How Will Voice Search Impact a Search Marketer’s World?

Many of us have seen the recent push by Google prompting its voice search capabilities in their “OK Google” ads. They have been in subways stations, at the World Series, and even at the Top of the Rock. Google’s push along with Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana market presence in voice search shows a real growth in this area. In fact a recent Google study showed that 55 percent of teens (13-18) use voice search every day. Fifty-six percent of adults said using voice search made them feel “tech-savvy.”


So if the use is that high, what are the implications for search marketers? While you can’t yet pull data to understand if a search was done via voice or text based search (yet), you can look at the conversational keywords within a search. For this article we looked at how many times question keywords appeared in search queries like “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how.” What we found was a 61 percent growth in these phrases year-over-year! The biggest growth comes from phrases that I believe directly tie to voice search and in particularly the Knowledge Graph (or the ability for these voice search tools to reply directly with an answer). For example, “How old is Iggy Azalea?” or “Who is married to Tom Brady?” “Who” phrases were up 134 percent and “How” phrases were up 81 percent.


The next thing I wanted to dig into was the growth of these phrases as it relates to specific devices. Some interesting trends pop out here as well:

  • Tablet growth is the highest at 171 percent – most likely due to the growth of Wi-Fi and voice search. These devices are now with us an in use at all times vs. a more niche use in prior years.
  • “Where” searches grew less than desktop – this is likely due to the fact that these were the most popular already given the user behavior of this device. Where accounts for 39 percent of these question terms for mobile, the highest percent of any of these phrases.


The last cut of data that I think is important is to understand how people use these terms when crossing different verticals. The below breakdown looks at Financial Services brands vs. Retail brands. What you can see if people are much more interested in finding locations by asking “Where” for Retail brands. The “where” keyword was 43 percent of total question keyword terms. In Financial Services those questions centered more on understanding the complexity of these products and asked “How” and “What” most frequently. For example, “How much money do I need for retirement?” or “What is a Roth IRA?”


So now you know how consumers are using these keywords. What are the implications as a search marketer? I think three quick things you should be thinking:

  1. Understand the way these are being used for your specific brand. Do you have a complex product and consumers want to understand how to better use it? Are they trying to find your location?
  2. Think about the user experience that should be tied to these questions. If a consumer seeks a location of your brand is your paid search experience still driving them to a product driven landing page vs. the store locator page? If a consumer wants to know how to use your product, do you send them to how-to videos?
  3. Tie these different experiences to a test and learn plan. If you think about your marketing programs as driving value in just one way, i.e. branding or direct response, you should think about them differently. Each consumer experience within search, email, social, etc… is looking for value. Sometimes that value is a sale and sometimes it is not. The better we as marketers get towards driving value the better off our brands will be.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday and can use this information as we head into the rest of the holiday season, best time of the year for digital. Happy holidays to your and yours!

PS: Thank you to Cory Madsen and Kate Stover who helped pull all this data. Big time help.

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