The Rise of Voice Search: Current Landscape and Future Visions

The world of voice search has been gathering steam, with big tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon investing heavily. Although voice search is still very much in its infancy, it has seen steady technology advancements more recently, most notably with the release of the first consumer products designed specifically for voice search in the home.

From simple queries like “what is the capital of Nicaragua?’ to ordering goods directly to your door through Amazon, voice search assistants have come a long way. The four aforementioned leaders envision a future engrossed in voice commands, and each have positioned their products to try and fill consumers’ needs. Although adoption rates are estimated to be slower in Canada compared to the United States, staying ahead of the curve with your marketing campaigns is essential to ensuring your business doesn’t miss out on this opportunity.

Though we don’t know exactly how voice search will play out in an increasingly sophisticated digital landscape, like mobile before it, the voice revolution is just beginning.

The Current Landscape

Google

Google has recently launched its Google Home product featuring the Google Assistant. Google Home is the only hardware product powered by the Google search engine, and thus the only device that can tap into Google’s vast array of search data and AI technology.

Google Assistant is very sophisticated at understanding and answering most questions and commands asked of it. It can draw off the knowledge graph and connect to your other Google applications.

Where Google can improve upon is the smart home space, and integration with the Internet of Things. So far, Google Home has limited partnerships with third parties to integrate into other home products and appliances. While the Home will have no problem streaming music or connecting to your Chromecast, support for third party devices is limited, which could end up hurting the Google Home’s usefulness in the long run.

Google Home

Amazon

Amazon Echo makes use of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, which is a new entrant into the market. Alexa search is powered by Amazon and falls back to Microsoft Bing when Amazon cannot answer a question.

Echo requires a very strict syntax in order to understand and answer a command, which can lead to a lot of consumer frustration. Other than this drawback, the Echo is a very actionable piece of hardware with the most support from smart home partnerships, allowing the Echo to become an integral part of any home network.

The Echo has a growing list of over 5000+ skills it can take action on, ranging from ordering pizza, to turning off the lights in your home. The biggest differentiating asset that the Echo brings to the table is its integration with Amazon, which allows a user to access their Amazon account to purchase and re-order items. It will be interesting to see if and how ads are introduced into this environment, and how they will shape consumer behaviour and buying habits.

Amazon Echo

Microsoft

Microsoft has yet to release a hardware assistant itself, but has lent its software to other manufacturers to use in their hardware devices, such as Toshiba. Microsoft has its Cortana assistant, which is already native to all Microsoft products that are powered by Bing.

Microsoft has a strong position in the voice search market as it is the underlying search engine in the majority of voice search devices available. They are in a good position to be a leader for voice search with the only main competition coming from Google products.

Microsoft Cortana

Apple

Apple does not yet have hardware for a home assistant, but they still have a competitive AI in Siri. Siri, which answers search queries using Bing, is found in all capable Apple products. Siri is very well integrated into the Apple ecosystem, with most functionalities in an iPhone able to be controlled by voice.

Apple does have the Home Kit, which allows you to control your smart home from current Apple products, however there is currently a limited selection of compatible hardware. The main drawback from not having an active home listening hardware device? Only the person with the iPhone can use Siri, since it is a handheld device.

Siri

Looking Ahead

Voice Search still has a long way to go before we see it in every household, but as home assistants gain more popularity and more integration with The Internet of Things, this will become an important space in which advertisers can be present.

Bing looks to gain a strong market share of voice search volume as it powers the majority of devices at the moment, but strong competition in development of new products will ultimately decide how this landscape develops in the future. Google, Amazon and Apple have strong product offerings with no clear-cut path to voice search dominance. As this market grows, it will be imperative to consider how your campaigns can grow with it so that you, and your business, are not left behind.

Altering the Digital Landscape

As consumer adoption of voice technology rises, search trends indicate that 40% of adults use voice commands daily, with 20% of voice queries completed on mobile devices. As the number of users driven to the search engine results page via voice rises, it becomes increasingly critical that digital marketers evaluate “how” voice users search and “what they search for”, in order to ensure that they appear among search results. With this in mind, the rise of voice search highlights a need for adaptability among marketers in the digital landscape. In the quest to reach consumers online, it is imperative that marketers evaluate how voice search is used in the search for solutions.

Voice queries differ from text queries in several ways, most notably, in query length. For voice-search users, queries are often long and more conversational in tone. Rather than searching for, “Nike shoe sale”, users using voice search are more likely to search for “Are Nike shoes on sale at a store near me?” As a result, voice generally produces longer-tail queries that differ in length from those generated by traditional text input.

Secondly, voice search language often integrates the “Five Ws” with question-based queries rooted in what, who, how, when and why. As a result, these queries are more likely to convey nuanced sentiments that communicate user-search intent more clearly than their text counterparts. Lastly, voice queries submitted on mobile devices are 3 times more likely, on average, to be localized, with rising interest for solutions “nearby”.

However – despite the differences reported between voice and text-based queries, users are directed to the same search engine results page. For content creators, this suggests a growing need for developing conversational and engaging content that reflects the “what and how” of voice search. In the race for adoption, content creators are encouraged create alignment between content and voice by developing FAQ pages that answer the “Five Ws”.

For paid search marketers, bidding strategies must be adjusted to account for user-intent and action-based voice queries. And lastly, rather than optimizing metadata and content for text-based keywords, SEO must target longer tail queries, ensure that local listings are optimized, and maintain accurate local data across web-directories.

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