The Future of Voice Search for Business


Something that has become a regular part of my morning routine is waking up, making coffee and then turning to the little grey device in my living room and asking, “Hey Google, what’s the weather today?” Yes, I can look out the window or I could check one of many weather apps to get a look at the day ahead. However, it’s just easier to ask and receive a detailed answer immediately. It’s for this convenience that ComScore estimates that by 2020 50% of all searches will be done via voice.

Nearly one in five U.S. adults have access to a smart speaker, which means voice-powered devices has grown to 47.3 million U.S. users in two years. As voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Cortana continue to improve their capacity for recognizing human speech; one can expect new adopters to rise quickly.

The benefits of voice search in our daily lives are clear. Say what you need and get an answer. Humans, after all, prefer the path of least resistance. In business, voice search is also starting to make its impact. In 2017, purchases using a voice assistant hit $1.8 billion, and by 2021, that number is expected to rise to $408 billion! If brands aren’t already optimizing for voice search in their marketing, it’s time to start.

Optimizing for Voice Search

As voice search is integrated more and more into consumers’ lives brands need to consider the difference in optimizing for voice vs. traditional search. Think about it. Do you speak the way you type? It’s not likely. Focusing on long-tail keywords should be your first approach in your SEO. These are longer phrases, usually in a more conversational, sentence-based format. These differ from the standard header keywords which are shorter and only consist of one to two words. For example, if a user is looking for a cleaning service nearby a traditional head keyword might look like this:

“cleaning services” or “cleaning service near me.”

A long-tail search would sound more conversational:

“What’s a good cleaning service near me?” or “What are the top rated cleaning services in my area?”

Optimizing for long-tail keywords increases the likelihood of getting a brand found in a voice search. Creating content that is based explicitly around long-tail keywords is one way you can start building out your voice search optimization. Make sure you are writing in a natural, conversational voice and that your content is beneficial to your audience. Do a little research on what terms they are currently searching that are relevant to your business.

Paid Advertising with Voice Search

To date, Google has not yet monetized paid search through voice assistants. While it’s inevitable that they will, there is some concern around it. Some argue that the very nature of voice search makes it difficult to monetize at all. It is challenging to include paid results without it feeling too intrusive or forced to a user. The other issue is that audible-only responses will often only returns a single result. Meaning, brands pay a premium to make sure that a single result is their ad. Companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and now Facebook have already monetized voice search by selling voice assistant devices themselves. The jury is still out on how brands can take a piece of the pie.

Privacy Concerns of Voice Search

It’s no secret that smart speakers like Alexa or Google Home are in a constant “listen” mode. For this reason, there has been some controversy over user privacy. However, with purchases of voice assistant devices on the rise, it would seem that most users have merely accepted the reality that Google or Amazon can technically listen in on your home. However, what about purchasing a voice assistant? According to a study by PwC, trust remains a barrier for voice assistant shoppers.

50% of survey respondents said they had made a purchase using their voice assistant. Most purchases were for smaller items like ordering a pizza, dog food or household items like paper towels. Still, trust concerns are evident. . 46% of respondents said that they didn’t trust their voice assistant to interpret and process their order correctly and 45% said they didn’t trust or feel comfortable sending payment through their voice assistant. There was also some concern about other household users, like children being able to make purchases without adult consent or being able to review past purchases of other family members. E-commerce brands need to pay attention to these concerns and make sure they to address them in their marketing.

Brands and marketers can expect voice search to continue to rise over the next few years and the technology is only going to get better and smarter.

*Originally published on KMH.

Kristen Harold