The increasing use of ‘voice’ in the digital world is having a profound effect on how people interact with their digital devices and how companies tailor their digital offering. vjoon’s Laura Matthiesen looks at what it all means for publishers.
Nowadays, there exists a broad and constantly growing range of consumed content on various channels; ranging from classic website content, newsletters, social media, blogs up to (live-)videos.
Whilst the nature of the content is constantly changing, the process of searching for it has remained fairly static. Google has dominated the market.
With the growth of digital assistants with voice recognition, that dominance of the search landscape is now being challenged. The market consists of several big players: Apple Siri, Samsung Viv, Microsoft Cortana, Facebook M, Amazon Alexa, Soundhound Hound as well as Google’s own product, Google Home. These voice assistants are available as separate devices, with and without display, but also come built-in to smartphones, household appliances and TVs.
In terms of search engine optimisation (SEO), digital assistants are starting to change the rules of the game. According to Google, 20 percent of mobile search requests are now voice-activated. This represents great potential, so it is not surprising to see other tech giants getting in on the act and trying to secure long-term competitive advantage. As a result, Google now finds itself facing much stiffer competition in its core field of competence – SEO. Search queries are shifting to various channels and multiple providers.
Behavioural changes directly impact companies’ SEO strategies because people speak differently to how they type. Thus, long-standing SEO assumptions and principles are starting to change. As the leading search engine, Google regularly makes small adaptations to its algorithms, but major changes (eg. Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird) occur less frequently. The rapid evolution of voice search could change this.
SEO experts forecast that, with the growth of voice, two trends will become increasingly important:
1. Long Tail Keywords: The ideal future search engine algorithm will capture and answer questions as a whole. Therefore, it is assumed that keywords will become less important, whereas complete sentences answering questions will become more and more necessary. Content should be based on spoken words regarding the respective target group. Filler words and prepositions as well as w-questions are suddenly playing an important role.
2. Micro-Moments: Google defines so-called micro-moments as “I-want-to-know”, “I-want-to-go”, “I-want-to-do” and “I-want-to-buy”. They play an essential role with regard to purchase decisions. Micro-moments represent enormous lead potential and companies should strive to specifically address customers in those situations. If people have a current need, are in a hurry and quickly need a relevant search result, voice queries matter. Local restaurants, entertainment and shops all stand to benefit, but also review (travel, food and beverage, leisure) and news websites. All these platforms are able to increase traffic through voice requests if they can answer the latest questions.
If companies can anticipate likely questions, then they stand to gain a competitive edge.
What do these trends mean for companies, especially for publishers?
Some large corporations are already investing heavily in artificial intelligence and are factoring digital voice assistants into their marketing activities. For instance, Walmart and Google announced a collaboration in August 2017, which enabled US customers to order (and promptly receive) Walmart products via Google Home.
Currently, some publishers are beginning to experiment with digital voice assistants. For example, Condé Nast Germany has launched a Vogue horoscope service for Alexa. It is exciting to see what future digital strategies publishers will put into practice regarding voice assistants. Publishers should consider carefully which digital assistants they plan to develop strategies for. Condé Nast has gone with US market leader, Alexa, but Amazon is facing more and more competition. Also, how applicable to publishers are some of the features developed by tech producers? Amazon’s latest “Polly WordPress plugin” offers potential. Publishers could request certain enhancements if specific requirements can be identified. They could also cooperate with tech giants in goal-oriented projects just as Walmart and Google did.
Digital voice assistants’ increasing popularity is an opportunity. Whilst there is no guarantee of commercial success, it is sensible for publishers to start dipping their toes in the water. In terms of technical development, it is still early days, and the stiff competition between the big tech companies should lead to rapidly improving functionality and performance. This should, in turn, create new opportunities for publishers to launch voice-activated services.
Compared to the publishing sector, some industries are far advanced in their use of voice assistants, but publishers are beginning to stir themselves into action.
Let’s see if digital voice assistants prevail in the long run. If they do, it’s likely that Google will not be the only strong player in the SEO market of the future.