Just Tell Me What You Want: Voice Search

Cell phones started as a way to talk to someone without being tied to a landline. WOW, I can call you from anywhere! They quickly morphed into small, hand-held computers, capable of delivering the entire digital world to your fingertips at a moment’s notice, and a really expensive flashlight. Now, as voice-enabled digital assistants, smartphones and home assistants are going to change the digital world again. Voice search is going to challenge how we think about SEO and deliver useful, trusted content to our audience.

Don’t believe me? Consider this, Amazon’s Echo was the most-gifted item this past Christmas. Both the Google Play Store and Apple Store noted it was the most downloaded app on December 25th. Siri, Cortona, Alexa and Hound are everywhere. Apple sold 3.9 million Apple watches in Q3 of 2017; that’s 3.9 million post-phone internet devices in use according to Aaron Shapiro.

Talk to Me

Voice search is quietly making itself heard in search. In 2014, 1 in 10 searches was a spoken search. In 2016, 1 in 5 searches in the U.S. on a mobile app was a voice search. And in 2017, 43% of millennials made a purchase using their voice. While it’s clear we’re gaining comfort in asking Siri what time a movie starts or where the nearest pizza parlor is located, making a purchase is less common. But the handwriting is on the wall. As users become more familiar, and therefore comfortable, with voice searches, buying a new dress or booking a hotel room is next.

A Shift in Approach

The typing on a screen versus voice search shift is going to be as disruptive as the shift from search on a desktop to mobile was. When Google prioritized mobile-friendly sites, early adopters made certain their sites were mobile friendly, content offered value, and optimization focused on being user-friendly and eschewing keywords in favor of a richer context. Above all, as luxury brands were quick to discover, effective digital content understood the value of strong, visual messaging. If you’re asking Alexa for the best hotel in Capri, do evocative photos even matter?

As voice search begins to surpass screens and typing, and users embrace screen-free search, brands are facing new challenges. In a voice-driven world, with tiny watch-sized screens, what does a website look like? When a brand integrates booking a room with a search engine, such as the partnership between KAYAK, Alexa and Booking.com and Priceline.com, how important is a brand’s website content? Will it be more about transparent real-time room availability and pricing structure? Will consumers choose loyalty programs to avoid a tedious process to reserve a room in favor of booking a room with a brand that already has all their info?

Speak My Language

EVG has long touted the importance of speaking to your audience in their language. Common Sense Advisory’s research shows 72% of customers in all industries prefer to spend time on websites in their native language. Will consumers use their native language with their voice searches? And how fluent will you need to be in order to be understood in a second or third language? Brands are going to need to think about localization on a larger scale than ever before.

But localization is not just about language; more and more searches are for local information, geographically speaking. A guest may ask the AI about nearby attractions or restaurants, either before booking a room or while they’re at the hotel. Hotel website content often focuses on highlighting nearby attractions, shopping and transportation. In an effort to position the hotel most favorably, the definition of nearby is flexible and fluid. But for voice search, a third-party, the search engine, will be sifting results and determining what’s close and what’s not based on their definition and your location. And intent is going to matter even more. As a voice searcher, being “close to” isn’t enough information. Chances are, the right answer is going to be about how many blocks I have to walk or which subway lines connect at Paddington Station. Being “within walking distance” will no longer suffice as user-friendly content.

We all have questions about voice search and how it is going to impact websites. EVG is ready to speak with you about your options so you’re ready for the future.


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