Voice Search

John Campbell, our Head of SEO, finished our ‘Shaping the Breakfast’ morning with a session on Voice Search. As you might have seen, ROAST released an industry first last week; a Voice Search Ranking Report, a tool intended on educating our team and clients on the Voice Search space.

Although Voice Search has been around on Google since 2002, in a speech-to-text format, the development of assistant-powered Voice Search through smart devices, was what recently made the space much more interesting to us.

The Voice Search space is developing rapidly – Commscore estimates that by 2020 half of searches will be done by voice and 30% of searches will be done without a screen. With nearly all SEO and PPC strategies being visually based, we believe it’s important for brands to get a grasp of the opportunities Voice Search provides.

Despite originally being seen as fact-finding devices – used for asking the upcoming weather or directions – the value of the Voice Search market is set to grow to $600million by 2019, as we shift towards people using them to purchase items. For instance, if you ask Alexa to buy you batteries, it will purchase them and send them to your house. We expect to see this move even further over time and predict it won’t be long before these devices are purchasing car insurance and holidays on behalf of their owners.

Five companies have created assistants so far: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Samsung Bixby and Apple Siri. The Google Assistant comes in a range of forms; the Mini, the Home and the Max, as well as on Android devices, TVs and cars. Alexa also comes in a variety of models including the Show, which has a screen and Google will be bringing out its smart display later this year. So, what can Voice Search do for us right now?

Using actions & skills to add branded functionality

Actions and skills are like apps, companies can add them to give branded functionality. Through Google, brands are beginning to develop ‘known’ phrases which people can use to start a dialogue with them in order, for instance, to make a shopping list with Asda, or find out about trains from Trainline, or find out what is going on in London by asking for TimeOut. Alexa has even more functionality; you can order an Uber, find out information about your car from the DVLA and order pizza from Dominos, although the set up to be able to do this is a little more complex.

Hardware developers are using Software Development Kits (SDKs) to build Voice Assistant enabled devices

SDKs are being sent out to hardware developers with requests to integrate Voice Search technology into devices. For instance, Google’s SDK was used to build a voice assistant powered cocktail mixer. A SDK allows other hardware companies to create their own devices with an assistant built in. For instance, Toshiba could make a TV, add the Google Assistant into the TV and then program the assistant to use voice commands to control the TV.

Paid Search & Voice Search

Although it has not been publicly discussed by Google themselves to date, it has been predicted that the Paid Search space will mould to take on some of the opportunities Voice Search presents. For instance, will businesses now be able to buy search terms? If someone asks for toothpaste recommendations, could Colgate be the paid answer? There are also possibilities that with the display development, you might have to pay to be included in the Product List Ads (PLAs). Or, perhaps, we’ll be able to bid on certain demographics of people, who are likely to use Voice Search and be looking for holidays.

Answer Boxes – the source of Voice Assistant answers?

Although they’re pulling their information from different platforms (Alexa from Bing and Google from Google), it has been speculated that Voice Assistant answers correlate with Answer Boxes. Recognising that this might not be completely accurate, the ROAST team created a tool which allows us to report back on which websites and sources are being referenced in answers given by the voice search assistant, reporting on our findings in our Voice Search Ranking Report.

The tool allowed us to see on a daily basis, which answer came with each question and whether this was a match to the web result. We found that even if you sometimes have an answer on the web, the voice assistant may say that it cannot find an answer. This happened around 26% of the time. When the Voice Assistant did have an answer, around 20% of the time it did not match what we saw on the web. There were also variants of answer types; standard answers, location results, action prompts, definitions, flight search and similar questions.

From these reports, we can start to work out trends. 75% of questions will be answered, 25% will not be. 80% of those answered match the Answer Box on the web. We started to ask specific market and vertical questions; which sorts of questions will give what results? For instance, insurance has very standard answers, whereas in healthcare you get more database definitions. From this, we can say, if you work in healthcare, this might not be a very profitable area to focus on, whereas for insurance you could stand a lot to gain by investigating this channel further. We’d start with Answer Box solutions, but certainly looking into actions/skills would be advisable.

Conclusions

There are several takeaways, but primarily brands should consider that the key takeaways are that the Voice Search space is on the rise and is driving an interesting shift in consumer behaviour. Currently, it is Google and Amazon striding forward with this, but the market should not be thought of as just to do with speakers. Brands need to consider whether an action or a skill can help them to deliver a better quality of service to the customer, or is it just an unnecessary add-on? The good ones will be the innovative ones. Agencies and brands alike need to be equally aware of what developing Voice Search innovations might mean for digital strategies, as it is to be presumed that it will become a monetised technology.

Receive a copy of our Voice Search Rankings Report by clicking here.