Optimizing for position zero: The future of voice search

It’s still early days in the world of voice search, and yet already this new type of device and search engine use is – according to comScore – expected to account for up to 50 percent of the global search market next year. That’s a major shift in consumer behavior in only a few short years.

Digital assistants are becoming increasingly prominent in our homes and on mobile devices, and their ubiquity will only increase.

But where exactly is the brand play in voice search? How developed is the opportunity, and what specific strategies do brands need to apply to benefit from this trend? Let’s take a look at the current state of affairs and, more importantly, where things will go in the next few years.

The current focus on position zero

When you hear marketers talk about voice search today, you probably hear a lot of talk about Position Zero, also known as the featured snippet. This is the content that Google offers in the top search results position in hopes of directly answering a search query. In the desktop and mobile screen worlds, the top content is followed by a host of other search results. In the world of voice search, position zero is everything – the only information that will be relayed to the user. As such, especially for businesses, getting to position zero has become the new imperative. Exactly how to do that, however, is still an open question.

As with all things in the search space, best practices for optimizing for position zero are going to evolve over time. But businesses looking to be a step ahead when screenless search becomes the new norm are focusing on a few key areas:

  • Relevance through data: Being the most relevant for a given voice search is all about giving the search engine what it needs to tailor response for the user – a user whom the voice assistant knows intimately. The more context offered, the higher the likelihood that a digital assistant will pair your business with a potential customer. For example, if you’re a restaurant, this means ensuring the engine can find accurate information on digital profiles regarding not just location and hours, but also customer ratings and reviews as well as details like whether you’re pet-friendly, offer patio dining, feature gluten-free options, and more.
  • Feed the featured snippet: If you want to be the featured snippet to a given query, make sure your website and profiles provide complete, succinct answers to the questions most likely to lead people to your business. This could be within the first paragraph of a blog post, in an FAQ on your site, or in various other areas of content.
  • Prioritize schema: This is SEO 101, but it’s even more important for voice search. Make sure your site is following an agreed-upon structure for how search engines read content, as organized via Schema.org.

While these basics can help businesses increase their relevance for voice search today, we’ve only seen the beginning of what voice search will mean for digital marketing efforts in the future. How will this transformative shift play out over the next few years?

The beginning of the curve

Despite the rise in voice search behavior, the business models that will evolve around this opportunity are still emerging. Right now, the biggest tech players in the world – Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook—are investing deeply in voice search for three reasons:

  • Voice search represents a core technology that can extend across business lines.
  • It represents a transformative user experience that reduces friction and moves people away from screens.
  • Voice search represents a major new way of tapping into emerging markets like India and Southeast Asia, where mobile devices and behaviors are overwhelmingly dominant.

Big tech is investing in voice search for the above reasons, but they’re not really monetizing it yet. That’s going to change in the next couple of years, and when it does, an industry and vendor community will spring up around their monetization models quickly, just as we saw with SEO and SEM in the past.

When the realm of voice search and voice advertising takes shape, it will be the brands that are experimenting now that are poised to win. Now is the time to test and learn, regardless of whether businesses are able to reliably demonstrate the ROI of their efforts today. Every minute invested in better understanding emerging voice search behaviors and opportunities, particularly as it relates to how a brand’s target audience is using voice search, will pay dividends in the voice-dominated future.

There’s no question that voice will rule the future of device interactions. The only question is whether your business will emerge as an early leader in this space in the coming 24 months – or whether you will be forever playing catch up.

Ashwin Ramesh is the founder and CEO of Synup, the NYC-based Intent Marketing Cloud that helps consumers find the right information about them on the web, mobile, and voice search.

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Optimizing for voice search: Q&A with Mastercard’s Guillaume Conteville

One in five searches are now made via voice with digital assistants, which are becoming an increasingly prominent feature in our homes and on mobile devices. How are brands optimizing for voice search?

In fact, there are now more than one billion voice searches per month, and this number will only rise over the coming years.

But just how big an impact is voice having on search in real terms? What are the specific strategies brands need to apply to avail of this trend?

This is another topic we’re excited to learn more about next week at the Transformation of Search Summit here in New York.

One of the experts we’ll be hearing from is Guillaume Conteville, SVP of Global Digital Marketing at Mastercard.

guillaume conteville, SVP global digital marketing at mastercard, speaker at the search summit

Guillaume will be part of the panel titled “Optimizing for position 0: Everything you need to know about Voice Search.”

1. What are your key priorities over the next twelve months?

In my role I’ll be focusing on driving change in the way we do marketing to adapt to new usage, and to leverage technology and data to their maximum potential.

The hot topics for us at the moment are CX, Voice, AR, marketing automation, and data-based customization.

2. What is your biggest challenge in achieving those?

Prioritization and execution.

There are so many potential initiatives you could start, identifying the real game-changing ones is always tricky.

Then, like always with tech-based projects, executing on your vision is always more complex than anticipated.

3. What’s your advice to others who may be facing similar challenges?

You really need to establish a broad climate of trust among all stakeholders, in order to have a real test-and-learn approach.

In adtech, it’s impossible to get it right the first time.

Success always come after a lot of optimizing and fine tuning.

4. What’s an interesting trend you’re seeing in the market right now?

It’s not search-related, but it’s fascinating to see how the changes that web browsers have made in regard to third-party cookies are having a massive impact on the whole adtech ecosystem.

The end of third-party cookie tracking will potentially be more disruptive than regulation.

5. Tell us a bit about your session at the Search Summit?

In this session, I’ll be sharing about the journey we’re going through at Mastercard to future-proof our content and ensure its discoverability in a future where people increasingly interact with machines through voice.

6. What are you looking forward to most at the Summit?

This is a unique opportunity for me to learn more about latest developments around search.

7. What’s something you do every day that helps you be more successful or productive?

It might sound cliché but, in this type of role, keeping a learning mindset is absolutely key. So every day I make sure to put some time toward talking to a lot of people and doing a lot of reading.

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Optimizing for voice search in 2019: Q&A with Amine Bentahar

As we gear up for The Transformation of Search Summit at the end of October, we have another speaker Q&A. This time we’re hearing from Amine Bentahar about his upcoming session on voice search optimization.

Amine Bentahar is the Chief Digital and Operating Officer at Adantix Digital. He’s also an author and member of the Forbes Agency Council.

amine bentahar speaker interview

Amine’s session will be about “Optimizing for position 0: Everything you need to know about voice search.”

Tell us about your current work

Amine Bentahar: I’m the Chief Digital & Operating Officer at Advantix Digital. I’m in charge of operations and ensuring that we are delivering the best quality work and exceptional results for our clients.

I’m also responsible for the overall digital and marketing strategy for many of our key clients which includes publicly traded companies, companies backed by major VC and PE firms, and mid-sized companies from various industries. 

What are your key priorities over the next twelve months?

AB: Implement a voice search strategy for all of our B2C and B2B clients, and continue to leverage voice search as a channel to drive new customer acquisitions for our clients. 

What is your biggest challenge in achieving those?

AB: Most companies haven’t allocated a budget specific to just voice search, and aren’t taking the time to truly understand how their customers are either looking for information or shopping through voice.

Because of this, we are having to spend a lot of time educating companies about the importance of having a voice search strategy and budget. 

What’s your advice to others who may be facing similar challenges?

AB: Educate your teams or clients on voice search and how it’s changing the way customers are shopping or looking for information. 

What’s an interesting trend you’re seeing in the market right now?

AB: The integration of voice search technology in cars, TVs, appliances and other devices. 

How do you expect it will change in the next 6-12 months?

AB: With all the money being invested in R&D by the big players (Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft), I would expect to see this trend to continue growing, and for voice search technology to be available on even more devices. 

Tell us a bit about your session at the Search Summit?

AB: My session will be about optimizing for voice search and more specifically about the steps companies must take to rank for position 0. We will help attendees understand how voice search works and how to develop organic content to be “read” by Alexa or Google Home. 

What are you looking forward to most at the Summit?

AB: I’m looking forward to meeting other thought leaders and marketers and learning from their experiences about things that are disrupting the search world. 

What’s one of your favorite search technologies and why?

AB: Voice search as I find it somewhat amazing especially when you see the fast adoption rate of the technology and how it’s impacting the way customers are now searching. 

What’s something you do every day that helps you be more successful or productive?

AB: I do my best to exercise everyday and also I take at least 30 minutes of my day to read either about marketing or management. 

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