Until very recently, our online interactions have always revolved around screens. We have used a keyboard and screen as a means of inputting for decades. However, if you ask futurists what the next platform for interaction is, chances are they’ll say there’s no screen involved. The 2016 Griffin Emerging Technologies Radar, for example, forecasts screenless display adoption by 2035, suggesting that we’ll be able to access information without having to type on keyboards, tap on screens, or hold anything in our hands.

In 2016, we saw voice devices really come to the fore, reinforcing the potential for the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices as a way to facilitate our everyday lives. Amazon has Alexa, Apple has Siri, Google is tweaking screenless home devices further, and even Facebook is beginning to develop its own offering.

As other developments such as artificial intelligence also gather pace, with the potential to make these voice systems “smarter”, businesses should begin to develop methods that ensure speaking and listening tools are as capable as possible. How can marketers harness the power of voice in a world that is becoming increasingly more hands-free?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) for voice

With one in five now using voice search at least once a month, speech recognition technology has already found its place in online search. This has been observed particularly in younger generations, with 16-24 year olds making up 25% of all internet users utilising voice search functionality. But what does this mean for traditional long-tail search engine marketing?

Marketers have been using SEO to consider how search engines work ever since its inception, trying to stay up to date with Google’s latest – often highly secretive – algorithm developments in order to decode how it ranks organic search results. However, with the typing element removed from search engine practice, the rules are set to change – and businesses will need to rethink their strategy.

Voice search will also completely change how pay-per-click (PPC) advertising works, as there currently isn’t a way for paid opportunities to fit into the voice search process. However, Google has clearly identified voice search as an emerging platform, so businesses should keep their eyes peeled for new advertising opportunities as Google will, no-doubt, monetise spoken-search.

Mobile optimisation

Google also lead the way for mobile marketing last year, creating SEO guidelines tailored to the platform, and releasing key algorithm updates that accommodated mobile even further. Mobile overtook the desktop as the device of choice last year, and is likely to remain in the top spot, so marketers need to stay ahead of Google.

With users now able to move swiftly between social media, text and messaging apps on top of voice calls, marketers need to keep in mind that that screen size is not the only difference between smartphones and desktops. The defining feature of a smartphone is that it is a combination of different features and communication tools, and this potency could be harnessed by marketers who track and optimise mobile user experience.

Phone call measurement

Given the importance of the phone call to customers and businesses alike, it’s surprising how few marketers track phone calls in comparison to other channels like online or direct marketing. You only have to look at the sales and marketing operations of restaurants, car dealerships or estate agents to appreciate the irreplaceable role the phone plays across a range of industries.

While the online customer journey is tracked, recorded and refined, many businesses haven’t taken the same data-driven approach with the trusty phone line, leaving a gaping hole in their data. Large web analytics providers, for example, do not offer their customers the same insights for their phones as their online activity.

As voice is brought back into the spotlight by devices like Alexa, spoken search and the ever-increasing domination of mobile, businesses will undoubtedly establish specialised call analytics solutions to allow them to monitor their phone activity with the same granularity as web analytics. Although voice data measurement is not widespread as of yet, there is interesting innovation being done in this space, and simpler, better ways to see who is calling, when, and why, are being developed.

There is a multitude of exciting developments in spoken word in consumer and business technology, and although voice data measurement is not commonplace as of yet, the development behind the scenes is already happening. Businesses will soon grasp a new, greater potential of spoken word for sales and marketing – after all, this has already been observed in developments in speech recognition, connected homes, IoT and big data services, which is keeping up with the burgeoning hands-free mentality of the population.

 

By Ryan Gallagher, founder, CEO and director of IOVOX


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