The rise of digital assistants provides yet another example of the ways that modern technology increasingly resembles old-school science fiction. There was a time when it was impossible to have a conversation with a computer unless your name was Buck Rogers. Nowadays, you can literally ask a question to an internet-connected device outfitted with voice-recognition technology — a digital assistant — and receive a human-like response.
You can ask your digital assistant for directions to the nearest car wash, to wake you up at 8 a.m. or to check on that package you’re expecting, and this is just scratching the surface. This is what millions of consumers are doing every day with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomePod, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and Samsung’s Bixby.
It’s a safe bet that this type of technology is no passing fad. If current trends continue, then digital assistants will soon come to occupy a central place in our everyday lives, alongside other once-novel tools like GPS and text messaging.
Alexa, What Does The Data Say?
Not convinced this technology is on the rise? Can’t get rid of that sneaking suspicion that voice assistants might turn into the next Segway? Here are some key stats that point to the growing popularity of digital assistants and voice-recognition technology:
• By recording one month of sales rates for 2,000 products listed on Amazon, OC&C Strategy Consultants reported that voice-powered commerce accounted for $1.8 billion in U.S. retail revenues in 2017. This figure is expected to reach $40 billion by 2022.
• According to the ADI Consumer Electronics Report, more than half of all owners of voice assistants use it at least once per day, and more than 20% rely on it for online shopping.
• By 2020, Gartner predicts that voice-activated searches will account for 30% of web-browsing sessions.
These kinds of numbers are impossible to ignore — especially for those of us involved in the digital marketing field. It’s clear that a fundamental shift in internet search habits is in progress. The public is spending more and more of the typical day talking to digital devices, rather than typing keywords into search engines.
As you might expect, this should have a significant impact on search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing strategies, which are based largely on old-fashioned keyboard inputs. Speaking and typing are two very different ways to search for information, and marketers must take this into consideration when figuring out ways to drive traffic to websites.
Hi Cortana, What About Optimization?
What, specifically, can the contemporary marketer do to stay ahead of the curve in the era of Alexa and Siri?
The good news is that we’re still in a transitional period, so there’s no rush to make everything voice-friendly — yet. That classic Google Search page isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Having said this, however, it’s still best to do what you can to take advantage of the growing popularity of voice search.
Use Natural Speech
Digital assistants are engineered to process normal human conversation, more or less. Want Alexa to find the nearest used bookshop? There’s no secret code you have to learn; just say, “Alexa, where is the nearest used bookshop?” We know that most people use their digital assistants in this way.
For example, 2017 Google Data shows that 70% of all searches on the Google Assistant are in natural language. Our SEO strategy must recognize this tendency. Among other things, that means that we need to be getting away from the old-fashioned keyword terms like “used bookshop Manhattan.” No one speaks like this in a normal conversation.
Try Long-Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords generally run from three to five words in length, and they’re more specific than standard keywords. They also provide smaller businesses with an excellent opportunity to snag a high Google ranking for certain searches.
For instance, a small mail-order business that sells vintage 50s clothing will probably not rank well on searches for “clothes.” The big nationwide retailers have those spots. But a business like this can use more targeted long-tail keywords, like “vintage fifties clothing for women,” to attract customers who are searching for specific types of apparel.
How is this relevant to our topic here? Long-tail keywords will likely become more important in the coming years due to digital assistants and their preference for natural language. To put it another way, we tend to use long-tail keywords when we’re talking to our voice-recognition devices, whether we realize it or not.
Exploit The Power Of The ‘Near Me’ Search
If you routinely search with the term “near me,” then you’re part of a rapidly rising SEO trend. The “near me” search allows the user to leave off their hometown and other location-specific data. This is possible because our internet-connected devices already know where we are. Therefore, it’s usually unnecessary to include this information in our searches.
Over the last two years, the “near me” mobile search has seen a 500% increase in volume when combined with “to buy,” “can I buy,” or a similar phrase, according to a comparison of Google Data from July-December 2015 and July-December 2017. A related mobile search that has recently surged in frequency is “near me today/tonight.” That phrase increased by 900% in the same period.
Effective voice search optimization is based on conversational speech, not the choppy-sounding keyword searches of years past. Understanding this concept will go a long way toward helping you meet your marketing goals in an environment more and more defined by digital assistants.