How voice search will change digital marketing

by Farzin Andrew Espahani
VP, Growth & Digital Marketing – Anthropologist


There has been a spate of articles written lately that are filled with gloomy reports on the state of SEO. This is not one of them. In fact, the newest changes coming are going to change digital marketing for the better, making it easier for content to be found.

So what is the latest craze in SEO/PPC? Voice Search.

What Exactly Does Voice Search Mean?

Most smartphones and desktop computers come with a voice search function. It started with the introduction of Siri in 2011 by Apple and now includes Cortana by Microsoft, Google Voice, and Alexa by Amazon.

Consumers now embrace voice search, and the technology continually improves. 55% of teens and 41% of adults use it according to Google Offical Blog in 2014, and the numbers keep growing. Younger tech users utilize voice search at a higher rate, and surprisingly enough, people over 40 are beginning to catch on too.

If you are typing a search request into a search engine, typically you do so with just the pertinent keywords. For example, while sitting at your laptop you might type into the search engine “cough drops.” That same search done through Siri or Google Voice would most likely be phrased “what are the best cough drops,” or “where can I find cough drops.” Voice search has become conversational; we conduct searches as if we were talking to a real live human being.

How Voice Search is Used

The way voice search is used varies by age. Teens use the technology to assist them with schoolwork while older adults use it more for dictating texts. Both groups use it to make phone calls and get directions.

Essentially, voice search has become a mobile personal assistant. According to Google’s Director of Conversational Search Behshad Behzadi, voice search is “an ultimate mobile assistant that helps you with your daily life so you can focus on the things that matter.”

Changes to Digital Marketing

Voice search is here to stay, and in order to maximize its impact on digital marketing, we need to change a few things.

You might have noticed that our query about cough drops was longer when using voice search. Using just one or two keywords is no longer enough. Most voice searches contain three words or more.

Instead of a terse word or two, experiment with conversational keyword phrases, such as “which throat lozenges taste best?” Think of search terms as questions you might ask a real person, instead of one or two-word queries.

Intent is King

Conversational language is changing how we search, and one of the biggest ways it is doing so is through intent.

Typing the search term “cough drops” leaves intent open. The search could be for numerous things, such as how they are made, where to locate them, or what retailer has them on sale.

You will want to use clear intent in your keywords, such as-

• How
• What
• Where
• When

This has an impact on PPC, as you will want to identify the highest value questions, and adjust keywords and bids.

Because of the more detailed searches, this will have a greater impact on local searches, prompting you to ensure that all information on websites are accurate so they can easily be found.

Embracing this technology is key for future marketing success. Soon we will be using voice search with household objects and wearables. Digital marketers who understand and implement these changes now can look forward to a smoother ride into the future.