Voice search: where does the future lie for online businesses?

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It’s 2022, and voice search has developed far beyond a simple gimmick to a legitimate form of search and online shopping. 

“Hey, Google. Search 15-inch MacBook pro 512 gigabytes.” 

“Alexa. Show me the best Christmas gift ideas for mums.” 

“Hey, Siri. Buy stonewash grey boardshorts size 32.”  

These are just some ways users search for the products you sell, with only their device and voice. Many aren’t even looking at the product on a screen before they buy it. 

It’s 2022, and voice search has developed far beyond a simple gimmick to a legitimate form of search and online shopping. 

40% of the US population use voice search functions (Emarketer 2022). That’s around 132 million people. 

70% of consumers prefer to use voice search over typing (PricewaterhouseCooper, 2018). 

Amazon is the biggest winner, with 92 million of its Alexa smart speakers currently in the US. 47 million people in the US own Google smart speakers, and 11 million own Apple smart speakers.

How has voice search changed search terms?

When users search with their voice instead of a keyboard, two things happen; search terms become longer, and they also become more conversational.

Longer search terms

In fact, according to Moz, “successful voice searches, the ones that get the most volume, impressions and clicks, are the ones with three words in the keyword or query.”

 

Source: How Voice Search Will Change Digital Marketing — For the Better, moz.com

Image source: How Voice Search Will Change Digital Marketing — For the Better, moz.com

These changes are significant because longer search terms have much stronger intent, regardless of the search device. For example, if I were to search for a “cocktail shaker”, I might want to buy one, find cocktail shaker recipes or even look at images for cocktail shakers. Head terms, or terms of 1-2 words, aren’t typically the terms you want to target because they’re so broad. 

On the other hand, if I were to search for “best cocktail shakers for margaritas”, it’s pretty obvious what I’m looking for. These are the search terms you want to target, where users know what they want specifically (they just need to find the product). 

Search terms are more conversational

When we search using our voice, we also search as we speak in ordinary life. In fact, Google states that 70% of voice searches use “natural language” when using Google Assistant. 

Abbreviations like GB are being verbalised as gigabyte.

We also ask questions more when searching with our voices. Question keywords are increasing by around 60% every year, according to Search Engine Watch.

We tend to include unnecessary words like “where can I buy blue suede shoes” instead of “buy blue suede shoes”. 

If you look at typical typed search terms vs voice search terms, you get comparisons like this: 

Typed search
Voice search
Pink cotton sundress size 10
Where can I buy a size 10 pink cotton sundress for humid weather?
Steel capped boots size 9 mens
What are the best size 9 mens steel capped boots for carpentry?
Hand mixer Australia
I’d like to buy a hand mixer for cake mixing in Australia
Organic night cream
What’s the best organic night cream to buy for women in their 50s?

Conversational search terms are much harder to target. There are simply too many term variations to consider when it comes to optimising your pages for your target keywords. 

For example, you can hardly match your products and metadata on your PLPS to “Where can I buy a size 10 pink cotton sundress for humid weather” and then replicate the process for the tens of thousands of long tail keywords you want to target. 

So with voice search, targeting words like “best” and “buy” at scale becomes more of a priority. The challenge in doing so is without a tool to capture this demand at scale, marketers will have to rely on their dev teams to manually build out a PLP for each individual term.

How can big eCommerce stores optimise their site for voice searches?

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to optimise entire web pages for question search terms or conversational search terms. It might help to include these exact-match terms in your product descriptors or body copy, but – especially given Google’s recent helpful content update – it probably won’t be enough. Google will only reward you if your pages appear to be built for people, not search engines. 

Your best bet is to focus on creating hyper-relevant experiences, especially on your PLPs, and regardless of voice or text search. Work out what users want and deliver it to them in a way that’s as easy as possible for them to find the perfect product. 

How will voice search shape the future of eCommerce?

According to Heather Bellini, a researcher at Goldman Sachs, voice search will accelerate the migration from brick-and-mortar to online. 

As these voice-enabled devices gain more popularity, both in peoples’ homes and on mobile devices, we’ll start to see more ask it questions that can trigger a commercial transaction. These devices will be able to create “digital shopping lists” for things like household items and electronic devices without users even viewing the product on an interface. 

Over the next decade, we’ll see the volume of searches increase, particularly on mobile, bringing the search market from US100B to US150B as a result. This will only increase as more online retailers begin to recognise the efficacy of this type of search. 

According to Bellini, “ultimately, we see voice search being embedded in everything we’re doing, and in everyday life. It will be a voice search world five years from now.”

If you’re curious to find out how you can optimise your website to capture voice search demand, we can help. Hit the link to chat with us and set up your custom 1:1 demo before your competitors beat you to it.

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