All statistics on the use of Google Home and Amazon Echo point into the same direction: the users have focused on a small, sharply delineated area of application that is far below what was expected at the height of the hype two years ago. Therefore, the question arises, whether the optimization for language and voice search is really relevant?
In a study of last year, for instance, the SEO company Systrix found that the overall use of smart speakers is falling, and that their areas of application are essentially smart home, media consumption and simple tasks such as maintaining a shopping list, perhaps calling a taxi, or waking up in the morning. In a nutshell, there isn’t much left of the great ambitions with which the smart speaker once started and with them the debate about the meaning of voice almost disappeared.
Not to mention that often it is disregarded that voice search is mainly done on the smartphone and has an impact on the marketing of companies, because it changes the content of search queries. Fact is that voice changes the customer journey significantly.
According to the search engine expert, Ric Rodriguez, there are mainly three mistakes companies should avoid:
1. Underestimating the changes in search queries
2. Not preparing the most important data in a structured manner, so that it can easily be kept current and correct
3. Losing sight of the fact that voice is increasingly getting directly relevant for transactions
The main change in search queries is that users no longer search for keywords, rather ask questions to a voice-controlled application. If the user doesn't have to type on the smartphone, but can dictate, then he will do so in his/her normal language. This implies that companies must look at their personas even more closely than before and not only understand the intention behind a question, but even recognize the wording.
Google takes on some of the work, but you still have to keep in mind that only a site that answers exactly the question asked ranks well. It is therefore advisable to use individual landing pages, for example for each branch of the company. Search engines can then provide users with even more targeted answers, including location-based answers. The same applies to FAQ pages, which need to be more specific.
A structured processing is particularly important when the software - for example Google or Alexa - tries to use the enclosed data immediately, instead of referring to pages .The classic is the Google MyBusiness entry, which is highly relevant for a search on Google, but the same applies to reviews.
It is therefore advisable to start with the formatting according to Schema.org, whereby it is particularly important to develop an infrastructure that is able to keep this data permanently up-to-date and can interact concerted with reviews.
The transaction relevance of voice search is currently shown by the example of Google Duplex, the company’s first attempts to enable the Google Assistant to make restaurant reservations and book rental cars, but without using dedicated APIs, simply via the application on the respective website.
The increasing importance of local search is speeding up voice input: e.g. if a user searches for a restaurant, Google will automatically show him restaurants in the immediate vicinity, even if the user did not search for “nearby” or the respective city. Obviously, Google takes over here - in most cases rightly - the classification of the relevance according to the presumed "intent", the reason for the search query. Here, too, the structured data, above all the entry on MyBusiness and the reviews, play an important role.
In view of the growing importance of this “navigation tool”, it is not surprising that Google started to market this search traffic, namely with sponsored entries at the top of the results list in Google Maps: of course, this is exciting for direct competition, like when three Thai restaurants in the immediate vicinity vie for customers.
But the approach is just as interesting for companies that offer a service that matches the search intention but have not been sought at all: e.g., anyone looking for a restaurant could also look for a parking space at the same time. Technically, a carpark booking system could be directly connected to the Google Maps where advertising switch automatically according to the relevance.
Who devaluates voice search today has probably not understood that this interface is significantly changing the way people use smartphones. Certainly, the effect is less immediate and drastic than initially believed, when there was still hope that smart speakers could become intelligent butlers, but other “hands-free” devices, such as the navigation system in the car, also react to spoken inputs from the user which are different from those typed. The attempt to take this into account now leads to the interpretation of the intention of the search and this is exactly what marketers must watch very closely to be present with their offer at the crucial point.
By Daniela La Marca