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How Will the Rise of Voice Affect Digital Marketing?

Photo by Andres Urena via Unsplash

"Voice" is on the rise, which has a lot of people wondering, "How will this trend affect digital marketing?"

The term "voice" is commonly used to describe the increasingly popular use of voice-activated assistants (like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant) and voice search (like the iPhone's Siri) to access the internet.

According to a study by OC&C Strategy Consultants, voice-activated smart speakers had penetrated just 13 percent of American homes last year. But that number is expected to rise to 55 percent by 2022.

When it comes to voice search, the phenomenon is already taking hold around the world.

According to Simon Kemp, CEO and founder of strategic marketing consultancy Kepios, 39 percent of internet users worldwide use voice search and commands.

Kemp explained during Hootsuite's Digital in 2019 seminar that the voice search trend is most prevalent in the world's most populous countries.

Leading the pack as it relates to voice search adaptation were India, China and Indonesia with the following rates of residents who report using voice search and commands:

  • India (second most-populous country): 51 percent

  • China (most-populous country): 49 percent

  • Indonesia (fourth most-populous country): 48 percent

The United States, the world's third most-populous country, ranked No. 12, with 35 percent.

As Kemp pointed out, "If you're doing any kind of international marketing, [adapting to voice search] is something we really need to get our heads around."

So without further ado, let's take a look at how the rise of voice is impacting the digital marketing world.

1. Search Engine Optimization Becomes an "All or Nothing" Game

This is without a doubt the most crucial trend for marketers.

According to Search Engine Journal, voice search results pull information from the so-called featured snippet (also known as Position 0) in Google's search engine results pages.

If your content isn't the top-ranking result for a given search query, you're not going to get any voice search traffic for that search phrase at all (both on phones and voice-activated assistants).

Below, we see Position 0 for the search term "how to do a crawfish boil," which has been claimed by a page from

The featured snippet (or Position 0) in Google SERP for the search term "how to do a crawfish boil"

So how do you get your content to appear as a featured snippet?

One strategy for providing the best information is by using a bulleted or numbered list.

You may have noticed that many featured snippets (like the one picture above) include a numerical list. Formatting your content in such a way gives your article a better chance of winning Position 0.

Keep in mind that featured snippets aren't permanent. If you've got your eye on the featured snippet for a given search term, you can steal the spot by answering the question with better content.

According to Google, "We are always working to improve our ability to detect the most useful snippet, so the results you see may change over time."

Of course, just because you create one really great piece of content, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll rank as Google's featured snippet.

In addition to the value of a piece of content, Google also takes into account a website's overall credibility when determining which results to display most prominently.

That's why it's important to scope out your competitors by conducting keyword research before targeting certain search terms in the content you're creating.

One great tool for keyword research is KWFinder, which we've previously reviewed.


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2. You Need to Write the Way That People Speak

There's another trick to keep up your sleeve when optimizing for voice: write your content in a conversational tone.

In doing so, you're appealing to longtail keywords.

Not familiar with longtail keywords? Simply put, they're keyword phrases with three or more words that are used to seek an answer to a very specific question.

They also more closely resemble the way we speak than the way we type.

Think about it. Let's say you're searching for pizza in Brooklyn. When you're typing, you might simply search "brooklyn pizza."

When searching by voice, though, you're probably more likely to say something like, "What's the best place in Brooklyn to order pizza?"

In this spoken search term, the longtail keyword phrase is "best place in brooklyn to order pizza."

How do we write content that caters to longtail keywords?

One effective strategy is to plug the longtail keyword into your site's title tag (read this overview from Moz if you don't already know what title tags are).

Circled in pink is the title tag of the overview mentioned above in Google's SERP

For example, let's say you own a pizza parlor in Brooklyn named Mike's Pizza and you want to target the longtail keyword phrase "best place in brooklyn to order pizza."

In this case, your title tag could be something like, "Mike's Pizza | The best place in Brooklyn to order pizza."

Notice the second part of the title tag? Our longtail keyword "best place in Brooklyn to order pizza" is taken straight from the question the user is likely to ask using voice.

Generate lots of high-quality content on your website using longtail keywords, and you'll be on your way to success when it comes to targeting voice searches.

3. It's Just Too Soon to Tell

At this point in time, many experts say it's just too soon to tell exactly how digital marketing will unfold in the era of voice.

The practice is sure to be dictated by the tech powerhouses at the forefront of the trend.

Currently, those companies are Amazon (Alexa), Apple (Siri) and Google (Assistant). But one more familiar face is now throwing its hat into the ring.

CNBC recently reported that Facebook is working on voice technology that would potentially operate with its Oculus and Portal hardware. Facebook later confirmed the news.

Oculus virtual reality headset

With all of the major tech players now making strides in voice, it will be interesting to see what they come up with as it relates to digital marketing.

Think about it. Google is the driving force behind many facets of digital marketing—as its practices evolve, the world of digital marketing takes shape around them.

Search engine marketing, search engine optimization and content marketing are a few examples.

When it comes to paid social media, Facebook invented the game. In fact, the company is pretty much entirely funded by advertising revenues.

What they do come up with, however, will be largely driven by the activities of voice-users.

Right now, those activities are fairly limited, with voice technology serving mostly as a novelty that's put to use for executing simple tasks.

A September study of 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted by Adobe revealed the most popular activities executed on voice-activated assistants are listening to music, checking the weather and asking fun questions.

Check out the chart below for the full picture on what voice-activated assistants are most commonly used for.

While it's too soon to tell exactly how voice will impact digital marketing, it's safe to say it has the potential to be a major disruptor in the space.

The impacts it's already made on SEO—such as limiting results for voice search to just one piece of content—are significant.

What's yet to come could be equally transformative.

Although we don't know what that consists of just yet, one thing's for sure: "voice" is on the rise.


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