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You can already search by voice through Google’s mobile search app. As we all know, mobile is omnipotent in its rise to push out desktop. Fewer people are talking about the rise of voice search – but not that much fewer.
Voice search functionality is only going to improve, and just like mobile’s dominance of desktop, it won’t be long before voice search pushes out old-fashioned text or typing. A wise person once said that you should make the hindsight of the future the foresight of the present. If this wise person were alive today, he’d be saying that in reference to voice search.
There is a lot of evidence that voice search is gaining steam. According to Google, two years ago voice search accounted for 20 percent of mobile searches.
We know mobile searches dominate desktop searches now. And Comscore believes voice search will account for over half of ALL searches by 2020. Internet trends can arrive sooner than later. Indeed, many predicted that mobile wouldn’t overtake desktop until 2020, but we’re already there.
Want more evidence? One in six Americans has a smart speaker. And 40% use voice search once a day. As voice search improves, that number will climb. What’s stopping a person from using voice search if they’re already using it once a day AND the technology keeps getting better and better?
Voice search, while seeking to do the same thing as text search, differs from its predecessor in many ways. First, voice searches tend to be longer.
Your search will tend to be longer and more natural with voice, because it’s simply easier to say the complete phrase than to type it out. For example, if you wanted to know the birthday of a certain person, you might type out ‘X person birthday’. However, if you were to voice search the query, you might say ‘what is the birthday of person X’.
Voice searches will include more questions (also as seen in the example above). People will be more articulate, because they can be. This will also lead to searches that have more clearly articulated intentions, which will be huge when segmenting and targeting keywords from an SEO and PPC standpoint.
Voice-activated search, or simply voice search, will have far-reaching ramifications – and the above example is only the tip of the iceberg.
As you can see, this isn’t just a trend for young people, and it makes sense. Voice searching may be easier for older people who can’t type or see as well.
Indeed, Google is already having its AI read romantic novels to sound more human. This little tidbit is also from two years ago, so what other knowledge and tactics could Google and others have used or learned since then? Voice recognition accuracy from Google’s search data clocked in at 95% accurate – and that was a year ago.
Long story short, voice search is an important part of the short-term future of the internet. And in a zero sum game of how people search, typing out searches could go the way of the dinosaurs sooner rather than later.
When we look back on the ascendance of voice search, we’ll think about the age of digital assistants. Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana are all at the center of the voice search era. Technologies like these will push the envelope and make voice search more and more common.
Conversation as a Platform (or CaaP) is a growing idea that centers on artificial intelligence aiding humans with everyday functions through interpretation of voice-activated searches – or, put another way, natural language processing.
All of this is to say computers are getting smarter and smarter at recognizing the intent behind voice searches and commands. These machine learning algorithms embedded in our digital assistants are getting more intelligent, and they’re getting more accurate at understanding what we want.
They’re also more adept at actually solving or answering our questions with access to the internet and our all of our personal accounts. Putting all of this information together, digital assistants can understand, for example, if you want to use your credit card instead of your debit card to purchase something, and it will perform that action making that distinction.
As people get used to voice searches and learn to trust the results, voice search will inevitably become the norm. Indeed, we already use voice to send texts, call contacts and businesses, check time, and queue up our favorite song. The convenience of using voice over typing is becoming a faster part of our lives because of these digital assistants and the increasing power of voice commands.
So, how can a PPC manager start to prepare his campaigns for the incoming voice search onslaught? One way is to keep monitoring and analyzing a fundamental aspect of paid search – namely, search query reports.
When analyzing search query reports, you can filter for keywords like ‘ok Google’, ‘Siri’, or ‘Alexa’ to show the search queries being made for digital assistants. Once you know which searches are activated by voice, you can try to find patterns in the data.
Via Search Engine Journal
What is the behavior of a voice search user on mobile and on your website? What trends can you start to attribute to voice-activated searches compared to text searches? Voice-activated search is an undiscovered country for all of us, so your information gathering expedition is the same as everyone else’s – we’re all starting in pretty much the same place.
We’re east of the Mississippi if you’re talking about where we’re at and what we can infer from voice searches at this point. However, instead of one Lewis and Clark expedition to the west coast, everyone is Lewis and Clark figuring out things on the fly. Heck, you might even be the first to reach the Pacific.
If you can’t discern any life-altering search engine marketing insights from your voice search analysis, you shouldn’t be disheartened. There might not be that big of a difference between voice and text searches. We really don’t know, yet.
However, you can still add negative keywords just like you would with any other search query report analysis. The typically longer search queries will undoubtedly contain some words that are simply not relevant to your products or services.
And even if the keywords have top-of-funnel value, their likelihood of conversion might be too small for you to bid on those types of keywords.
On the flip side of that coin, some businesses welcome all researchers into their top-of-funnel buckets and would stand to gain by subtracting negative keywords that have been present from age-old search query analysis that may be outdated.
It’s not a bad idea to review your negative keyword list and try some tests where you subtract certain negative keywords to see what kind of new prospects you get.
While every industry and vertical will be different, we still see certain trends that we’ve already alluded to – namely, that search queries for voice searches tend to be longer and tend to be more conversational. It’s easier to say something rather than type it out, and it will tend to come out more naturally when we speak it as opposed to using text.
We will also be able to recognize intent better because there is more information (e.g., more words) to use to decipher what a user wants.
Just as longer search queries can be valuable when you can bid high on exact match keywords, figuring out the longer tail voice-activated searches seem like they can build on what we already know about longer tail keywords – they’re more profitable.
If you can start to see patterns, or even just more than one instance of a long tail keyword, you’ll want to isolate and start bidding for that exact match term to reap the benefits of a highly relevant keyword for which you can tailor messaging, offers, and landing page design.
Keyword intent is an important idea and concept to master in PPC.
With voice activated searches, this task could become easier. With longer tail keywords, question works like ‘who, what, where, when, and how’ preceding queries, and more conversational queries, digital marketers will have more information to figure out what is going on in the minds of their searchers.
It is important, therefore, to begin finding trends in how people use voice search, and what they mean when they use certain phrases or question words. By staying ahead of the competition with the knowledge domain of voice search intent, PPC managers can save (and make!) a lot of money just by knowing which keywords are appropriate for certain ads, offers, and landing pages.
Keep in mind that understanding each level of your sales funnel and the types of offers and the buyer personas that are successful for each level all tie back into keywords and their intent.
Keyword intent can signal to PPC managers which buyer persona they are working with and in which part of the sales funnel the searcher is located. Long story short, PPC managers should already be doing all of this analysis, but voice search will probably add a slight twist because of the reasons stated above (the longer tail keywords, conversational tone, more keywords and, thus, more clues to searcher intent like question keywords, etc).
We all know that Quality Score has a huge impact on PPC performance. This score forms a feedback loop that enhances great campaigns, but penalizes poor campaigns.
However, if you are setting up your campaigns correctly and following PPC best practices, there should be no reason why your Quality Score – and therefore your campaign performance – shouldn’t be top notch.
The components of Quality Score are:
After analyzing your voice search queries, incorporating the longer tail keywords, and understanding the question format, PPC managers can use all of this information to create ads and landing pages that cater to the intent of voice searchers.
By understanding the intent of longer tail question queries, PPC managers can directly answer those questions in the ad copy and create a landing page experience that focuses on what the user is truly looking for. For example, if the user is looking for directions, you can take them to your store locations page with a map.
If you know the searcher is on mobile, you can direct the main ad link or sitelinks towards your store location, which opens in Google Maps to immediately steer them towards your nearest location. If you’re not open, you can use the ad scheduler option within Google Ads to take them to a different landing page that shows store hours.
Because voice search queries are so long, conversational, and usually in question form, landing pages for these queries will also need to be different to cater to the intent and context of these new types of queries.
While we are still in the early learning stages of maximizing the actions of voice search queries, it makes sense that you would want to match the conversational tone and answer the question that is being asked.
Similar to repeating keywords in the headline, you’ll want to present the question again and then answer it so that searchers understand that you are responding directly to their question, instead of giving them a macro response that is semi-related to their question. The more human, natural, and precise your answer is, the better the response. Of course we’ll all get better at this the more we get used to it, but it is good to start practicing the art of using pleasing answers to the search queries being voice-activated on search engines.
If your business depends or is even affected by local search, then voice search will be important to figure out for many reasons moving forward.
Many people use mobile phones for quick voice searches to find relevant local businesses like banks, restaurants, retail stores, and professional services. Whether it’s finding the nearest location or getting directions, as a digital marketer on both the PPC and SEO front, you’ll want to show up for these highly relevant searches with the right information to point users towards your business.
Although tracking in-store foot traffic and attributing impressions to purchases is far from being a an accurate and precise science, that day will come. In the meantime, all digital marketers and businesses can do is push the technology envelope and try what they can to incorporate an imperfect tool that will inevitably be a big part of their future marketing endeavors.
While evidence and actions drive PPC, the data to back up that investment isn’t necessarily there. However, getting used to the new tools and discovering insights as much as you can is the slow-but-steady process that will define the successful implementers of this new technology in the future.
If you’re a sports fan, this is like playing a star rookie when he isn’t completely ready, but you know getting in the repetitions now will pay dividends in the long-term.
Ben Simmons NBA Rookie of the Year Via Philly Voice
Local searchers will often ask about the location of certain businesses in relationship to a landmark or other well-known reference point. For example, ‘What are the best bagel places near the financial district?’ As a local business, you’ll want to have an understanding of the local reference points and landmarks that users refer to often in your area. Are you showing up for those searches?
The first result in Google’s SERP gets up to 35% of the clicks. That is an insane number, and pretty depressing for anyone not ranked number one.
Voice search behavior follows this pattern, too. Usually, there are only 3 top organic results on mobile, and with voice search there’s only one. Working on voice search optimization for SEO is its own thing, but this also has implications for the few ads that show up for search queries.
Namely, if you’re showing up in the top ad position for voice search queries, you are at the top of the pyramid – even ahead of that top organic listing getting over a third of the clicks. Therefore, it is important to understand which words are most valuable to you so that you can rank in the top position and then find the right ad and offer mix for that particular query.
If you can build a history for a certain high volume query, that can pay huge dividends down the line.
Ranking for the top one or two position in mobile isn’t a novel idea or strategy. However, with the increase in voice search, this creates an opportunity for newcomers and incumbents alike to stake their claim in the historical top position for valuable long tail questions that get asked a lot.
If Google likes your ad’s performance for certain voice-activated queries, it might be tough for competitors to knock you off the podium down the line due to your account’s historical performance.
While it is important to use all the ad extensions you can (to take up as much real estate as you can) at all times, this is especially true for local and mobile searchers that have a higher-than-likely chance of being located locally.
Via Growth Pilots
The difference between using and not using ad extensions is stark. The difference isn’t just functional, which matters a lot – you want people to take whatever action they want to take as easily as possible.
Whether that action includes calling you, finding directions to your nearest location, or even text messaging you, you want them to be able to perform that action easily.
The difference is also aesthetic. Taking up more real estate with all the different action options just stands out. You almost have no other choice than to click what is available to you on the screen, and an ad takes up a whole lot of the screen with all of those ad extensions, so use them!
Imagine online users knowing exactly what they want and voicing their desires in the most exacting fashion possible.
Via PPC Hero
Do you show them green strappy sandals because you know that that’s what they’re actually looking for, and they just don’t realize it yet? Which shade of blue do you show, if you do show them blue? Will there be other data to help you accurately predict? And who will have access to such data?
Smart PPC shopping management agencies might have an easier (or a much harder) time adjusting to the new types of search queries. Perhaps machine learning and artificial intelligence will already have a way to decipher such queries and match them to the right products based on even more detailed product feed data, which becomes more important than ever.
If it’s all about a more accurate and easy to navigate product feed, the shopping setup could be effortless and more automated.
Or, what if part of the searching process allows you to reject certain results so that the algorithm gets instant feedback and automatically learns what your search query is supposed to mean, thereby figuring out more quickly than ever what users truly mean? Again, this could lead to more automation on the algorithmic side.
Or maybe we’ll all know by then to be as exact as possible, because of the universal knowledge of how Google’s algorithm works. So then everyone is voice-searching with twenty-word search queries that spell out exactly what they want?
Short tail searchers would become obsolete, and PPC managers would be scrambling to find the best fifteen-word long keywords that best describe their products so they can successfully outbid their competition. Or maybe searches become so exact that businesses change their model by selling only products where they can win the long tail keyword bids.
Either way, it’s changes like this that show how complicated the digital marketing world can get – even when it seems like the user is being more direct and transparent as ever.
Yes, it gets even crazier. Maybe instead of searching for the nearest pizza delivery location or number, you just get the best pizza deal based on your preferences, or even just get the pizza at the set price and convenience that you want delivered to you by asking for it. Now, the searcher skips all the work, and lets the search engine decide which products to show, or perhaps just the one product that’s the best fit. This could extend to any other products as well – furniture, clothing, cereal, whatever.
“Alexa, which bar should I go to tonight? And beforehand, where should I go if I want fries and a steak with two friends that isn’t too loud?”
Maybe Alexa has details on your taste preferences and price preferences, and voila, presents you with options. Perhaps the advertising comes in the bidding process on certain personas. With more and more sophisticated algorithms and bots, humans will do less and less of the work that separates them from the product – including the interaction with an advertisement.
This went well beyond the PPC scope, but these sophisticated bots are growing in tandem with voice search. Anything is possible. It is important for PPC marketers to evolve with the technology so that they’ll have jobs when the inputs and analysis change.
Voice search is here to stay, and combined with the rise of mobile, it could be one of the biggest developments in paid search in the last decade. While we understand a little of how voice search will alter the digital marketing landscape, adjusting to the times and trying out new things will be the biggest tool for digital marketers to learn.
Trial and error have always been a PPC manager’s best tools, and that remains true in dealing with voice search. And the truth also remains that there will be some inevitable twists and turns to how users search and what options search engines provide. The future of PPC is happening before our eyes; if we blink, we’ll miss it.