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Voice Search Marketing 2018: Hey Google, Where Are The Opportunities?

by Colm O’Sullivan | May 21, 2018 |

My name is Colm O’ Sullivan and I’m an addict…

I’m not ashamed to admit it, but I own five virtual assistants (smart speakers) — six, if you include Google Assistant built-in to Android Auto. I’m a virtual assistant evangelist!

And I’m not the only one who is totally sold on using virtual assistants. 47 million Americans currently own a smart speaker and Google Assistant is built into 400 million devices, with over one billion voice searches each month. In fact, the number of people who own a smart speaker has increased by 128% in the past 12 months and 72% of people who own a voice assistant today, use it on a daily basis.

It is estimated that by 2020, 50% of all search queries will be image or voice searches and by 2021, 8 billion devices will have digital assistants built-in.

Hey Google… is Voice Search the way of the future?

Those stats are pretty impressive and it’s quite obvious that I have fully bought into the Voice Search revolution. After all, Google Assistant is now an integral part of my daily routine and I’ve even gone so far as to convince close to a dozen friends and family members to join me in this revolution by purchasing a Google Home or Amazon Echo.

By all accounts, Voice Search could be the new “land of opportunities”… but not for the next 12 to 18 months. That’s because out of the 1 billion+ monthly Voice Search queries we have no way of knowing how many are navigational, local, prompt to play music, or home automation queries.

Google hasn’t yet released in-depth information regarding the real nature of voice search queries, but I think it’s safe to assume that the vast majority of those one billion+ monthly Voice Search queries aren’t general search queries.

As a result, Voice Search doesn’t offer digital marketers many opportunities at the moment. For one, Voice Search is a one-answer search result that your virtual assistant reads aloud in response to a search query. Most of the voice results come from featured snippets. The caveat is that if you want to have a chance of ranking in a featured snippet, you need to be ranking on page 1 for the search query already.

In addition, with the Alexa and Amazon Echo product range, you can only purchase from the Amazon store — keeping you locked into the Amazon brand. Similarly, Google Assistant is connected to the brand-new Google Shopping Actions, which means that you can purchase from 40+ stores but these are all physical stores selling physical products.

Interestingly, the Google Shopping Actions rollout is Google stealthily rolling out ads to their virtual assistants. You can read more about Google’s new Shopping Actions here. Now, if you sell physical products and are trying to compete with Amazon, this is a big opportunity. If you don’t sell physical products, then unfortunately, it isn’t. Not yet, anyway.

For the Agora businesses, the VSL model works very well, but neither Alexa or Google Assistant support a promotion/VSL model of selling products and services… not without the use of specialized Voicebots.

Ok Google… where is the goose laying golden eggs?

When it comes to virtual assistants, the biggest opportunity for digital marketers in the near future is the Voicebot. Right now, you can create a Voicebot that can do the following:

Colm: Hey Google, Talk to Company X

Voicebot: Hi Colm, how can I help you?

Colm: Have you any recommendations this week?

Voicebot: Yes, my recommendation this week is ‘X.’ Would you like to hear more information on it?

Colm: Yes

Voicebot: Voicebot reads out article.

On Google, you can also ask if the user would like to watch a video on a Chromecast enabled device, which opens up the possibility of the Voicebot sending the user to a VSL or video explainer, and purchasing through voice prompt on the card associated with your Google account.

This functionality already exists, and once the adoption of smart displays for voice search, and Google Assistant enabled TV adoption takes off over the next few years, Voicebot usage will explode, and so will the opportunities around marketing through virtual assistants.

But right now, it’s probably too early to push resources towards Voicebots. The good news is, the data you use in your Messenger Chatbots should be transferrable to your Voicebots down the line.

You can read more about Google’s changing device capabilities here, and more about transaction through Google Actions here.

There is also a small opportunity around branded Voice Search.

Implementing structured data will increase your chances of getting your website to appear in Voice Search.

Structured data, more commonly known as Schema Mark-up, is a standardized type of code that makes it easier for search engines to crawl, organize, and display your content. You can learn more about structured data, and how to implement it, here.

There’s also a small opportunity around adding telephone schema to your contact details on your site, and your phone number to your Google My Business listing. Doing this will allow customers to call your business through Alexa and Google Home.

The bottom line…

Voice Search is still in its infancy. It is where mobile was back in 2010. Think about how you used the internet in 2010. How often did you use mobile to search the web back then? Think about how you use the internet now. How often do you use mobile search in 2018?

The same shift is coming again, and this time it won’t take 8 years. Within the next 4–5 years, Voice Search will eclipse mobile, and become the primary way to browse the internet. So, be prepared and keep your ear to the ground. Be ready to act in the next 12–18 months, because that is when I believe marketing opportunities will begin to surface.

In the meantime, there are essential things you can implement on your website that will increase your chances of showing up in Voice Search in the future…

Implement structured data on your website right away, and if there are opportunities to rank in featured snippets, grab them. Ranking in featured snippets will increase traffic to your website on both desktop, and mobile, and ultimately increase conversions, while implementing structured data will allow search engines to understand your website better.

A knock-on effect of making these changes, is that you’ll increase your chances of appearing in Voice Search… for now this benefit may seem secondary, but as Voice Search becomes more prominent, you’ll be glad that you acted with some foresight.

Thanks for reading.

Colm O’Sullivan, AIM

P.S. Google I/O took place this month also. You can read some of the best takeaways here: Duplex rocks!

P.P.S. I recently spoke about Voice Search on The Big Idea podcast. You can listen to it here: It was recorded before Google I/O.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 326,962+ people.

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