Voice search has recently begun to take center stage, signifying a dramatic change in the way consumers undertake their online searches. Voice-activated technology is switching things up; as marketers, we need to be ready.

This article will take you into the realm of voice search, highlighting current trends, potential growth, the effects it's likely to have on digital marketing and SEO, as well as some of the opportunities and barriers you may face as a marketer.

You'll also get some tips on how to adapt your marketing strategy for voice search.

The Adoption and Growth of Voice Search

Before, when we searched for something online, we'd grab our preferred device and type in a request to Google. Now, we simply pick up our phones and speak into them. The way we communicate with our devices is changing drastically. Now, approximately 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search at least once a day.

But where does voice search in a business setting stand?

Nearly 50% of 914 people surveyed said they feel comfortable using voice search when in the office by themselves, and nearly 25% said they'd feel comfortable doing so in front of coworkers, recent survey results find. Moreover, executives are spending more time on mobile devices to research and make business purchases, according to research from 2014. It would not be out of this world to imagine that more and more they will be doing so through voice search.

Although there is no fundamental proof, yet, that voice search will become more widely adopted by company executives, the leap between text-based searches and voiced-based ones is very short, especially when you consider that by the end of 2017 some 33 million voice-first mobile devices are expected to be in circulation across the world.

So, taking all the above into consideration, what does it all mean for digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO)?

How Voice Search Will Affect Digital Marketing and SEO

The growing adoption of voice search will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the way we conduct our marketing and SEO efforts. In fact, just the words we use in our voice searches are already changing marketing content.

When we conduct a voice search, instead of focusing on a small group of words, we ask our device the same way we might a friend. Accordingly, search engines are becoming more specific when looking for answers to consumers' questions.

In short, keyword research as we know it is changing. Now, we're being compelled to create two strategies for our content marketing and SEO: one for customers making text-based searches, and one for those making voice-activated ones.

Keywords are now shifting from blocks of two to three words to full sentences. SEO now needs to take a more conversational approach, and that means companies will need to create new content to reach their audiences.

While doing so may seem daunting to many, the opportunities for growth are exciting.

The Opportunities Voice Search Offers

Mobile voice searches are three times more likely to be local-based than text ones; so, if you've got a physical storefront and the right voice search strategy, the likelihood is business will be booming.

And considering that nearly 50% of people use voice search to research products, and executives are spending more time on mobile researching business purchases, businesses (B2B included) should be primed to capitalize on voice search.

But that's not all. Search engines are now ranking businesses according to reviews as well. Simply put, if you've got satisfied customers leaving positive reviews, you're more likely to come up at the top of Google's recommendations.

Although creating a new content strategy may be time-consuming, it could be easier than you think—because voice searches are being made in a more conversational tone, and so keyword research becomes a little more straightforward.

Unfortunately, even as the opportunities are virtually endless, there may be some hurdles along the way.

Some Barriers You Could Face as a Marketer

The proliferation of voice searches is happening now, whereas revamping entire content strategies takes time.

Even if potentially more straightforward than text-search-based keyword strategies, voice-search keyword research means you still need to learn the exact terms being used by your audience—so that you can reach them through your content.

In addition, current technological limitations, combined with the fact that voice search technology is still evolving, as well as the low usage compared with text-based searches, means there is barely enough data to truly optimize for voice search at the moment.

While we know enough to get started, we will likely have to regularly amend our strategies, costing us more in both time and resources.

Despite such obstacles, voice search is not only here to stay but also growing rapidly. To be able to compete with other businesses in the coming years, you'll need to start planning your new strategy as soon as possible.

The Near Future of Voice Search

Predictions for the next three years are all looking at voice search as the next big thing: 50% of all searches are expected to be voice-activated by 2020.

It's also worth noting that it's not just smartphones being used for voice search. The likes of Amazon's Echo and Google's Google Home have now hit the shelves, and experts predict there will be approximately 21.4 billion smart speakers in the US alone by 2020.

Although search engines have been seen to prioritize B2C voice-search queries, there seems to be some movement toward the B2B market; Google recently launched Google for Jobs, an employment search engine that taps directly into the B2B space.

In short, it's time to prepare for the future.

How to Adapt Your B2B Business for Voice Search

Preparing for the impact of voice search on B2B SEO is not so different from preparing a B2C SEO strategy. The first focus must be on mobile optimization. Executives making voice searches for B2B products or services will be put off by platforms that are not mobile-friendly, and that includes loading speed and user experience.

Also, if you haven't already, you need to start optimizing all your content for longtail keywords and natural-language queries. Using conversational language in headings, sub-headings, and titles will allow you to become more discoverable during voice searches.

You should also create new content that directly answers your target audience's most common questions. Long blog posts and informational pieces are great ways to target voice-activated, conversational queries.

Finally, Google is now selecting featured snippets to provide answers to voice queries. The search engine reads the snippet and also highlights the related company's name, thus increasing brand awareness, so with the right keyword research, you could become Google's only search result.

How Can Voice Search Translate Into Transactions?

The steps consumers take before becoming customers have changed significantly. It's no longer just about website traffic and impressions. With more than 67% of consumers using more than one channel and one device to make a purchase, tracking them has become increasingly difficult, and that's not likely to change anytime soon.

More channels, such as voice search, are appearing every year, not to mention the mound of new devices also reaching the market. As a result, building an accurate attribution model isn't as easy as it used to be.

That said, there is talk of Google bringing voice search analytics to webmasters. With time, we will have more detailed information about our audience members, allowing us to know at what point during their buyer journey they change from being a lead to an actual customer.

The Future of Voice Search with Artificial Intelligence (AI) Marketing

Voice search is still in its infancy. The hype around it is not likely to dissipate anytime soon, and we still have a lot to learn to be able to capitalize on it, especially in the B2B world.

But with the advancements in the technology that powers voice search already well underway (think AI), it will only be a matter of time before voice search becomes our primary way of communicating with our mobile devices.

So, keeping in mind the various issues and suggestions raised in this article, begin to prepare now if you want to be at the top of Google's search rankings in the near future. Staying ahead of the competition will mean keeping up with technological advancements as well as the SEO best-practices that will accompany them.

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Why and How to Adapt Your Marketing to Voice Search This Year

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Markerle Davis is marketing director at award-winning Web and digital marketing agency Soap Media, a Premier Google Partner since 2005, helping clients maximize their online investments through innovation, strategy, and an enhanced consumer journey.

LinkedIn: Markerle Davis