Voice Killed The Keyboard Star
Over the past year, you’ve likely heard murmurings about the Dawn of Voice Search. 7 million “voice-first” devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo were shipped last year and an estimated 25 million more will ship in 2017. Mobile manufacturers increasingly champion their respective voice assistants – Siri, Alexa, Cortana – as key device features. Talk is the new Type. You’ve likely encountered some of the following statistics in recent months:
- “76% of all Americans think voice search is great for multitasking”
- “The majority of U.S. teens (55%) use hands-free search every day”
- “25% of 16-24 year olds use voice search on mobile”
- “1 in 5 online adults have used voice search on their mobile in the last month”
- “Cortana now has 133 million monthly users”
- “25% of desktop searches on Windows 10 are voice”
What does it all mean? For one thing, it means SEO experts are hard at work figuring out the best ways to position quality site content as “The Answer” that Google and Bing will reference when responding to a voice query. Long tail search queries have made a comeback and more and more content is being phrased in question and answer format, but meanwhile, voice search means paid search has been left in the dark. For now.
I’m Sorry Paid, I’m Afraid I Can’t Do That
“Text ads followed by 10 organic results is a thing of the past in the voice-driven world.” According to Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP of Advertising and Commerce at Google
Approximately 77% of Google’s total revenue comes from search advertisements and unless they want to see that number shrink significantly, they already have their best and brightest working out how to effectively monetize voice search. Google may boast about the sales figures of Home and Pixel and perhaps they’ll unveil a device called “Google Ear” in time for the holidays, but their future success comes from voice advertising.
Sooner than later, Google will bring paid ads to voice-first devices (and once they do you can safely bet Microsoft’s Bing engineers will start figuring out how to copy them). Amazon has also made hints that they intend to monetize voice search and it won’t be long before Facebook joins the crowd. As Google CEO Sundar Pichai noted in November, voice search has “expanded the pie”.
Would You Like Ads With That?
Integrating advertisements into our voice interactions will be no easy task. Imagine asking your Google Home to “find a nice Italian restaurant” and hearing it respond with an ad for “unlimited pasta at Olive Garden”. A human assistant doesn’t shill for a business every time you ask for their help and if our digital assistants start blaring ads in between answers, we’ll quickly grow weary of such intrusions. Voice ads must be useful and subtle to work and ad publishers – be it Google or otherwise – must figure out how to sell those ads.
Here are 5 ways that might happen in the near future:
1) Shopping Assistant
The groundwork for voice ordering has already been laid. You can ask your TV to order Dominos or ask your fridge to buy more Coke, but can voice assistants help us actually shop?
Suppose you want to buy a book for a friend. You ask Google to find a hardcover copy of Moby Dick in new condition. Google tells you it found 24 options, so you ask how many offer Free Shipping. 12 do. “OK Google, which is the cheapest?”. “$15.02 From barnsandnoble.com”. You give Google approval and the book is on its way.
Probability Score: 9 – Google already has this information at hand with Merchant Center and it may not take much to utilize shopping feeds to create smart voice shopping algorithms in the very near future.
Voice assistants may also introduce ads via the ancient art of the upsell. A voice query about how to use a new product you purchased could trigger an ad for a guidebook or accessory. Voice queries are overwhelmingly requests for information and frequently the answer will require a subsequent purchase, allowing advertisers the opportunity to promote their add-ons, replacement parts, repair or warranty services, and other items of use to the consumer.
Probability Score: 7 – This could feasibly be an extension of Interests & Remarketing Lists, including Similar Users, targeting users who have already shopped with you or shown interest in one of Google’s purchase intent categories. Alternately, upsell ads could simply be triggered by voice queries when a question prompts a service or product purchase.
3) Special Offers
The one time we welcome an intrusion into our purchasing decisions is when someone has a better offer than the one we’re considering. Numerous websites – from Price Grabber to Retail Me Not – have made fortunes by gathering price comparisons or coupon codes for the thrifty consumer to peruse. After all, how useful is a digital assistant if they can’t tell us about the best deals available?
Probability Score: 5 – This one is a little trickier and may first come in the form of an add-on. Or perhaps the first instance will come from a cheaper “Echo” model, as Amazon has been known to offer more affordable Kindle models that come with advertisements. An Echo that chimes in with a special promotion occasionally is a feasible solution in the coming years.
4) The Experts
“OK Google, how do I fix a leaky, rusted pipe?”
“OK, fixing a leaky, rusted pipe requires several tools and supplies. A professional plumber is recommended. Shall I locate some in your area?”
In addition to local services at your rescue, voice assistants could offer all sorts of expert help from retailers, B2B industries, and more. Ask Google “what’s the best backpack for a 3-day trip?” and you’ll likely get a guide from REI, but it’s easy to imagine a quick ad boasting “30% off a 40-liter weekend pack from Moosejaw” without missing a step in your consumer journey. “How to do my taxes” might elicit an ad from Turbo Tax. The possibilities are endless.
Probability Score: 4 – While it may be the most useful iteration of paid ads in voice search, it may also be the most difficult to implement – particularly on the auction end. Google must first solve the hurdle of how to allow businesses to bid on voice queries, how to determine which ads to “speak” to the consumer, and what constitutes a “click” (or a conversion for that matter). Will it happen? Most certainly, but we may be years away.
Google and others have dabbled in the idea of push notifications to your mobile device from a nearby retailer. The thought of having your phone spammed with unsolicited ads wherever you go was quickly shunned by mobile users at large. Voice assistants, however, offer a much less intrusive way of alerting you to nearby deals. You’re already in conversation with your phone or smart speaker and besides, if you tell a human friend you’re hungry, wouldn’t they mention a nearby taco place with happy hour deals?
It isn’t a far cry for voice assistants to offer similar notifications in our interactions. Who would be opposed to Google or Alexa alerting them to a special deal at their favorite sushi bar? Maybe the band you’ve been listening to a lot on Amazon Music is coming to town. Wouldn’t you like to be informed about ticket sales?
Probability Score: 6 – Another tricky one – in this case learning each user’s threshold for unsolicited ads will be the obstacle to implementing behaviorally triggered voice ads. However, an early iteration could come soon in the form of user prompts. “OK Google, show me the best happy hours near me.” may be informational at first, but isn’t a stretch to paid placements and promotions that bump offers to the top of the list.
OK Google, I’m ready for my close-up
While paid voice ads may seem tricky to navigate – for both publisher and advertiser – the reality is that paid ads already have a place reserved in voice search and while we may have to wait some months for Google to implement an intelligent ad interface, smart businesses will begin conjuring up ways to present their products and services to the estimated 300 million monthly users already becoming accustomed to asking their voice assistants for help with daily tasks and needs.
Will your business be ready when the first paid ad is recited to a consumer?
Please contact us with any questions you may have about paid media and how to optimize for voice search.