Voice Search & the Internet of Things

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Our world is becoming interconnected like never before. Devices that are connected to the internet like fridges, watches and lighting seem like things of science fiction – ordering when supplies are low, monitoring our heart rates and turning on and off respectively due to their connections to the internet and making our lives more convenient. 

As well as everyday items becoming ‘smart’ and contributing to the IoT consumers are picking up new devices like home hubs (for example, Amazon Alexa or Google Nest Hub) and ingratiating them into the centre of our homes. 

Estimates from Microsoft put the adoption rate of smart speakers at 75% by 2020.

As most of these devices can be voice-activated and respond to voice searches rather than traditional keyboard-based text input, its not surprising to see that 27% of searches were voice searches in 2018, up from 20% in 2016.

Understanding these changes in the way that consumers are interacting with search and their devices is going to be key for brands looking to develop brand awareness in organic search engines.

Optimising for voice search on Google, Bing and other search engines is an essential part of any SEO strategy. It will give brands another avenue to market through that seers away from the traditional desktop/phone keyboard approach.

As it is a “winner takes all” when voice search is concerned, as only top results are read out by most IoT devices.

Those brands that optimise well for search and claim top listings will be able to take advantage of the growing adoption of this channel with more brand awareness and increased traffic.

What is Voice Search?

Voice search is…well…searching using your voice! Instead of typing into a keypad for various voice-enabled IoT devices, the searcher reads out their query and Google or Bing will run a search, with the device returning the results either on screen or read out loud over the speaker.

Voice Search & the Internet of Things

Saying “Ok, Google” out loud will get your device to start recording your query, then it will read out the top result.

Phones receive the lion’s share of engagement when it comes to voice search – understandable given the ubiquitous nature of mobile phones and the fact that “personal digital assistants” come as standard on a lot of devices.

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Voice Search & the Internet of Things
Phones and home hub speakers are leading the adoption, with smart speakers next in line.

Generally, the device will interact with a search engine like Google or Bing to find an answer to the voice query but may bring up apps (eg: Spotify) if those results align with using an application.

What is the IoT?

The Internet of Things is the name given to the network of devices connected to each other by the internet.

These items may be things like fridges, TVs, phones, machinery, or lights and can send and receive data about the tasks they are set to perform – turning on or off at set times, reporting on inventory levels or status, or accessing the internet for information as required by a searcher. 

IoT devices that are connected to search engines like Google or Bing are being used to return search results due to their convenient voice activation features.

These devices are becoming central to the consumer experience, so brands will need to ensure their content is optimised in search engines to enable them to be eligible for voice search results.

If IoT devices are connected to search engines like Bing or Google, then they can be used to perform voice searches.

Conveniently activated via voice while the searcher performs other tasks (while cooking, driving, sitting on the couch etc) IoT devices with search give consumers the ability to search on impulse and gives brands an ability to optimise for this to improve their brand awareness and stimulate further organic traffic. 

Voice Search- How it Can Help Brands

Brands who are looking to optimise their content for search engines can take this a step further by leveraging the power of voice search to increase brand awareness and get in front of consumers who are performing on-demand searches. 

Voice search on IoT connected is the second most popular form of browsing after traditional desktop and keyboard text searches. Mobile surpassed desktop in 2016 with mobile making up 59% of searches.

This highlights the need for brands to adopt a mobile device first approach to their search marketing, and as outlined earlier, voice search is making up an increasingly large percentage of those searches. 

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Brands can look to develop and optimise content around some of the key interactions that consumers are using organic search for. 

On Google, these top uses are:

Voice Search & the Internet of Things
Image Source

Bing searches cover much the same categories. Its top uses for voice search are: 

  • Finding quick facts 68%
  • Searching for a business 47%
  • Researching products or services 44%
  • Product or device comparison 31%
  • Making a purchase 25% 

Brands aren’t limited to lead generation to a product/service landing page as traditional SEO would recommend.

Brands can take advantage of “micro-moments” in the consumer journey and be of real use to customers and prospects by providing a range of content at their fingertips…or vocal cords….

There Are Winners and Losers

Voice searches that appear on the most used devices (phones and home hubs) tend to only read out one result.

One query in, one answer out. This tends to be a featured snippet, where available, or a top of page result.  This means that only one brand’s messaging is heard and gets 100% of the traffic and brand awareness that the query generates.

Users have no option to select from a list, no option to browse other websites, all they can do it ask a different question if they don’t get the answer they are after.

This varies considerably from traditional text-based searching.

On a traditional search, there is a whole page of results that might appear underneath the featured snippet or #1 position. While 75% of traffic is captured by the top 3 results, that still means that 25% of the time a page that appears in position 4 or lower get traffic.

It might be due to the well-crafted metadata or URL that addresses the searchers actual intent much more closely. 

When comparing voice search to text search, it becomes immediately obvious that voice search results in a captive audience. All the impressions and traffic goes to the winning site, and other brands that have still performed well, say at position 2 or 3 get nothing. 

With up to  30% of all searches being performed without a screen through an IoT device, winning in this highly competitive landscape become important to consider and optimise for in organic search strategies moving forward.

How to Win with Voice Search

Positioning your brand, or brands you work for to capitalise on changing consumer search trends blends in with strategies that SEOs are already aware of, but can be prioritised to specifically target the long-tail, conversational tone that is being used for voice search.

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Have a solid grasp of semantic search and how humans speak and ask questions and bring that to your content creation. Voice search tends to be longtail and question orientated.

Google continues to push its natural language processing algorithms forward to understand the context of speech that adds to meaning.

Optimising for BERT and other algorithm changes that mean less keyword stuffing and more nuance ensures that both humans and search engines understand your content. 

Claim as many featured snippets as possible.

This gives you the chance of appearing in traditional text searches and voice search so can effectively kill two birds with one stone.

Voice Search & the Internet of Things
Our “featured snippet” for ‘what is segment cdp’. The result appears for both text and voice queries.

Claim local listings

With 58% of consumers use voice search to find local businesses, claiming Bing Places and Google My Business, as well as local citation listings, will boost your accessibility in voice search. With 80% of local searches resulting in a conversion, it pays to optimise for this. 

Identify and optimise for trigger keywords

These trigger keywords are terms that are commonly used to kick off a voice search like “how, what best”. Bright Local did some great research on keywords that trigger voice search results. Including these triggers in your content will improve your chances of claiming a voice search spot.

Optimise Early

Voice search is bringing in a new avenue for brands to get in front of consumers, by creating content that matches their increasing use of IoT connected devices.

SEOs need to be on the lookout for opportunities to claim voice search results early so that as early adopters they will be able to catch users as they begin to adopt voice search more frequently. 

If brands can get in on this rising trend amongst IoT connected devices, they can outperform competitors who aren’t even aware of the how-to and why of optimising for voice search greatly improving their brand awareness, lead generation and customers support services as consumers increasingly turn to voice on their devices. 

About the author

Kyle Douglas

Search Engine Optimisation pro, blogger, website marketing consultant and card game enthusiast. A serial entrepreneur, Kyle Douglas has been in digital for 7+ years, and now creates and grows internal SEO teams for digital transformation agencies.

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