Will conversational searching change paid search?

Enjoy Digital
By Enjoy Digital
5 minutes to read

It’s becoming more and more common to hear people perform web searches using just their voice. Mobiles and apps are readily available with voice assistants in many different languages but the past year has seen rapid developments in the field.

TVs, game consoles, made-for-voice devices and even cars now contain the feature. But how will voice searches change the shape of paid search campaigns?

Reacting to changes

Search engines have been quick to adapt to the rise of voice searches. Bing’s latest update focused heavily on voice searches whilst Google are launching a variety of devices which contain the feature. IT researcher Gartner and voice experts VoiceLabs have predicted that voice-first devices and searches will bloom in the near future.

We don’t search daily just yet

Will that really be the case though? Will we see people unabashedly walking the streets searching out loud?

Well, not quite. Studies conducted by Creative Strategies have shown that people are much more likely to use voice assistants in the privacy of their own home or cars. And for good reason. Imagine everyone you work with vocalising their searches all day, it’d be noisy and embarrassing.

The stats available at this point though mostly refer to people from different parts of the world who have used apps or voice assistants. The numbers are promising when looking at the amount of people putting the feature to use in the past month suggesting that this trend is on the up.

However current data fails to dig deeper into user activity. It merely looks at the number of sessions conducted instead of uncovering more meaningful statistics which isn’t of much use to digital marketers. Similarly, usage statistics decrease significantly when looking at daily usage.

The future of voice searching

Bing predicts that by 2020 half of searches will be vocal. Their current data shows most voice queries are questions, usually starting with “Who”, “What”, “When” or “Where”. Of these search terms, only the latter indicates intent and therefore potential worth to a business.

But who would pay for a potential customer’s research when that should be readily available for free?

Whilst voice search value for SEO may be proven soon, in the PPC scheme of things it’s likely there won’t be sufficient volumes behind the return-bringing keywords anytime soon. Of course, this could be different for an online business with a high-street store/office – in this case, a “Where” based campaign could be one of the strategies of driving customers to the store and a gateway into learning their device behaviour.

What if voice searching takes over?

This being nothing more than an informed opinion, I’m going to consider the unlikely case of an immediate shift from text to voice based searches. Here are a few things to consider when (or if) devising paid search strategies for it:

  • Voice queries are slightly longer than text queries. Peaking at around 3 words they’re more likely to be local and in the form of a question. As an initial phase of the strategy, this would put an emphasis on the good use of broad match keywords.
  • More teens and young adults use voice assistants than other age categories (GoogleGlobalWebIndex). So, creating a campaign with “conversational” long tailed keywords for advertising really old scotch might not be the best idea for now. For now, this might be just because of its novelty, but the ease-of-use of voice searching may see it gain in popularity amongst the older, less tech-savvy generations.
  • Bear in mind that if you sell products that are intimate, like underwear, the voice search behaviour of people, if existent, will differ from how people voice search other products or services.


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