Voice assistants have become somewhat memetic in recent years, with Amazon’s Alexa being the clear standout when it comes to mainstream awareness. Whether they’re trying to group their devices to cause chain-reaction activations or waggishly imploring them to mark downbeat times with Luis Fonsi’s pop smash, people enjoy making light of voice activation tech.
Underneath all of this merriment and frivolity, though, lies a major blind spot regarding the utility of natural language recognition. It’s probably the awkwardness and potential embarrassment of saying things like “Hey Google, play Party Mix Volume Seven” that pushes people to underrate it so egregiously: it’s fundamentally silly to talk to an electronic gadget, isn’t it?
But make no mistake: voice recognition technology is substantially underrated, and you mock it at your peril. Not only has it already transformed how many people manage countless regular household activities, but it’s also started to change how they interact with the online world in general — in particular, how they find the information and functions they’re looking for.
And since the field of content marketing is all about finding ways to reach people with materials that will impress them and convince them to return value to you, voice search is obviously highly relevant. In this post, we’re going to look at five ways in which it’s set to revolutionize content marketing — so let’s get started:
It’s growing conversational support
Every change in the digital marketing world has repercussions, and that’s certainly true of the rise in voice search. As noted, content marketing is about getting your content seen, but there are more ways to achieve that than by appearing directly in search results — and voice search is a key contributor to the growth of conversational support (a viable channel for content).
Voice search has made people accustomed to having conversational experiences in the digital sphere: they can just talk to their phones or digital assistants instead of having to deal with clunky text-based systems. This has naturally raised expectations when it comes to customer support, leading people to demand better than sluggish support-ticket systems.
By providing conversational support (usually through live chat systems like Crisp.Chat), today’s brands can kill two birds with one stone: they can make their customers view them much more positively, and they can take advantage of the conversational freedom to push their marketing content. Find an opportune time to recommend a blog post, and you can pick up an easy view.
It’s advancing the Q&A format
Producing a great piece of highly-ranking content used to be about hitting the primary keywords heavily and throwing in as much detail as you possibly could. Search engines wanted (and still want, for regular search at least) to recommend the pages that are maximally useful, making content length significant: someone who’s looking for guidance with buying a laptop is perhaps more likely to find the information they need in a 4000-word article than in a 500-word article.
But a voice search most commonly produces one of two types of response: a short spoken reply (between one and three sentences) or a regular mobile SERP that’s technically lengthy but is utterly dominated by featured snippets and assorted search engine suggestions. Due to this, search engines look for succinct answers to search queries — so structuring marketing content using specific questions and answers is becoming extremely useful for getting attention.
It’s making long-tail keywords more important
We touched upon primary keywords, and content writers would generally go for them due to their impact and wide-ranging appeal. Long-tail keywords (much lengthier and more specific search terms) have always been useful in certain niches, but they’re becoming much more important due to the growth of voice search.
Here’s why: while it may be faster to type “red shoes” and narrow things down than it would be to type “red shoes leather or imitation leather size 11 US under $100” (for someone who can’t type very quickly, at least, which applies to many people), it’s a lot easier to issue that long search query in speech. In general, the looseness of voice search encourages people to use more natural phrasing, making conventional keywords lose a lot of their potency.
It’s driving digestible content structures
How should a piece of marketing content be divided? We’ve looked at the vitality of questions and answers, of course, but you can’t frame absolutely everything that way (content varies based on the intended platform, plus not every search query is going to be issued in the form of a question, so it’s not always useful). Even so, you can certainly split your content into digestible chunks, as that is increasingly important.
The more you can segment a piece of content using clear and informative subheadings, the easier it will be for a search engine to interpret and codify, and the more likely said engine will be to choose something on that page as a response to a voice search query (remember that it’s likely to go for a short stretch, roughly the length of a medium-sized paragraph).
It’s no use having a lengthy post that humans can read perfectly well but search engines can’t because even though such a post could still show up in regular searches due to keyword use, it wouldn’t be viable for a voice result. When a search engine can’t understand a page, it can’t pick out specific parts to serve as answers.
It’s demanding increased integration
A key part of playing to voice search is remembering that it isn’t purely informational. The name is somewhat deceptive: when someone uses their voice assistant to order a pizza, they’re not exactly searching. They’re taking action. And since a piece of content can be inherently functional, content marketers will need to keep this in mind.
Let’s say a marketing team decides to promote its brand by creating a utility that, for instance, compares various insurance plans on the market — the idea being that people will find it valuable and view the brand responsible more positively (and that the website hosting it will attract more interest). How would that work with voice search?
If that brand sought relevant integrations (by registering the utility’s functions as Google Actions, for instance), it could see that utility used by Google in response to relevant searches (with brand attribution, of course). In general, finding as many ways as possible to connect a piece of content to Google’s ecosystem is great for winning at voice search marketing.
Voice search has been hyped up excessively at times, but it’s also been myopically underestimated. It’s already changing how we interact with online systems, and its broader significance is something that content marketers must think carefully about.