Voice Search Readiness in 2019 and Beyond

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Image above courtesy of quotecatalog.com.

This post is the latest in our “Beyond the Screen” series. It will be an editorial focus for the month of January, and you can see the rest of the series here

2019 is here. While the focus in recent weeks has been predictions on the digital marketing trends that are expected to emerge this year, I would argue that one of the most important measures brands need to take in 2019 is to implement a full-scale voice search readiness strategy, if they have not already.

Sure, voice search as a concept is nothing new, but it is being utilized now more than ever. In fact, ComScore predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches performed by consumers will be with the use of voice. That means the clock starts now to be ready by New Year’s Day next year.

That percentage is only going to increase for a myriad of reasons. Apple’s Siri was intimidating at first, but as soon as people experienced the ease of dictating their searches versus physically typing them, many latched onto this futuristic practice right away. Other mobile brands followed suit with similar products, like the creation of Google Assistant (formerly Google Now) for Android devices, and before we knew it, we had entered the world of whole-home speakers that can give us the ability to perform tasks like turning lights on and off with our voices.

To say that smart speakers are trending would be an understatement; Adobe Analytics predicted that 48% of consumers in the United States would own a smart speaker following the 2018 holiday season, with that number expected to exceed 50% in the first portion of 2019. These devices are essentially the new, built-in personal assistant; they tell us about the weather, set reminders, and perform other tasks via voice that were impossible only a few years ago. Pretty soon they’ll tell us what to wear, too.

Voice Search is Changing How Local Businesses Get Found, Too

So, what about voice search readiness for local businesses in 2019? The answer is that both local SMBs and large-scale enterprises that cannot be found by a voice search should be concerned about being lost in the shuffle as we move into an even more voice-centered world.

The 2018 Internet Trends Report from Kleiner Perkins informed us that since 2015, the number of searches in which consumers add “near me” to the end of their query is up a whopping 900%. We’ve all used this language, especially if we are traveling or are in an unfamiliar area. Frequently, we’re using these search terms from the car because we’re en route to our next point of interest. Hands-free, “near me” searching is just what a driver needs, and voice search offers both. These combined concepts are undoubtedly a friend to local businesses everywhere, and it all starts with listings.

Ensuring that businesses are properly listed in the best directories is one of the most fundamental ways to be found by voice assistants. First, start with an accurate, detailed Google My Business listing. Next, make sure you head to Apple, Yelp, Bing, Here, and Foursquare. Finally, don’t forget the power of data aggregators like Localeze. If a business fails to establish itself in data sources like these, they’re likely to be left out of the results during an on-the-go voice search.

Voice Technology Has Moved Beyond the Search Bar

The innovations that have been brought to life just over the last several years in the pursuit of a more modern, hands-free life are nothing short of extraordinary.

Let’s start with the Google Duplex. Unveiled in May of 2018 and released in New York City initially, this new form of technology was created for the brand’s Pixel mobile phones and other assistant-enabled devices. The Google Duplex is at its core a built-in assistant for smart devices, which may not sound all that different from a standard Google Assistant. But the Duplex is a piece of next-level technology that has been received with mixed reactions, including both fascination and unease.

The Duplex goes beyond searching to perform “busy work” tasks; the technology can make phone calls, schedule appointments, make dinner reservations, and perform other tasks not typically associated with a voice assistant. The AI performing these tasks also sounds like a real person—it utilizes voice inflections, natural pauses and other traits that make you think you’re actually speaking to a human personal assistant rather than a digital “being.” We have arrived at a level of technological advancement in the industry beyond our expectations, and things will only become even more advanced—and potentially creepy—from here.

Now, let’s move on to Amazon—specifically, its suite of Alexa-compatible devices that redefine the term “whole-home.” If you go to their website, you can view their own products and other brands’ products that are compatible with Alexa. You’ll find thermostats, microwaves, televisions, security cameras and systems, door locks, and even vacuum cleaners. These are only the bigger technology pieces, too.

The point of these product analyses is to further demonstrate that voice search technology is making our lives easier by scheduling our appointments, warming up dinner, turning on the TV, locking our doors behind us when we leave for the day, and cleaning our homes.

Voice Search Users May Surprise You

If you were to guess without knowing any of the data, you would probably make the assumption that the majority of voice search technology users on any platform would be part of the millennial generation and younger. But you would actually be incorrect.

Stone Temple Consulting reported last year that the age group most frequently incorporating voice search into their daily lives are actually in the age range of 35-44 years old. Now, if I was the betting type, I would predict that the more older generations see voice search in daily use, the more they will love having the opportunity to search without straining their eyes or typing on a small keyboard.

Voice search is only growing in popularity, and it is slowly but surely encroaching into territories we haven’t seen before. Businesses and brands need to be prepared for what the future holds. Comment with what you’re doing to help them get there.

Bernadette Coleman is CEO of Advice Local, an award-winning local search technology and local presence management company focused on improving client visibility across the local digital universe. Known as the Queen of Local SEO, you can find her speaking nationally on local SEO and search strategies for businesses and brands.