DESIGN & TECH

Hey Google!
Voice Recognition Meets Marketing.

Jonathan D. Spiliotopoulos

14 June 2017

It seems like yesterday that we watched Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock talk to his “Library Computer” in order to search through reference material, automate tedious tasks, compute complex problems, and more. But it wasn’t yesterday; it was 1966.

More recently, you could have watched me excitedly — but slowly and carefully — tell my brand new LG flip phone to “Call Mark” only to find my hopes dashed as the handset failed. That was forty years later in 2006.

But today… well, in 2014, actually

  • 41% of adults use voice search daily.
  • 55% of teens do too.

And those numbers are only increasing as voice recognition improves. Last year Google reported that a whopping 20% of mobile queries were conducted via voice.

And with the introduction of consumer devices like Google Home and the inclusion of voice recognition into desktop workstations running Windows and MacOS, voice is poised to explode.

What does that mean for marketing?

It means traditional SEO thinking has to be put in its proper place. Single keywords apply to the typical shorthand we use when typing search queries. But we’re more likely to use complete phrases when speaking.

Consider:
If you went to Google and wanted to find out who the captain of the Zumwalt is, you’d probably type something like “Captain USS Zumwalt“. But if you were speaking, you’d probably say “Who is the captain of the Zumwalt?”

Google and others have been rapidly working to parse and process this kind of human-normal speech. And this means, we need to optimize our website copy for this emerging trend.

Copywriters Rejoice

Writing for people has always been a somewhat ambiguous aspect of SEO because nobody knows hows readability affects search engine rankings. But this is changing rapidly as voice search emerges and more natural “keyphrases” become the norm.

The new era is among us. Conversational content is back!

That doesn’t mean we can start turning away from overt headlines (the rules of usability still apply). Nor does it mean we can turn blog posts into exercises of linguistic legerdemain (because the Flesch Reading Score is more important than ever when it comes to natural speech).

But it does mean we can be more cognizant of the way real people talk, and worry a bit less about how some dumb computer parses language.

Final Thoughts

Just 10 years ago, getting your phone to dial correctly with a voice command was an exercise in frustration. Today people are using voice in huge numbers to ask for directions, dictate texts, make phone calls, conduct research, and more.

The question for all of us is this: when somebody asks Google’s Assistant (or Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, or Microsoft’s Cortana) for information about your product, what’s it going to tell them?

Jonathan D. Spiliotopoulos

About the Author

Jonathan D. Spiliotopoulos is a Partner with O’Brien Communications Group (www.obriencg.com), a business-to-business brand-management and marketing communication firm with responsibilities ranging from brand creation and creative concepting, to graphic design, web development, and more. He's also an experienced teacher/trainer, presenter, a newbie dad, and is active in a number of communities and forums — online and in the real world — dedicated to helping others achieve their goals.

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