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LSA17: Will Voice Assistants Change Local Search?

Voice

“Voice search and virtual assistants are now used by millions of people every day. They’re changing the way we find local information, interact with digital devices and, soon, conduct commerce. What changes in user behavior should marketers, publishers and brands understand and how can they prepare for a future in which as much as 50% of search volumes are speech-initiated?”

A great panel of tech and agency executives here at LSA17 walked through just where voice search and virtual assistants are today, how quickly it will evolve and what agencies, brands and publishers need to do to prepare for this dramatic change in how consumers access information and conduct transactions.

The panelists were: Duane Forrester, VP of Industry Insights, Yext; Jason Lacombe, Senior Partner Marketing Manager, Microsoft; Chris Malone, EVP, Sale & Account Development, Mindstream; Oren Naim, Group Product Manager, Google. 

The panel kicked off with moderator Greg Sterling asking the audience how many people have an Alexa/Google Home device. A majority in the room had their hands in the air.

The panel was asked what is the reality today for voice search and virtual assistants.

Oren Naim: We need to look differently at voice search, assistance and bots. These are three different technologies. Voice search is real. Google announced 20% of its search traffic is voice. For local queries it is even higher.

We are just getting started with assistants. Amazon has been in this a little longer. It will be here for the long run because it is strategic enough (for the companies involved). But it is early days.

Bots? I struggle to see how it becomes a primary tool for engagement. Because typing is too hard on a small device.

Jason Lacombe: Digital assistants are not over hyped, it just will take time.

Sterling brought up data from comScore that projects by 2002 50% of search queries will be initiated by voice, Sterling asked the panel if they agreed with this projection.

Duane Forrester: I think that is a little aggressive. he cited data that showed that while in car, consumers use voice search 60% of the time. In the home, the figure dropped to 30%. When another person is present, the figure drops to less than 2%. So there is a social hurdle to overcome.

The audience reinforced Forrester’s point when many acknowledged via show of hands that they are a bit embarrassed to do voice search in front of other people.

Sterling wrapped up the panel by asking what publishers and agencies should be doing to optimize for a world more dominated by voice search and digital assistants.

Naim: It is the same search engine for search and maps and the assistant. So it is the same listings. Make sure your listings look good on Google. Normal optimization. As they matter for search, they will matter for (voice).

Forrester: EAT (expert, authority, trust).  You must do well on all to rank highly on organic search. Claim listings, add more photos etc. If you show you are anticipating searcher’s needs, you are more likely to show up.

Naim: Actions – look at everything around actions and transactions. People expect to be able to transact. Any integrations, take advantage of those.

Malone: The fundamentals of SEO will not be significantly different. Location accuracy, ratings and reviews. Great SEO will translate into voice search in future.

Forrester: They must remain focused on customer journey.

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