Stephanie Haun, Michelle Rapp, Christian Traulsen and Jennifer Wißmann
What is Voice Search?
For readers in a hurry, there is a video at the end of this article that explains Voice Search Ads in a short way. Enjoy reading or watching!
Voice Search is the opportunity to look up your search term by asking the question to a voice assistant, like a smartspeaker or smartphone.
The Speaker recognizes the question and analyzes the search term to find the perfect matching answer on the internet.
How does Voice Search work?
Functions and characteristics of Voice Search
Talking to our friends, we use informal language. That’s the way how voice assistants work as well. They work the best when you talk to them like humans. But how does Voice Search work exactly? It’s easy: with Natural Language Processing.
“Natural Language Processing” is used to enable language assistants to output and understand speech. NLP is a process that contributes to the automatic analysis and representation of human language. With the help of rules and algorithms, an attempt is made to process the captured language in a computer-based manner.
To improve the quality of language assistants, several possibilities are available: Based on statistical models, “Supervised Machine Learning” and “Unsupervised Machine Learning” can be used to identify the content and structure of texts. Reinforcement Learning” also plays a role in the improvement of language assistants, as it can, for example, generate answer texts more easily.
The learning process of NLP can be understood as a cycle: The more data can be evaluated by an artificial intelligence (AI), the easier it is to develop new, complex applications. Therefore the collection and evaluation of data by experts is very important for language assistants.
If a company wants to operate Voice Search, it must do voice-optimized SEO. There are several possibilities for this: If the Voice Search focuses on mobile devices, loading speeds must be maximized and gaps must be removed. Since the user makes longer search queries than he types on the keyboard, the keywords have to be adjusted accordingly. The technical term is “long-tail keywords”, which should be analysed and incorporated by the company so that they can be found by natural language. The user’s oral search consists mainly of W-questions. This has to be taken into account when playing out the answers.
In contrast to Google search, language assistants will only present a suitable result, the so-called “position zero”. This position must be achieved as a company so that a boost in brand awareness can take place.
Forms of monetization and advertising
So far, Voice Search has mainly been used as an additional purchase argument for the device or program behind it. For example Microsoft uses his assistant Cortana to sell Windows or Apple uses Siri to sell iPhones. But the increasing spread of Voice Search represents a new opportunity for companies to spread their advertising messages.
There are four options for monetizing Voice Search
… with advertising:
- a) Pre-roll – The advertisement is played before the answer
- b) Mid-roll – The advertisement is played in the middle of the answer
- c) Post-roll – The advertisement is played after the answer
- d) Screen-synch’ed – The advertisement is displayed visually on a synchronized screen
… and two without advertising:
- e) Paid answer – The answer has to be paid for
- f) Data-driven – Monetization is done through data that is sold
Option b) is already established for example for YouTube. For this, the videos are interrupted one or more times to show advertising. Since videos are several minutes long, it works very well. But in this case, it is unlikely to interrupt a short answer in the middle. Therefore, this is not considered a suitable option.
Options a) or c) would be more elegant. The advertising after the answer would be much less annoying than at the beginning.
The advertising option d) is less suitable because Voice Search mainly focuses on the sound.
One possibility of monetization without direct advertising would be option e). But probably you would lose interest soon if you had to pay for each answer. At most, packages with a certain contingent of answers would be conceivable.
Option f) can also be considered useful since no advertising disturbs the user experience.
Mainly Google, Amazon, Spotify and Pandora in particular have been testing the use of Voice Search advertising since 2019. A big advantage is that users can comfortably respond to the advertisement in order to receive further information about the advertised product or service.
Another option for your marketing could be to add a certain useful function to a voice assistant. Such so-called “voice apps” are operated by voice input and are primarily intended to enable direct dialogues with potential customers and to support them in their search, decision-making and purchase process. Voice apps have different names depending on the manufacturer: Amazon calls them “Alexa Skills”, while Google calls them “Actions”. To activate the function, you have to say an activation command, e.g. “Alexa, start Thalia Buchtipps”. This offers the opportunity to advertise your company or brand name. In addition, such an app represents a closed space without offers from competitors.
Voice apps are already available for every area, such as education, health and fitness, news, shopping, sports, weather and much more.
Strategies and factors of success:
Challenges for marketing
Following the trend of deeper relationships with our smart devices, we’ve started having conversations with them as if they were humans. And it is well known that voice-activated searches are getting even more relevant in the future than they already are right now. More and more users are simply asking their device or speaker for what they need on the web instead of typing it. For example, “according to Google, more than 27% of the global online population is using Voice Search on mobile.”
And on top of that, “active users of the Google Assistant grew four times over the past year.”
Also there is the so called search terms report. With it advertisers get the ability to view search terms that users are typing into Google and triggering an ad, even when the advertiser isn’t targeting a specific search query. Because of the fact that voice-based searches are more conversational and furthermore often include specific questions, it is recommended to use main question asking terms like “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, “why”, and “how”. Often the searcher is looking for a service or product near to their location, so more good ways to test keyword targeting for Voice Search users are search queries such as “near me”, “open now”, “local”, or “find me”.
Voice-based searches on any type of smart device are here to stay. A PWC report also proves that more than 70% of respondents would rather use their voice assistant to search for something than physically typing their queries, which shows that nobody can afford to ignore the Voice Search trend anymore.
Opportunities and challenges for Voice Search: Effects on marketing in general
There are several reasons why talking to a smart assistant is going to become the new standard of searching for anything on the internet. Talking is:
- Timesaving: Per minute you are able to type only about 40 words, but say about 150. So you are talking almost four times faster than you are writing.
- Intuitive: Because speech is the most natural form of interaction you don‘t have to think about what you say for as long as if you would type it.
- Easy: Only using your mouth means your hands are free to do other things.
- Interactive: Talking with a smart speeker seems almost as natural as talking to a good friend.
- Gives mindfulness: Voice assistants give users back the concentration that their smartphones have taken from them.
On top of that these assistants provide a more emotional closeness to the user which leads to a greater user confidence in the assistant.
All of these advantages give users maximum convenience. And that beats even privacy and privacy concerns. That is how journalist, blogger and ex-advertiser Sascha Lobo gets to the point because many users even prefer using voice assistants over talking to a person. The reasons for this are shown in the following survey by Statista:
With the help of language assistants consultations with customers can make products more tangible and quick queries possible. The smart device is then acting as a digital product consultant. Many customers prefer to use the phone instead of reading FAQs which is why voice assistants make sense in customer support. Smart language assistants also can defuse critical conversation situations through their neutral attitude. As well voice assistants ensure good entertainment through advertising and even enable verbal forums and blogs. This is how they create new options for content marketing because language makes a forum contribution suddenly part of a group conversation.
In summary, it can be said that Voice Search is already established on the market, but advertising options are still being tested. For the users, Voice Search is time-saving, simple, intuitive, interactive and increases mindfulness. Therefore Voice Search ads have great potential for companies and the form of advertising after the answer appears to be the best solution.
This blog post is part of the course “Trends in Media”. The students were supposed to research a specific trend. The results of their work are a presentation and this blog post.