A year ago, I made fun of my husband for his staunch refusal to type on his device. He’d give stern directions in staccato rhythm to his iPhone, usually in search of something on Google or in response to a text message. And I’d ask him, “Why are you doing that?” because Every. Thing. He. Said. Sounded. Angry. And. Unnatural.
His response was simple. “I don’t like typing on this small screen.”
Fair enough. What I didn’t realize at the time was consumer evolution taking place right in front of my face.
Things have come a long way since that gesturing paperclip assistant in the corner of Microsoft Word docs. Today, every major player in the game has a voice-powered assistant that takes the type work out of searching online, launching applications, responding to email or text messages, setting reminders and more. Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa, Google has Google Assistant and Microsoft has Cortana. And people have taken notice.
This isn’t just a new trend. It’s a major shift in user behavior that will have a profound and lasting impact on the marketing landscape.
People have become the ultimate multi-taskers. We pay our bills while standing in line at the grocery store and check email while walking the dog. Admittedly, we give our devices a lot of attention while driving, too. (Stop that!) Simply put, voice search provides a safer, faster, easier way to access information on-the-go.
Dictation hasn’t always been accurate or easy to use, which turned people off and prevented voice search from instant success. But the technology is far more sophisticated today than ever before, and it’s getting smarter with each use. Creators like Apple use machine learning (a type of artificial intelligence) that enables computer programs to adapt and improve as they are exposed to new data about the user.
We write differently than we talk. Writing is more formal, structured and careful. Talk is more casual and natural. For example, let’s say you want more information on landscaping services in your area. Traditionally, you might type your search into Google as “landscaping, [ZIP code].” But if you were trying to access this information using voice search, you’d probably say something like, “Hey, Siri, where can I find landscaping services near me?”
What this means for marketing: Audiences are interacting with and requesting information in a more conversational and humanistic way. Your content needs to reflect that styling. Ditch the stuffy discourse and start writing the way people talk.
When we type search queries, we inherently abbreviate what it is we’re searching. In fact, we’ve become so good at minimizing our typed searches, we can locate almost anything online using just a couple of words. As you can see in the example above, voice search queries tend to be quite a bit longer. When we talk, we most often share fully formed thoughts. The average voice search is about 4.2 words or longer.
What this means for marketing: Your keyword strategy needs to adapt. In addition to short, two- or three-word phrases, start building in long-tail keyword phrases to account for lengthier, voice-commanded search queries.
Forty-six percent of all searches on Google and a third of all mobile searches are local. Here’s the kicker—mobile voice searches are three times more likely to be local-based than mobile text searches. This ties in with the whole, “voice search provides a safer, faster, easier way to access information on-the-go” statement from earlier. And as keywords change into key phrases, people have a lot more space to insert local detail.
What this means for marketing: Ramp up your local SEO game, especially if your audience depends on their mobile devices. As you generate long-tail keyword phrases, work in local details.
There’s one more impact we can surmise from all of these changes. Audiences want more short-form content. Voice search on mobile devices means people are accessing information while out in the world doing other things. They may not have time to read your thousand-word article. Instead, they need snackable answers to the questions and curiosities in which they’re searching.
What this means for marketing: Start experimenting with a mix of content lengths and use your analytics to monitor how audiences interact with each type. Note: This does not mean you should kick long-form content to the curb. According to some research, the ideal blog length is zeroing in on the 2,500-word mark!
Your marketing strategy is highly susceptible to chain reactions. If consumer behavior changes—as is the case with voice command technology—the impact reverberates throughout your marketing approach and shakes up language, keywords, SEO, content creation and more. This sensitive impressionability is what makes marketing so challenging and fascinating!
Social science plays just as big a part in the evolution of our marketing strategies as industry trends and analytics. Those who recognize this fact and learn to pivot quickly will win the favor of their target audiences.