Behavioral Shifts In Voice Search Demonstrate Need For SEO

Consumers are shifting their behavior toward using their voice to find answers, albeit slowly.

The Voice Assistant SEO Report For Brands -- released in July by Voicebot, which produces independent research on voice and artificial intelligence, and creative services firm Magic + Co. -- found that voice search is rising and third-party sites such as Wikipedia and Yelp are defining the information consumers are hearing about brands.

Much of that information is unflattering. Sometimes it leads to competitive brands being mentioned as well. eMarketer estimates that by 2021 the number of smart speaker shoppers will reach 38 million. Not all will shop online via a smart speaker. Most consumers are simply looking for information.

Not surprisingly, smartphones are the dominant voice search devices today, but smart speakers are a major contributor and are sure to increase these figures even more as we approach one-third of U.S. adults with access to them. The biggest obstacle is the ability to monetize the technology.



When it comes to organic platforms, the biggest challenge has become optimizing voice search. “There is good reason to believe this assumption as the research suggests both Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri rely heavily on the Google Knowledge Graph to answer most queries,” according to the report. “Amazon Alexa taps into Microsoft’s Bing Knowledge Graph which is a close approximation of Google search results. However, change is afoot in search engine optimization. Voice Assistant search results are often different from text search.”

The research team asked more than 4,000 questions to leading voice assistants to determine where the industry stands today with voice assistant SEO. Rather than replicating generic consumer requests, the team asked a series of questions about product categories and individual brands to see how the assistants answered.

Interestingly, Google Assistant appears to have changed its algorithms around the end of 2018 and is defaulting more often to its knowledge graph and information repositories where it used to refer many queries to third-party Google Actions. Other platforms seem to use some form of knowledge graph or information repository today for most queries, but that could change.

Only 26.5% of about 200 major brands analyzed have some sort of voice app for Alexa, 21.5% have one for Google Assistant, and about 15% have a presence on both platforms. Many of the voice apps are not focused on answering common questions about the brand or product segment in which they focus.

This means third parties are solely responsible for offering information about three of the four brands during voice assistant interactions. For many common searches about brands, the figure exceeds 90%, based on our analysis.

The research goes on to explain why brands should care about voice search adoption. It’s a behavioral shift. About 58.6% of online U.S. adults, according to the report, translates into 148 million U.S. adults who have some voice search experience. Among smart speaker owners, the adoption rate is far higher at 87.8%.

Although small, it means 19.3% of all online U.S. adults are monthly active voice search users. Frequency also plays a part. About 47% of users expect to increase their voice search frequency this year. That figure rises to nearly 62% for smart speaker owners.

Fact-based questions are the most common type of voice search topics. This query type is asked by about three in five voice search users. Maps and directions follow at 53%. Movies, Music, and Entertainment questions and Restaurants fall between 33% and 39%. News, Product Research, and Finding Recipes range between 23% and 28%. Travel Information and Sports both follow at around 18%, with other search categories come in at 10% or lower.

The consumer survey data was collected online during the first week of January 2019 and included 1,038 U.S. adults age 18 or older. Findings were compared to earlier survey data collected in the first week of September 2018 that included responses from 1,040 U.S. adults.

Voice search data results from Amazon Echo Smart Speakers with Alexa, Apple HomePod with Siri, Google Home and a Smartphone with Google Assistant, and Samsung Galaxy S10 with Bixby, were collected in in the second quarter of 2019.

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