A CMO’s Guide to Voice Search in Less Than Five Minutes

This article is part of a series where we summarize SEO topics in less than five minutes.

Voice search using a mobile phone.

Voice search presents a massive and often untapped opportunity for brands to add more value and gain more visibility. Here’s what you need to know about this growing trend.

Key Definitions and Facts

Voice search is a voice-enabled way to search or complete a task on the web or an app. A person speaks their query into a microphone (on their phone or a home assistant device). The queries are usually in the form of a question (such as “What is …”) or a command (“Do this …”).

Voice assistants are programs on digital devices that facilitate queries. Examples of voice assistants include Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Voice assistants can be found on many devices. For example, Google Assistant is on smartphones and a ton of other devices for the home.

Smart speakers are devices like home assistants that are powered by voice assistants. Think Google Home (powered by Google Assistant) or Amazon Echo (powered by Amazon Alexa).

Actions (Google) or Skills (Alexa) are the terms used for voice-enabled capabilities on your voice-assisted device, which are akin to apps on a smartphone. They allow the user to do something. These capabilities can be developed by Amazon itself, for example, or by third-party developers. For example, Actions on Google might help you with food delivery: “OK Google, order Chinese food.”

Voice assistants work by selecting what they believe is the best answer to a searcher’s voice query through features on the search engine results page, for example.

Or they can help a searcher facilitate a task on a voice device through a Skill or Action. In both cases, the interaction between the voice assistant and the user is conversational.

It’s also important to understand that different search engines power different voice assistants. For example, Google, of course, powers Google Assistant and all its enabled devices. But Bing powers Amazon Alexa and devices like Echo (when something is not covered by a Skill).

Key Trends and Stats

Back in 2016, Google stated that 20% of searches (one in five) on Google’s mobile app and Android devices were voice queries. Newer data from Adobe shows that 48% of consumers are using voice assistants for general web searches.

eMarketer predicts that by 2021, U.S. voice assistant users will reach about 123 million, and the number is growing each year.

US voice assistant users and penetration data, 2017-2021.

Amazon Alexa is a leader. It’s supported by the highest number of devices (an estimated 60,000 according to Statista), including Echo, with a rapidly growing set of Skills.

Amazon Echo user base and Skills growth chart.
Internet Trends 2019, Bond Capital

But Google Assistant is also widely used, as outlined here.

Voice Search Benefits & Concerns

So what is the force behind the trend — why do people use voice search?

Voice search is about convenience. People say voice assistants improve their quality of life and save them time (according to Adobe data linked earlier).

This happens whether they are using voice assistants on their smartphones (85% of the time) or in their cars (31% of the time).

Voice tech usage statistics per Adobe research.
Adobe research via Search Engine Land

However, privacy concerns could potentially hinder the adoption of voice technology. The Adobe data supports that as well as research from NPR and Microsoft.

  • Eighty-one percent said their issue with voice technology was privacy concerns. (Adobe)
  • Sixty-six percent say they don’t own a smart speaker because it’s always listening. (NPR)
  • Forty-one percent of users reported concerns about trust, privacy, and passive listening. (Microsoft)

Even with concerns about privacy, adoption is not expected to slow. Especially as the newer generations use technology on their terms.

Brands can position themselves to be more useful in a voice-search world by optimizing for voice queries. Be sure to read the how-to in my next post here.

As a CMO, if you are not discussing voice search in meetings, you are already behind.

Could you use some expert assistance to make your website more competitive? Contact us for a free consultation and quote.

FAQ: How can I leverage voice search for brand optimization?

Voice search has revolutionized consumer interactions with brands. This whitepaper explores how businesses can utilize this trend to increase brand presence and engagement with their target market.

Understanding the Voice Search Landscape

To excel in voice search brand optimization, it’s crucial to comprehend the landscape. Smart assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are at the core of voice search technology. These virtual entities use artificial intelligence and natural language processing techniques to comprehend user queries. Optimizing for voice search involves tailoring your content to align with these technologies.

Crafting Voice-Search-Friendly Content

Creating content that resonates with voice search requires a different approach compared to traditional text-based SEO. Start by understanding the common voice search queries relevant to your industry. Optimize your content by incorporating conversational and long-tail keywords, which mirror how people speak rather than type.

Enhancing Local Brand Visibility

Voice search is often used for local queries. To boost your brand’s local presence, ensure that your business information is accurate and up-to-date on platforms like Google My Business. Additionally, encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews, as these can significantly impact your ranking in voice search results.

Mobile Optimization for Voice Search

Since most voice searches happen on mobile devices, optimizing your website for mobile is essential. Ensure your site is responsive, loads quickly, and is easy to navigate. Voice search often delivers concise, direct answers, so structuring your content with clear headings and bullet points can improve visibility in voice search results.

Leveraging Schema Markup

Implementing schema markup can make it easier for search engines to understand your content and provide more accurate answers during voice searches. Search engines can extract more pertinent data when structured data is provided to them, increasing the chance that your content appears in voice search results.

Voice search has quickly become an integral component of modern life. To excel in brand optimization, businesses must adapt and embrace this technology. By crafting voice-search-friendly content, enhancing local visibility, optimizing for mobile, and using schema markup, you can position your brand as a trusted resource in the voice-search era.

Step-by-Step Procedure: Leveraging Voice Search for Brand Optimization

  1. Understanding the Voice Search Landscape: Familiarize yourself with the virtual assistants and technologies driving voice search.
  2. Identify Relevant Keywords: Research voice search queries in your industry and create a list of conversational and long-tail keywords.
  3. Craft Voice-Search Friendly Content: Create content that aligns with how people speak, using the identified keywords naturally.
  4. Enhance Local Visibility: Ensure your business information is accurate on platforms like Google My Business and encourage customer reviews.
  5. Optimize for Mobile: Make your website responsive, fast-loading, and mobile-friendly.
  6. Implement Schema Markup: Use schema markup to provide structured data, making it easier for search engines to understand your content.
  7. Monitor and Analyze: Regularly monitor your voice search performance using tools like Google Analytics and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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4 Replies to “A CMO’s Guide to Voice Search in Less Than Five Minutes”

Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thanks

Robert Stefanski

Hi Iris,

Yes! We encourage you to share our content on all your social platforms. Thank you for your support!

Voice technologies are already taking off, mainly driven by the rise of smart audio devices. Popular Brands and companies challenged to improve their online business efficiency by adopting voice technology.

Thanks for sharing those useful and valuable statistics related to voice search. I think many mobile device users are preferring to use the voice search feature because it is highly convinient.

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