And what exactly should marketers do to ready themselves?
With an upsurge in the use of mobile phones, especially smart phones, there is an unbelievable change in the consumer search behaviour. Mobile and tablets account for more than 50 percent of online traffic in some verticals.
The search type now has shifted from a keyword to a long tail query. There is a 60 percent increase in How, What, Where and Why queries on Google. People find it more comfortable and convenient to talk a query into a phone rather than type it, especially when they are on-the-go. Voice search is on the surge.
Meet the companies with virtual personal assistant to enable voice-driven search
Apple has Siri, officially introduced in 2011 for iOS5. Although it made mistakes in responding to queries, it did lay down the red carpet for other digital personal assistants to enter. Then in 2014, came Cortana of Microsoft, and Alexa, which is used as a personal assistant element in Amazon Echo, and now we have Google assistant - an evolved version of Google Now.
These corporate kingpins are investing millions to connect their virtual personal assistant and voice-enabled search technologies with search engines to offer a seamless search experience to users. With AI, deep machine learning and natural language processing, search engines are able to provide the right answers to the questions that users are asking.
Globally, voice search is growing at a rate of 20 percent year on year. Google voice search queries in 2016 are up 35x over 2008. It will be 50 percent of all the mobile searches in 2020, according to Comscore.
Voice search to evolve in India
The trend is likely to spill onto other markets including India considering the growing dominance of mobile as a medium of choice. The number of mobile internet users in India is expected to cross the mark of 300 million by the end of 2017.
In June 2014, Google announced that their voice search technology could now understand Indian dialects and accents. They claim to have worked with over 700 volunteers in India who helped collect spoken words to improve speech recognition technology and create specific language models that enable English voice search in the Indian accent.
This practically means that people in India with smart mobile phones will not have a tough time searching for anything through voice search assistant in English.
India speaks 22 other official languages and soon Google will have to improve the speech recognition technology in order to accommodate searches in these languages or probably the languages that are widely spoken across all the states with Hindi being the most important and the co-official language of the Indian union. A recent study from KPMG India and Google shows that 70 percent of Indians consider native language digital content more reliable than English.
The question is, are we as marketers or businesses ready for this radical change in search behaviour of consumers? Do marketers have a search strategy in place to ensure that they are present and useful to the long tail query searches made through voice search in any native language?
One has to understand the significance of the intent that a query on voice search carries. The searches done through voice search have the immediate need for a product and service. The text searches are more in the top of the funnel whereas the voice searches are done towards the end of the funnel. The latter one has more conviction and buying intent. They are likely to search for a direction, or call someone or look for a store nearby.
Here is an example:
If the text query is 'Goa air fare', the voice search will be 'what is the price of an air ticket to Goa?'
If the text query is 'seafood restaurant in Coorg', the voice search will be 'which is the best place for seafood in Coorg or nearby?'
Google with its deep machine learning technology, understands the query better than ever before and provides the right answer to the query ensuring that the user gets what he wants.
What do marketers have to do?
The businesses have to put a correct content strategy in place and build content to ensure that it answers every question that a user asks to get to their product or service.
What are the ideas to build such content?
(i) Note down all the questions that your consumer frequently asks on your website and write elaborate answers to these questions. A separate page for each question is a much better way to be noticed by search engines.
(ii) Install an automatic or human chabot on the website for customers to chat online and ask any question that strikes them while they are on your website. This will help you know what are the problems that users are facing and how they can they be tackled when a new user types a related query in the search.
(iii) Surf through social platforms to know the conversations happening around your brand. Find out what questions your existing or prospective customers are asking in your business category.
You need to localise the content if you have a local physical presence to match with the location-based or 'nearby' queries.
Moreover, with the growing Indian language internet base, making this content available in different languages that Indians speak has become an imperative marketing initiative.
How many websites in India have content for different languages? Very few and it certainly needs to evolve.
There are a plethora of tools out there that would help you translate your website into different languages automatically. This approach has highly benefited Neil Patel who has managed to boost his blog traffic by 47 percent.
Localisation is way more than simply matching phrases. It is the art of transforming a website's layout, language and images to make it friendly and welcoming to the target market. Do not confuse localisation with word-for-word translation.
The quicker you understand the role of localisation when it comes to penetrating different markets and maximising your opportunities, the more are the chances of your website not talking to a great wall of silence in the future.
Nixan Crasto is Vice President, Earned Media (SEO and Social), at Performics.Resultrix, a digital solutions agency from the house of Publicis Media.