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How Entrepreneurs Can Take Advantage of Voice Search Marketing Your customers are already using voice search. It's up to you and your business to meet them there.

By Kevin Klein

entrepreneur daily

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Fresh off a holiday season that saw Amazon sell "tens of millions" of devices, Las Vegas hosted its annual glimpse into the future: the Consumer Electronics Show, where the world's most innovative companies pull back the curtain for a peek at their new tech. And wouldn't you know, one of the prevailing themes from that three-day journey into the future was the growing ubiquity of voice search as a marketing channel. So how does this window into the future influence small-business operations today?

Why voice search is part of the future of tech

Case in point, independent research conducted by the Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute confirms that 51 percent of consumers already utilize voice assistants, with 81 percent of those users primarily accessing the voice assistant through a smartphone, citing convenience, multitasking enablement and speed as value-adds from the voice assistant experience. Your customers are already using voice assistance, and to capture this revenue you must embrace the tech.

Related: 4 Unconventional Ways to Bring Traffic to Your Site

Kleiner Perkins conducts an annual report on the digital landscape. Its most recent iteration reported voice search as having 20 percent of the mobile search origination share, and comScore predicts that number will swell to 50 percent by 2020.

At this year's CES, voice assistants took center stage even before the event was underway, dominating press day as multiple television manufacturers revealed that their upcoming television models would house voice assistants. Other products that used CES to showcase voice assistant integration included deadbolts, ceiling fans, speakers, routers, mirrors, washers, dryers, refrigerators and even a Microsoft Cortana-powered thermostat.

Voice search implications for advertisers

As voice-enabled devices become more ubiquitous, advertisers are acknowledging voice as a viable channel for commerce, and they're doing it with their wallets.

Bing data from early returns on 2018 show year-over-year investment in voice search has grown by 24 percent, sustaining the momentum from the back half of 2017 and increasing through the holiday season.

Related: Don't Let Alexa or Siri Speak for Your Company: Protecting Your Brand's Voice on AI Platforms

Using data from Cortana, we know that the lion's share of questions presented to voice assistants begin with either "how" or "what," and then there's a steep drop off in search share for the remaining interrogative words. Advertisers should think about what sorts of questions, to which their product is the answer, begin with these words, and then invest in those queries.

For example, a ticket seller who wants to capture its voice-assistant-using audience should ensure portfolio coverage on [how do I buy tickets], [what website sells tickets], and [where can I go to buy tickets].

How audiences communicate with voice search

*Chart based on internal data from Microsoft Bing.

For search marketers, whether consumers are engaging with voice search is only half the question. Understanding how these consumers engage is also critical. It's important to relay this information to businesses so that brands can capitalize on this insight.

Related: Here's How You Can Use Alexa at Work

There's action here for brands, and advertisers should be asking themselves the following questions, at the least:

  1. Does our keyword portfolio have coverage for long-tail queries in command form?
  2. Does our keyword portfolio have coverage for long-tail queries in question form?
  3. Have we appended common descriptor tokens, such as "best," "top" or "price," to our core product keywords?

According to proprietary research by the call intelligence company Invoca, voice search is the preferred mode of communication for 20 percent of consumers making a purchase of $500 or more, only 2 percentage points removed from the 22 percent who prefer traditional online search. And according to the same research, not only are voice assistants facilitating purchases, but they're also influencing them. Invoca reports that 39 percent of its polled population had a voice assistant who influenced one of their purchases in the past month. Voice search is an opportunity for business owners to direct consumers toward their products and services.

While the digital transformation is demonstrably under way, it's also still in its fledgling stages. What we do know is that the future of search is predictive. Voice assistants are delivering personalized and salient information to their users, while also advancing our traditional conceptions of search. Search engines are the intelligence fabric for modern AIs, and the advancements thereof are improving predictive search capabilities. Soon users will find items that they didn't yet know they wanted. Voice search will be a principal contributor to this movement as search becomes a partner capable of dialogue with a consumer on any platform and any device.

Related: 10 Crazy Tidbits About the First Voice of Apple's Siri

My colleague Christi Olson is Bing's evangelist and speaks at events on search and digital marketing all over the world. She recommends small businesses and entrepreneurs focus on the following when it comes to their marketing:

  • Write content in a conversational tone that sounds natural when spoken aloud.
  • Listen to your customer's questions and create compelling digital content to provide specific answers.
  • Understand where you can compete to be the spoken answer -- start with queries that already rank on the first two pages of the search results and optimize for the featured snippet placement.

Your customers are already using voice search. It's up to you and your business to meet them there.

Kevin Klein

Analytical Lead, Tech and Telco at Bing

Kevin Klein is an analytical lead at Bing, where he analyzes publisher level search engine data. Previously, he held positions on agency and in-house marketing teams.

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