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Amazon, Apple, and Google are amping up ads for Alexa, Siri, and Home. And the public is responding. Voice search usage continues to grow year-over-year.

Despite all the advances with mobile devices, typing with your thumbs remains cumbersome. In fact, over an estimated 40% of adults use their voice to complete tasks on their mobile devices every day.

People aren’t just using voice technology for searching. They’re sending messages, ordering products, and creating to-do lists. They’re even interacting with other internet-enabled devices in the home.

Since Google released its “Google Home” platform in 2017, the software is now installed on nearly 400 million devices worldwide. This is not a just technology for younger demographics either. Amazon recently reported nearly one-third of all of Amazon’s Echo purchases since January of 2015 were made by Baby Boomers.

While incremental changes are apparent in 2018, the internet appears to be on the verge of a full-scale, all-out search revolution in the coming years. ComScore says that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches.

Now is the time to jump on the wave. But how?

Here are four suggestions for marketers to get ahead of these looming changes…

1. Apply local context to your digital marketing

As voice-assisted technologies continue to mature, marketers need to think about mobile not just as a device or channel, but as a behavior. We are required to understand the context of specific questions our audience is asking, so we can target them, help them find our product or service in search engine results, and message them appropriately.

At DMW, we’re already seeing a rise in long-tail conversational keywords and phrases this year. While data in Google Analytics doesn’t yet reveal exact terms used in voice-assisted technologies, we can see that consumers using voice-guided technologies typically ask full conversational questions, as opposed to a simple keyword phrase.

Year-over-year, location-driven “near me” searches also show continued growth as consumers are often on-the-go when looking for results. For the past several years, we have used “near me” searches as a key aspect of location targeting when managing paid search campaigns.

2. Place greater emphasis on being the top search result

Digital assistants typically respond with information from a top-position entry. More than ever, the need to own the top position within a SERP (search engine results page) is critical. As early as 2016, the notion of “position 0” was introduced for featured snippets – these are the results that are read and appear above the #1 organic listing. But just getting that top position is only the first step. Your messaging must be right, too!

Consumers who search using conversational keyword phrases are typically more “top of funnel” and focused on learning more information about something. This is why many queries are primarily formed as a question. For example, “How do I enroll in a Medicare insurance plan?” “When do I go to Urgent Care not the ER?” In the world of retail it may be specific product details such as “Where can I find organic dog food?”

As these queries pertain to research, it’s not worthwhile to present ads focused on enrollment or purchase. It’s too soon in their process; clicks and conversions will suffer. Instead, draw consumers in with educational content to engage them and answer their specific questions.

3. Consider the unique UX of audio-only interfaces

A smart speaker (such as Amazon’s Echo) is a device that an individual uses to perform voice-enabled search. Our key feature – or rather, lack of feature – is that there is no visual interface on this hardware.

As the popularity of this technology grows, your content will be forced to evolve. Information about your products or services must be accessible with no visual interface to guide shoppers!

Convenience doesn’t come without a cost. You may be familiar the recent story about the Amazon Echo device “spying” on an unsuspecting family’s conversation. While there is absolutely cause for concern regarding how these devices are used, what data are captured, and how privacy is protected, it’s no cause to delay jumping into voice-enabled search with both feet.

Our success as marketers demands we maintain pace with changing trends. Period. The technical side will be worked out. What you cannot do is pause or ignore how people may want to find your business or products.

4. Realize that the “Why” of a search is now as Important as the “What”

Until now, ad match has been based on specific keywords. With the growth of voice-enabled search, context is increasingly key for effective media strategies. Analytics won’t necessarily tell you the “why” – our intuitive marketing intelligence is needed to figure that out.

DMW has already started applying this discipline to digital campaigns for our clients. You can take a first step by leveraging free tools like www.answerthepublic.com to show the types of questions an audience is asking to learn more about relevant topics to increase your program’s performance.

The challenge – and opportunity – is to stay in step with consumers’ ever-evolving behaviors to keep your brand, products, and services in view. To that end, your goal today is to parse out the granularity of searches, so you not only know what and how, but understand WHY someone is searching. That knowledge will help you determine what voice content to populate to best satisfy searches.

We’re here to help you, too … just a click away!