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Voice search is new, exciting and a bit of a Wild West as consumers and marketers try to figure out what this new paradigm means and how it will change our lives. We here at The Search Agency are looking ahead and asking ourselves, “How will voice search evolve and how will we be using it in five years?”


How will voice search change the marketplace?

google actions

As demonstrated at Google I/O 2017, Google Assistant is already making huge advances, showing the ability to shop via Google Assistant through voice. Although limited in some commands, as natural language understanding research continues, we should see as large a shift as we did with the explosion of mobile. Retail and local will take the first hit, with travel not too far behind. I would expect real estate industries to probably be the last to adopt this technology, as their dev cycles are usually longer. What may add some interesting attributes here is how deep voice search entry paths may go into applications available on devices. For instance, Google just released Instant Apps for all.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

We should expect to see an increase in long-tail search queries. Currently, something like 25 percent of search queries are new, and with a new influx of converting long-tail, this is likely to increase. Search marketers will have to re-think their keyword strategies, at least in part, to better accommodate future long-tail queries.

– Deniz Boysan, Paid Media

Voice search will create new opportunities to intrude on consumers via aggressive marketing, and some businesses will pursue this to the detriment of their shoppers. However, voice search also provides an opportunity to give consumers exactly what they need, regardless of the size of the business. For example, if I say, “Give me directions to a running shoe store,” I am just as likely to reach an independent store as a major retailer. It’s all about what Google recognizes as a running shoe store. Businesses will have to more carefully categorize themselves in order to meet exact requests.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

Longer queries mean more focus on long-tail terms instead of core header terms. Marketers will have to be more diligent with search-query mining and building more comprehensive keyword strategies.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media


Will results be served to a screen somewhere or returned by a home device? How will those vary (one result versus many)?

google home amazon echo

People appreciate having choices, so I think voice search will be most effective when linked to a screen. Even simple queries can have complex variables that your voice assistant may not know about, which would make single answers less useful. For example, you might ask the device to “find a pizzeria with good ratings,” but what you really mean is “find a pizzeria with good ratings, but not AAA Pizza, because that place is gross.”

– Greg Sidor, Earned Media

In this case, I think Google has a lasting advantage over Alexa (although Alexa sold more devices than Google Home) with its Google Home push-to-screen integration with Chromecast/Google TV, which was shown off this past week at Google I/O 2017. We should expect similar experiences once AR devices kick off alongside more automotive integrations (with both Apple and Google competing for that space). We may see in-dash console integrations, projections onto windshields or perhaps better versions of what once was Google Glass.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

It will depend on the question. If you just want a quick answer to a question like, “What sound does a fox make?” then an audio response is the most appropriate. However, if you ask, “What are Barack Obama’s key accomplishments as president?” then a visual response is the best way to provide a detailed answer.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

Google Home already offers vocal responses with the option to view more info in an accompanying smartphone app, so we will see this continue.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media


Will big brands or local stores benefit more? For example, who will win between Pizza Hut and a local indie pizza place in a search for “pizza nearby”?

pizza nearby

Device manufacturers have a lot of sway here. Will they sell voice recommendations? If so, big brands stand to benefit greatly. Will they tap into review sites like Yelp, which may skew towards neighborhood favorites? Or will the same rules of organic search apply? If that’s the case, anyone willing to put in the effort to optimize their sites could see good results.

– Greg Sidor, Earned Media

I think local will be the bigger winner at first, especially in larger cities, where foodies seem to be more interested in food tourism than the status quo. Larger brands, especially in retail, have been taking a hit in organic search as of late, and we should expect that to continue for quite some time. What could happen, however, is that folks with preferences in their histories towards certain stores will only see more of the same, and the filter bubbles will continue to change audience behaviors in rather drastic ways — more normalization rather than personalization, in some cases.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

Voice search will serve as an opportunity for smaller businesses (like pizza places) to offer proactive search results, rather than several results or explicit ads. For instance, I could see someone saying, “Hey Google, I feel like pizza tonight.” Here, Google could respond with something like, “I know you like pepperoni, and Mario and Luigi’s Parlor has a special this week on a large pepperoni pizza which has a 4.8-star average rating. Would you like to have one delivered, or choose a different place?” Here, Google may use your previous behavior, including what type of pizza, price range, coupon availability and locations you’ve opted for in the past to make more specific recommendations.

– Dirk Williams, Earned Media

Voice search has the potential to be an equalizer. Rather than just going by authority, consumers may want the nearest or highest-rated, regardless of whether it’s a local store or a chain.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

Bigger brands will benefit more because they have more resources to create content that will rank No. 1 for long-tail searches.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media


Will a voice search-enabled device look at your purchase history to provide more personalized results?

Probably. Both Google and Amazon love aggregating data, so they’d certainly have this capability. A case can be made that consumers who install devices in their homes are looking for this personalized experience.

– Greg Sidor, Earned Media

I don’t think this will be device driven, but platform driven, depending on how cross-device tracking develops. It will really depend on how much information Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft are tracking, and how in-store or offline integrations continue to change. We should expect more fracturing of the consumer journey, but also more sharing of information across platforms.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media


How will marketers use it?

leaky roof

I wouldn’t expect to see a large push in 2017. Instead, we’ll see it happen in the next two years as we seek to grasp the full extent of how voice search takes hold, in addition to the rise of chatbots and assistants. Siri, Hound, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant are making strides, but are not yet fully integrated. It will be a complicated push, as some are tied to specific platforms, while others like Cortana and Google Assistant are taking a different, platform-agnostic approach. Behind them all, the basics of SEO for each instance will still exist. We should expect to see some dramatic shifts in terms of variations between platforms as we move from early adoption to more mainstream usage.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

Marketers will increase their chances of being returned as a voice result by ensuring that every aspect of their business is detailed on-site. Every product, every service, every possible thing that someone could search for must be found by spiders. In addition, businesses will need to step up their customer service game to ensure that bad reviews don’t drag them down in the SERPs. Search engines want to provide the best result, and a store everyone hates will never be the rest result.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

Marketers must develop a strategy around the “questions asked” so they can be an informational resource, which will improve brand awareness and recognition for other questions. SEO will also become even more important because the No. 1 slot takes priority in vocal responses.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media


How will consumers use it?

google assistant milk reminder
 

Right now, voice search is more of a convenience than a helpful tool in itself. I think the value comes when you can tell a device to complete an action in one fell swoop. I can ask for movie times, but in most cases I still have to buy the tickets myself. Soon I’ll be able to say something like, “Buy tickets for the 8:30 pm showing of Star Wars at Joe’s Cinema. Find seats towards the middle of the theater.” At that point, voice search will be more than a gimmick.

– Greg Sidor, Earned Media

This will vary wildly by context: device, platform, immediate physical environment, static versus dynamic (home versus car) and whether or not a consumer has access to apps (if on mobile or TV/AR-driven devices). We might grocery shop via voice from our refrigerators, order flights and make flight changes from our Lyft ride, get our Airbnb situated last minute while boarding a flight and possibly rent a suit for tomorrow’s meeting in another city from our shower the night before. What will be drastically different is that since this technology will be deeply intertwined with search, our getting used to not having 10 or so blue links and only one answer could severely disrupt markets in ways we cannot predict at any moment.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

Consumers will use it to make their lives easier. For example, getting directions to a place that sells a specific kind of shoe. Finding out how to remove a particular stain while standing in the laundry room, and then ordering whatever product will do it. Adding milk to the grocery list when a carton is finished. Answering a homework question while helping their kids at the end of a long day. Finding out the weather when deciding what to wear in the morning. Basically, consumers will use voice search the same way they would their phones, but in an easier and more precise fashion.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

Consumers will use it to find answers to their questions and to have fun conversations with their robots.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media


What is your prediction for the state of voice search five years from now?

internet of things

Voice search is here to stay. The question is how integrated it becomes with things like televisions, refrigerators and cars — the Internet of Things. If marketers end up creeping people out with aggressive listening or damaging data breaches, the potential could be limited to phones and dedicated devices, like Amazon Echo.

– Greg Sidor, Earned Media

Personal assistants will be more mainstream and take care of a good amount things for us. The danger is in how our preferences will drive our own bubbles or break us out of them. Businesses of all kinds will be rattled continually by how these assistants and other conversational applications become a new platform for discovery or the latest social media leviathan reaction. They may also face the possibility of quickly tumbling out of favor, losing revenue based on whatever search algorithm supports the one-and-only best answer at all times for the given audience and context.

– Brandon Schakola, Earned Media

I think voice search will be most heavily used by Gen Z and Gen Alpha, who will fully integrate it into their lives as just another tool, followed closely by senior citizens who have a hard time with small buttons on screens. My young daughter already refers to my phone’s Google Assistant as “she” and will say things like, “Tell Google to set the timer” or “Is she taking us the right way?” Once she’s old enough to have her own phone, it will only be natural for her to interact with it as if it were a person.

– Aryn Kennedy, Earned Media

It will be integrated into VR and AR, giving the illusion of life within our electronics. In other words, these systems will continue to learn to speak more intuitively and sound more human.

– Luke Hubbard, Paid Media


What are your thoughts about the future of voice search? Let us know in the comments below.

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