With Google Home and Amazon Echo devices filling living rooms around the world, the days of voice search are very much here. Cue the endless stream of articles telling you how to optimise your search marketing efforts for the voice revolution.
The only problem is all of this “advice” is pure speculation. Nobody knows how big a role voice technology is really going to play in the searches that matter most or if/how the tech giants will be able to monetise their voice platforms. So the best advice we can give right now is to ignore everything you hear about optimising for voice search.
People aren’t using voice search to buy things
Here’s the thing: people aren’t using voice platforms to by products. They’re using them to set alarms, play music, tell them a joke and other other tasks that offer most business absolutely nothing.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is quite honest about this, admitting that: “voice interface is only going to take you so far on shopping. It’s good for reordering consumables, where you don’t have to make a lot of choices, but most online shopping is going to be facilitated by having a display.”
He’s right. You can’t compare six different pairs of running shoes or watch a video review with voice technology alone. You also can’t compare different spec sheets side-by-side in a nice easy-to-read table – or read anything at all for that matter.
There are far too many consumer interactions voice technology can’t provide, meaning it hasn’t got what it takes be the only way people search and buy online.
Google has no idea how to monetise voice search
Google’s got a problem on its hands when it comes to voice search: it’s entire business model is like trying to a square peg into a round hole. There are no SERPs with voice results, no space for ten organic listings and certainly no room left for up to seven paid ads on top of that.
Suddenly, all of Google’s income is looking very fragile if people decide voice search is their favourite way to browse the web. This won’t happen, of course, but the fact remains that Google has no idea how to monetise voice search and its recent efforts to play ads for Beauty and the Beat on Google Home devices (and then deny it) only highlight how clueless Google is about what to do with its voice platforms.
It’s not only Google facing this problem either; every tech firm invested in voice technology has to find a way to monetise their platforms and, until we know how they’ll go about doing this, we won’t know how to optimise for it.
But what about local search?
A yes, voice technology is primed for local search, isn’t it? Well, yes, this much is true – but how much of it is going to be hands free, device independent search? Are people going to book a hotel without looking at pictures of the rooms or a restaurant without viewing the interior, menu, etc? Are they going to listen to Google Home read out user reviews one by one or quickly skim over them on their smartphone?
Search for anything on Google Maps and you get a wealth of visual information instantly. Multiple business names, their location, vicinity in relation to each other, review scores and more – not to mention detailed info for all of them with one tap of the screen. Good luck trying to recreate this kind of experience with voice technology alone.
Ignore the advice
We’ve seen all kinds of advice offered by “expert” marketers on how to make the most of voice search – from targeting conversational queries to optimising for featured snippets and rewriting the PPC handbook for the voice search revolution. The truth is all of these are nonsense, though. As things stand there is no future voice search for paid advertising and we’ve been targeting conversational queries since Hummingbird – so there’s nothing new about that.
Optimising for featured snippets sounds like a more reasonable suggestion at first, but how many queries that trigger these snippets have any commercial value? Not many. Are you going to turn queries like “what’s the population of Macedonia” into a sale? Probably not. And, even if you can get a genuine lead from searches for a quiche Lorraine, we’re in trouble if this is the best we can hope for from the “voice search revolution”.
There’s little doubt voice technology is going to shake up the way we use the web. It’s already doing that much. But voice search still has it all to prove in terms of providing search engines, users and businesses with a platform that holds any commercial value to either party. So the only advice worth listening to about voice search marketing is to ignore all of it – at least for now, until it has something to offer businesses from a marketing perspective.