Blog: White Paper on Voice Search in Media and Marketing Industry
Voice search is getting bigger. It will change the way that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is executed, help businesses in the media and marketing industry improve their customer experience, and drive significant traffic to their sales channels. This white paper aims to highlight the opportunities and risks brought forth by voice search technology, and how we might be able to harness this technology to our advantage.
1. Voice Technology and Its Growth
According to ComScore, half of smartphone users today engage with voice technology on their devices, and many of them are using the features habitually (Comscore, 2013).
Data from Voicebot.ai indicates that nearly one in five U.S. adults in 2018 have access to a voice-powered device. That means adoption of these voice-powered devices has grown to 47.3 million U.S. adults in two years — or 20% of U.S. adult population (Perez, 2018).
Screenless browsing is expected to account for 30% of browsing by 2020, and 50% of the searches will be conducted through voice technology (Digital Marketing Institute, n.d.). Businesses need to keep up if they want to remain visible to consumers in the coming years, and incorporating voice technology into their sales and marketing strategies becomes key.
People are getting used to the idea of using voice as a search medium. This leads to more data being collected and furthers the machine learning and AI prediction of words, to generate better responses to search queries. When the accuracy of voice recognition technology reaches “Human Level”, more people will increasingly look to using voice as the preferred medium for search.
Google has been leading the charge when it comes to developing voice search technology. For example, Google has been feeding an AI engine with text from romance novels to allow the AI to learn conversational styles (Kantrowitz, 2016). In addition, Google also developed Tacotron 2, a new method for generating natural sounding speech from text (Shen & Pang, 2017).
2. Recent Innovations in Media and Marketing Industry
The growth in voice technology has led to increased use of conversational-style user interfaces for media and marketing:
- Chatbots — there are 300,000 monthly active bots (Hutchinson, 2018) on Facebook Messenger, offering a platform for marketers to connect with target audiences.
- Software to support human-assisted live chat — segmentation and automation rules to trigger messages on-site, in-app or through email, e.g. Intercom, Helpcrunch, and Drift (Chaffey, 2018).
- Voice controlled search assistants — e.g. Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, Samsung Bixby, and Google’s Assistant
- Voice controlled connected devices — e.g. Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Home Pods, Baidu RavenH, Alibaba Genie X1 where China is leading in AI device adoption (Kinsella, 2018).
3. Gaps Identified in Media and Markeing Industry
The biggest leap in voice search within the last 2 years has been voice commerce. The world index reports states that 22% of the internet users use smart assistants to do their online grocery shopping (McCue, 2018). Alexa has been the dominating the market but currently, there is no one doing paid voice search/media buying in voice search. There is no avenue at the moment for advertisers to place sponsored results (Graham, 2017).
As at November 2018, Instagram has not launched chatbots. The addition of Instagram chatbots would allow brands to do more marketing like personalised commerce, instant customer support and increased engagement with their followers and customers (Shriftman, 2018).
4. Strategies for Change, and Recommendations
In a study conducted by Hitwise in 2017, the chart on “Level of penetration of voice search across different verticals” (Baker, 2018) shows news and media at 64%, entertainment at 42%, and marketing (combining F&B, retail, travel, etc.) at 69%, on average.
The media and marketing industry can get ahead of the search curve by adopting the latest voice engine optimization strategies.
Strategy #1: Optimise Website For ‘Position V’
According to SEO Director John Morabito (2018), “Position V is a featured voice search result that is read aloud by either Alexa, Google, or any other voice assistant.” Optimising the website to achieve ‘Position V’ offers more footprint — not only on mobile but also on other smart devices.
- Make website secure with SSL — Websites that are HTTPS-secured dominate the Google voice search results. Host with a dedicated IP address; purchase a security certificate, activate and install the certificate; and update the web site to use HTTPS://.
Strategy #2: Turn Existing Content Into Actions
Actions would mean having a better grasp of the things that people can ask voice assistants. Content should be conversational, based on what people would generally ask.
- Utilise structured markup and accelerated mobile page (AMP) — in 2017, Moz analyzed 1,000 voice searches to provide data. Up to 90% of the results were ‘featured snippets’ — the featured result displayed at the top of results. Organisations should be optimising for featured snippets by structuring content to be concise.2
- Create Q&A or FAQ (Mastaler, 2018) — group similar questions together to establish topical authority and provide Google and other voice engines with answers.
- Create concise voice search answers — the average voice search answer tends to be brief and to the point at about 29 words (Dean, 2018).
Strategy #3: Optimise Business Listing
A 2018 research from BrightLocal shows that 46% of voice search users look for a local business via voice search daily (Murphy, 2018). This is why it is important to optimise location to increase chances of powering voice search results.
- Claim and refine listing on Google directory.
Strategy #4: Utilise Social Media
An average voice search result generated 1,199 shares on Facebook and 44 tweets from Twitter (Dean, 2018).
- Actively use social networks to share content and engage audiences.
Strategy #5: Change Monetisation Strategies
Improving content monetisation (Friedman, 2017) allows media publishers to make money on voice searches.
- Structure subscription models — start experimenting, standardising and adapting to new ad formats so that these purchases can be done programmatically.
Strategy #6: Incentivize Consumers To Utilize Voice Search
- First mover award/reward — customers that use voice search could be awarded points or discounts once they have made online purchases.
Strategy #7: Improve the Customer Experience
- Personalise consumer voice experience (Digital Marketing Institute, n.d.) — voice search can be personalised through analytics and AI to identify patterns of user behaviour and activities.
5. Benefits, Risks, and Challenges
- Voice search facilitates purchases (Bentahar, 2017), as users tend to have more buying intent.
- Reach a more diverse demographic (multi-language audiences (Marianne, 2018), visually impaired, people with reading or physical disabilities (Allam, 2018)), as it reduces physical human-computer interactions via touchscreen, keyboard, or mouse.
- More personalised and gratifying for users, as they feel more natural (Sansone, 2018), and ‘tech-savvy’ (Comcowich, 2016) when using voice search.
Risks And Concerns
- Accidental triggering of voice search e.g. by TV advertisements (Diaz, 2017), casual conversations, or even pet parrots (Greatrex & White, 2017), resulting in unintended purchases (Nurse, 2018).
- Accuracy of voice recognition can be lowered by background noise (Finch, n.d.), and challenged by errors that irritate users, spoiling new users’ experience (The Economist, 2018).
- Most queries on smart home devices are for device actions like playing music, with only 11% of queries leading to site links, thus leaving little room for marketers (Meunier, 2018).
- Voice search optimization is different from traditional SEO, as people tend to use more natural language and the usual keywords might not be effective for voice search (EMarketed, 2018).
- Eavesdropping on private conversations (Cellan-Jones, 2017), due to hardware or software bugs, or deliberate hacking (Wuesst, 2017).
- Data privacy concerns. Marketers could use voice search history (Moynihan, 2016) without users’ consent to personalise ads; hackers might gain access to recordings, or voice assistants could be hacked e.g. through inaudible commands (Smith, 2018), or impersonated customer voices (RM Magazine, 2017).
- Information security: Organisations need to ensure sound data governance, so that customers maintain their trust as they try out new technologies and experiences offered by the brand. This includes providing users sufficient voice activity management controls and transparency over data collection, and staying compliant with data privacy regulations in various jurisdictions.
- Adapting to new voice SEO strategies: Marketers are familiar with traditional website SEO, but voice SEO is different and marketers need to be mindful and ensure that their marketing campaigns on voice recognition platforms do not disrupt users’ experiences (Trimble, 2018).
6. What’s At Stake, If Our Recommendations Are Ignored?
Voice search is a growing space and if media and marketing companies were to ignore our recommendations, they risk missing out on a huge segment of customers and therefore millions in sales. In traditional search engines, numerous results could be displayed on screen for voice search, marketers need to ensure that their content is highly relevant to users’ intentions so that they are selected as the response offered to users when they use the voice function (Davies, 2018). In addition, improper management of voice data and poor user experience through voice search would put users off voice search experiences with the brand, thus eroding users’ trust.
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