Voice search, digital assistants and smart speakers. I spend most of my working time in the land of Paid Search and SEO, where voice search is a pretty big deal.
Actually, if you work in any industry… it’s a big deal.
Microsoft was the king of the PC era, but since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, Microsoft has been dethroned by Apple, touch screens, and mobile internet. The crown is now changing hands again, with Amazon and Google, not Apple, having the lead in this new era of smart speakers.
The outside world has gone smart-speaker mad and we in NZ have lots of catching up to do.
Firstly, here’s a quick definition of what I mean when I say voice search:
“Voice search is speech-recognition technology that allows users to search by saying terms aloud rather than typing them into a search field.”
So, basically, it’s yakkaty-yakking instead of tappity-tapping to search the internet.
Voice search has history: since 2011 we’ve had Watson, Siri, Google Assistant, etc. These were mostly used on mobile devices for driving directions, making calls and finding local information.
But in November 2014, Amazon changed the game when they released Alexa and the Amazon Echo.
In 2016, 2 full years later, Google launched Google Home.
Due to the launch of these products, the foreseeable future of voice search will revolve around smart speakers.
What’s at Stake?
Search Marketing Spend
Before I go too far into what is happening now and what the future might look like – let’s understand what is actually at stake here.
In 2017, global search marketing spend was at US$92b – 40% of total global digital marketing.
Globally, Google sits at around two-thirds of market share. Google gained $65b revenue from search in 2017 – that’s about $200m a day.
In NZ, 62% of all digital advertising is search – or about NZ$600m pa.
$600m in search – that’s almost a quarter of total advertising spend in NZ!
So we know that globally, almost $100b in search ads are on the table.
But what else is up for grabs?
Basically all of e-commerce is on the table. Globally, that’s trillions! The e-commerce model is changing once again.
We’ve seen e-commerce move from PC to mobile. Globally, mobile purchases make up 60% of all e-commerce. It’s 67% in China.
Mobile has taken less than 10 years to bypass PCs in e-commerce. The same will happen with voice speakers.
That’s why Amazon entered the game and has gone hard, doing better at e and v-commerce compared to Google or anyone else.
Here are some interesting text search results.
Amazon is a monster – 44% of all US online sales in 2017.
Plus – 85% of consumers are selecting products Amazon suggests.
So now, we can see what is at stake for the tech Giants – it is massive.
Now Google is in the race for our living rooms – it is going for gold and trying to play catch up.
There are two things that are causing the massive hockey stick effect of Smart Speaker uptake.
The first is technology: The AI technology of Alexa and Google assistant is getting scarily good, and huge amounts of resources are going into constantly improving it. At Apple, the focus is design and sound, while at Amazon and Google, it’s all about AI and learning software. It now appears to be a 2 horse race.
The second reason for the huge uptake is the price: In the race for the world’s living room, both Amazon and Google have dropped the prices of their smart speakers to a point where they are likely losing money.
Google and Amazon were selling their mini speakers for $29 leading up to last Christmas.
6 million Google Home speakers were sold between Oct 2017 and Christmas. More than one Google Home product was sold every second during this period.
1 billion voice searches per month. (US Jan 2018)
42 percent say voice-activated devices have quickly become “essential” to their lives.
Amazon and Google = 94% of all smart speakers in use (69% Alexa)
The number of households in the US with smart speakers grew 49% between Jun-Nov 2017
47m people in the US have access to smart speakers. = 20%
60% of people using voice search have started in the last year
Gartner predicts that 75% of US households will have Smart Speakers by 2020
So, how are people using Smart Speakers? As you would guess: streaming music, weather, news, time and traffic.
But there are also some interesting uses such as leading a workout and reading to children! What!
Add to shopping list 26% – This is the main reason Amazon is in this space, as it is always pushing towards its own products. Google is chasing hard with their Walmart relationship.
Find a Local business 13%
Order food 13% or an item 10%
Voice Commerce – is already a word and it’s already happening.
Predictions by ComScore estimate that “more than 50% of searches will be voice-based by 2020.”
“About 30% of searches will be undertaken without a screen by 2020” – Mediaops
I love this stat – 41% say it feels like talking to a friend or another person.
As the tech improves and voice engagement becomes increasingly natural, people will search using their trusted devices more. How fast will this happen, and do you need to change your Search Marketing strategy?
It’s already started – but like m-commerce it’s not happening overnight.
For your short to medium-term investment in Paid search across Google and Bing, don’t go changing anything yet.
Organic search is the winner
Both Google and Amazon have indicated they aren’t going to use ads on their smart speakers. This means organic search is the winner – as its organic search results are what Amazon and Google answer with.
With a forecast that 50% of total searches will be undertaken via voice by 2020, the importance of Organic Search can’t be overstated.
The biggest repercussions for SEO include:
Higher pressure for top positions: Digital assistants often only relay information from the top position or sometimes top 3 positions.
More local results: Many voice queries have local intent. This will drive an increase in the emphasis Google places on local results.
So how is voice search ranked differently to text based searches?
Page Speed = very important for voice. Results 50% faster than normal search.
Authoritative domains rank better than on normal search
Content with high social engagement ranks better
word count of 2000+ words per page – voice favours long form content
Featured snippets will help rank – 40% of answers came from a featured snippet
Because of these differences, brands really need to ensure they are thinking about Voice Search when optimising their websites for organic search.
No one is 100% sure on Smart Speaker and Voice Search’s future, we don’t know what a Google or Amazon or even another company might ‘update’ or who they might partner with – but we do know it’s a channel that’s growing at an amazing rate and we can’t ignore it.
Staying informed is the best thing you can do. We live and breath search so if you have questions or just want to pick our brains a bit on Voice search – don’t be shy, give us a call.
Brad has spent many years working on client side, developing digital strategies and managing teams to implement those strategies. He understands the challenges and priorities from an online marketer’s perspective the high targets, tight budgets and the education required to gain internal buy in to digital strategies. He also likes riding his Mt bike and telling stories about all the mountains he has climbed before becoming a Dad.
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