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Social Media Week 2017: 5 Things You Need to Know About Voice Search

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Social Media Week hosts a series of conferences where people share ideas, innovations and insights into how social media and technology are changing business, society and culture around the world. The conferences happen around the world and last week I attended the three-day event in Los Angeles.

I hosted a workshop on voice search adoption, focusing on consumer voice search trends, and how social and search can come together to ensure that content is discoverable through voice search.

Here are five things you need to know about voice search and what you can do about it:

  1. By 2020, 50 Percent of Searches Will Be Voice Search

    Voice search first emerged with Apple’s launch of “Siri” in 2009. Google shortly followed with its own version of the technology. People have been slow to adopt it up until the last two years, as wearables and home-based devices have gained popularity. Just last March, Google alone said Android voice search made up 20 percent of Android device searches. While consumers are finding voice search more convenient than ever, it complicates things for marketers, as we’ve gone from one device per person to an average of four devices today.

  1. Voice Search Has Given New Life to Bing

    The saturated mobile market has encouraged every major player to get into the voice search game, including Apple, Google, and Amazon. There are even rumors that Facebook will soon dip its feet in. While Google has been king of search for nearly a decade, many of these players use the Bing algorithm over Google. While Google and Bing respect some of the same search principles, there are still some nuances. For example, Bing tends to prioritize more multimedia content than Google and doesn’t always crawl content as deeply as Google. If you aren’t thinking about how your content looks and appears on Bing, you should start thinking about it now.

  1. Voice Search Doesn’t Recognize All Searches

    If you have ever been frustrated by your device for not understanding your question or refusing to provide you with an answer, you are not alone. The technology is still very new and devices right now only recognize about six types of searches:

    1. Facts & Info (Who starred in this movie?)
    2. Personal Assistant (Check my schedule for today)
    3. Local Guide (Find me a restaurant near me)
    4. Purchase Products (Buy me groceries)
    5. News (What happened in the news today?)
    6. Nutritional Information (How many calories are in an avocado?)

    Most of these types of queries have one thing in common: they’re questions. Question-based searches have tripled over the last two years because voice-enabled devices make it so easy to ask long questions. If your content online isn’t answering questions your consumers want to know about, you aren’t going to do well in the world of voice search.

  1. Voice Search Makes Only One Result Relevant

    Known as “Position 0,” the snippet of content that appears at the very top of organic search results is the only content that voice-enabled devices read when answering a voice search. Position 0 becomes extremely important for screenless devices such as Alexa and Google Home, where a consumer gets only one search result. Search algorithms haven’t been entirely clear on how to rank for Position 0, but your content must appear on page one to increase your chances.

  1. Social Signals Seem to Play an Important role in “Position 0”

    Various studies have found that articles generating consistent social shares and engagement have a stronger chance of appearing in Position 0. Additionally, social media is usually the first place consumers go to ask questions to brands, which makes it an important channel to monitor and inform new questions consumers might be asking their voice devices. Using social media insights is invaluable to your content creation strategy for voice search.

    The one constant with search is change. And while it’s never 100 percent clear how search engines will prioritize change, it is clear that voice search is here to stay and that social media can play a role in optimizing for voice search.

Alyssa Esker is vice president, Digital practice, Edelman Atlanta

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