The death of the click: How will voice search impact your digital campaigns & the future for publishing?

It wasn’t too long ago that search engines were the jewel in the crown for marketers. Long before social media, digital channels and mobile apps, search engines ignited the digital revolution for marketing campaigns. However, every now and then a new technology comes along that aims to revolutionise the marketing landscape in the same way Google did in 1998. Flash forward to 2016 and the latest emerging trend to change the digital ecosystem is voice search.

What started as Siri in 2010 has now evolved into Google Home, Cortana and Alexa as a multitude of devices hit the market with search voice capabilities. The most significant opportunity that voice search presents is it has an apparent impact on a person’s behaviour and therefore presents an opportunity for marketers to utilise this behaviour in their campaigns.

Research shows that voice searches tend to be longer and question or action-based compared to typed queries. For example, a user may ask “what is the best Italian restaurant near me?” when speaking to their personal assistant. The typed equivalent may look like “local Italian restaurants”. Therefore we can presume most voice searches are carried out by those users more likely to convert. With this change in consumer behaviour, marketers need to start differentiating between voice and typed searches and how voice search could influence their existing campaigns and KPIs; particularly those that are reliant on click throughs and conversions as opposed to visibility.

Google is giving extra engineering priority to voice search with not just more queries surfacing for ‘Featured Snippets’ but utilising artificial intelligence to take a long sentence or paragraph from a relevant page on the web and extract the relevant information you’re looking for.

Further, in October the firm began testing a feature that allows consumers to verbally query an item at a nearby shop. This would then give the user multiple results returned in an audio response with prices and availability of that item from nearby stores.

As it was previously noted, this presents another way for Google to sell ads but also presents a challenge for marketers and publishers as it removes the need for a user to click on a search result. Without the need for clicks, there is no way to monetise the user for publishers in a traditional sense, monitor their click through rate and get a clear sense of ROIs on a particular campaign which would force them to rethink their overall strategies.

Already voice search is evolving and we are seeing an influx of new functionalities to the technology. For example, Google Home is relying on Featured Snippets and has now opened ‘Conversation Actions’ to allow publishers to bring their services to the Google Assistant.

Additionally, Google has also introduced a ‘People also ask’ (PAA) feature whereby it shows you a selection of questions related to your initial search. Both of these features will have a significant impact on clicks as marketers will need to ensure they are either prominently featured in Google’s snippets, PAA results or fed in via ‘Conversation Actions’.

In order for marketers to make sure they’re not left behind as voice search further establishes itself within the landscape, they need to take less focus on using clicks as a way to measure the success of their campaigns. Additionally, if they want their products found through voice queries, they need to start working with SEO to research, tailor and produce content that contains keywords and phrases formed from a natural ‘who, what, where, when and how’ discourse and understand how and where to optimise for current featured snippets and PAA accordions.

Placing more emphasis on audio results will also pose a challenge for publishers that monetise ads on their websites through clicks. However, as we have seen in the past, the industry is highly adaptive and if adequately prepared marketers can take advantage of this digital revolution by optimising their campaigns and finding new avenues to reach their audiences.

By Simon Schnieders, founder at Blue Array