What does voice innovation mean for search marketing?

What does voice innovation mean for search marketing? Andy McCaul is director and co-founder of the Creative Digital Agency, The Bigger Boat. Andy has over 12 years experience in direct & digital marketing, SEO (natural & paid), conversion optimisation, business development and marketing strategy.

The upsurge in the use of voice-controlled devices has rocked the way we, as people, behave. So many households now rely on gadgets like Alexa to play music, check the weather and turn out the lights. They’ve introduced a newfound level of convenience – and some would argue laziness – to consumers’ lives.

These same innovations have changed how some people buy – albeit usually simple commodities – online, and they’re even being used to settle family debates too, when you can’t quite put your finger on the fact you need access to.

Give these devices a question and they’ll – usually – get you your answer.

So is it any wonder that search marketers are panicking?

Well, yes. Because any savvy search marketer will already have all bases covered, so there’s really nothing to worry about.

Yes, the popularity of voice-controlled devices is on the rise. Yes, their capabilities are continually advancing beyond what anyone thought was first possible. And yes, according to an article on Internet Retailing, 53% of CMOs will be investing in voice search over the next 12 months.

But whilst voice-controlled devices may represent another channel for individuals to use in their hunt for information, the search marketing techniques underpinning a brand’s success needn’t be any different to those already deployed by effective marketers.

Digital agencies have been conducting keyword research and suggesting content – rich with SEO potential – for years. Many of these content suggestions are question-led – from ‘what is the best office laptop?’ to ‘what are the showing times for Mission: Impossible Fallout tonight?’ because a large proportion of users now type how they speak. So content that is highly targeted towards such search queries, will naturally top the organic results, whether the question has been typed or spoken.

Search marketers don’t therefore need to create a separate pot of money to ‘invest in voice’.

A consumer or business trend?

Whilst voice-controlled search – using tech ranging from Alexa to Siri – is on the up in the consumer environment, there is arguably a limit to how far people will go in their verbal-led hunt for information.  

Will its popularity spill over into the B2B space for example? Perhaps not. It may be a handy way to order team pizzas at lunchtime, but the application is probably a bit too ‘public’ for a business query that someone may pose in the office with colleagues around.

What is really exciting, is how far voice-controlled searches are starting to go in their capabilities. At the Google I/O conference in San Francisco back in May, for instance, the search giant demonstrated how close the Google Assistant is to being able to make a call to reserve a restaurant table or book a hair appointment. This is voice innovation on a whole new level.

What would this mean for search marketers? Again, never say never, but I don’t think it should cause immediate alarm. Yes, the restaurant in question would need a website and a Google Places account. However, after that, the restaurant simply needs to provide great customer service, to a bot rather than a person. So again, all bases are hopefully covered.

There is no denying that this is an extremely agile and exciting space. But what does voice innovation mean for search marketing? Quite simply, the profession needs to just keep doing a decent job.

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