinely search for book titles or authors, your voice entry point will eventually learn to recognize what you’re about to say. Over time, applications may open the sites you want before you finish saying an entire phrase.

Who Uses Voice Search?

In late 2014, Thrive Analytics found 71% of smartphone users ages 18-29 used voice search. Fifty-nine percent of smartphone users ages 30-43 also used it. However, voice search reaches plenty of people outside the “early adopter” demographic. More than 60% of people age 44 and older benefited from voice search as of late 2014, and that number should only grow in 2017.

According to Google’s Director of Conversational Search, Behshad Behzadi, voice search is growing much faster than text search. People across demographics are “increasingly comfortable using speech commands” and talking into their phones, perhaps because results are quicker and more specific than those of a text search. In a recent keynote address, Behzadi explained people rely more on voice search because they want mobile assistance that “helps with…daily life so [they] can focus on the things that matter.”

Indeed, voice search is helping people spend less time preparing to do things, and more time doing them. Many people rely on text searches when trying to find a new place. However, the margin of error for text searches is higher than that of voice searches. With a text search, you might sift through several unhelpful sites before finding directions pertaining to your specific destination. You might also have to look for directions specific to your route or the directions easiest for you to follow. With voice search, you can clearly communicate your destination, route, and other factors, cutting out extra search time.

Innovations in Voice Search

Although voice search is relatively new, its landscape is already changing to fit the people most likely to use it. In the past, searchers were used to looking up what they needed based on 1-2 keywords. With voice search, however, people are learning to use complete sentences such as, “I want to find fashionable clothing in sizes 8-14.” These longer keyword phrases are more voice-friendly, giving the search engine more to work with. Searchers are encouraged to speak naturally and use as many specific phrases as they like.

Increasingly, voice search relies on question words – who, what, when, where, and why. Question words keep people from using stilted “search language.” Additionally, they increase the likelihood of finding a “perfect” answer during a first search. A query like, “Italian restaurants near Asheville” may pull up the Asheville Olive Garden, along with venues in Sylva, Hickory, or Statesville. “Where are the Italian restaurants in Asheville” will likely pull up the exact address of Asheville Olive Gardens, plus a Travinia’s Italian Kitchen or Carabba’s within a 30-mile radius.

Voice search has also helped people communicate their intent more strongly. A text search for “hybrid car” doesn’t tell a search engine if you want to buy a car, research its environmental impact, or compare costs across auto dealerships. With a voice search you can say, “I want to buy a hybrid car” and immediately get directed to applicable sites. Extra information won’t be there unless you actively search for it.

Making Voice Search Work for You in 2017

This year, most if not all of your clients or customers will be familiar with voice search. To make it work for you, prepare yourself to meet voice searchers’ needs. Use question words in your key phrases so your clients can find specific answers. Do not let question words be eliminated in text searches. Use specific, long-tailed phrases – “Amish books set in Sarasota” instead of “Amish novels,” for instance.

Keep local businesses in mind – not only your own, but the ones around you. Voice search is three times more likely to be locally based than text search, so make sure your business has a strong online presence. Encourage other business owners to do the same. This helps everyone keep each other profitable and popular.