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What the Future Holds for Voice Search in 2018

Voice search has been on every marketer’s radar for the last few years. One of the overarching themes that emerged from last year’s Digital Predictions was the hope that 2017 would be ‘the year of voice search’. Marketers were eager to see how Amazon, Google and other voice search innovators would solve the logistical language problems the voice assistants had faced up until then, and of course, how the major players were planning to monetize the voice search ad space.

Last fall we put our own voice search assistants to the test in a multilingual voice search battle. It was a pretty good indicator of how much voice assistants still have to learn.

Looking back, our hopes and dreams for a perfectly functioning and all-understanding voice assistant by 2018 were a little idealistic. The major players certainly made some major head way, but it’s clear we still have a long way to go before we enter Black Mirror-esque voice assistant territory.


Alexa, Will You Be Offering Sponsored Queries Anytime Soon?

As we make our way through the new year, the future of sponsored voice search queries remains a bit of a mystery. In his prediction featured in our Digital Predictions of this year, Aaron Levy, Manager of Client Strategy at Elite SEM reflected on the significance of the ‘tens of millions’ of voice assistants sold over the holiday season, and what that means for marketers.

“The Echo Dot was the top selling product on Amazon during Q4 2017. Like, of ALL the products they sell, from a store who sells everything, that’s huge.” – Aaron Levy

The proliferation of these affordable, accessible, easy-to-use assistants now means that Amazon is in a position to gather a massive range of data on their customers, across all demographics, to an extent that was never before possible.

The incredible popularity of the voice assistant-enabled devices sold over the holidays is the first step toward monetizing the voice search space. With all those millions of devices in millions of homes across the country comes a vast amount of data – exactly what’s needed to create a viable advertising system. Last year we noted, “If search engines want agencies and businesses to invest in search marketing, they need to support us to understand how our clients behave with voice searches. Even more importantly, we need to know how users are reaching our ads on voice search and how ads are being shown to them. Only with detailed insight into voice search can marketers make truly informed and effective decisions.” This rings true this year as well, as marketers continue to predict how voice search marketing will take form.

“We’ll likely see a huge bump in voice-based and natural language queries among our target audience. However, most indications thus far show that the lift is more in voice command than voice search. Consumers aren’t expecting Alexa/Bixby/Google/Siri to do complex research – they’re expecting a quick (and correct) response. It’s still yet to be seen how marketing messages will fluidly fit into screenless, voice-based search. Amazon’s been very public about their likely sponsor messages to flow in, however I forecast the initial iterations of the product will be VERY basic, and category focused. Pampers might be able to sponsor every diaper oriented query, but I predict it will be on a share of voice purchase basis vs. a Cost Per…Hear?” – Aaron Levy

Hey Google, Will Voice Search Help the Truth Prevail?

From Russian bots to widely shared Facebook articles, the spread of fake news in the last few years has been a scourge on the industry. Google, Facebook and Twitter have stepped up in an effort to combat the constant barrage of misinformation and reclaim their trustworthiness, with varying degrees of success.

Machine learning algorithms and human efforts aside, the key to sorting legitimate sources from the less-trustworthy has always lied with media literacy and the ability to research claims, verify sources, and authenticate the author(s). But in the case of voice search, there’s no real way to certify that what you’re hearing is true. How can we trust what we are hearing? Google and Amazon are banking on their algorithms to sort it all out, and at the moment it’s simply a matter of trust.

Greg Meyers, Founder & CEO of Afterclicks Interactive believes, “We will see an increased interest in voice search technologies (conversational, context, etc..) as a way to fact check and filter out the continued barrage of fake news stories.”

So the big question is, would paid voice help fight fake news within our voice assistants, or do we run the risk of bias from whoever pays the highest ‘cost-per-hear’?

Cortana, Are You in it to Win it?

An early entrant in the array of voice search battles, Microsoft has yet to make the same kind of splash Amazon, Google, and Apple have. However, as David Szetela, Owner and CEO of FMB Media points out, “Microsoft is a powerful, determined software developer” that often finds success through pure determination and sticking it out.

In his prediction this year, David mentions that, “Microsoft evangelists like Purna Virji and Christie Olson have been talking a lot in 2017 about technologies like AI, machine learning and voice search.” That shows that it’s still a top priority for Microsoft, and they won’t be giving up on voice search anytime soon.

With so many improvements to Bing Ads last year, (some say it’s catching up to Adwords, fast), it won’t be a surprise if Microsoft plays the long game with Cortana too. Despite being the paid search underdog, Bing Ads has persevered and many marketers have enjoyed incredible return on their investment. It would be safe to say Microsoft will certainly have its share of the voice search ad market pie, too.

We’re Keeping Our Ear to the Ground

The paid voice market will certainly be a lucrative area for not only marketers and their clients, but Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Samsung and whoever else throws their hat (or assistant) into the ring. Backed by real data of unprecedented scope, we predict would-be voice marketers will be able to turn their predictions into a reality sooner rather than later.

If you’d like more insights and discussions on what marketers can expect to change this year, download our Digital Predictions ebook (or at least check out the expert prediction videos on the landing page!).

Image Credits

Feature Image: Unsplash/Andres Urena
Video: Voice Search Battles by the Acquisio Team
Image 1: Black Mirror gif via GIPHY

Cassy Trussell

Cassy Trussell

Cassy is Acquisio's Content Specialist and resident Community Manager. With degrees in both Communication Studies and Graphic Design, coupled with agency and freelance design and copywriting experience, she has an ideal trifecta of skills to back up the entire marketing team. A passionate foodie, she can tell you all the best dishes in the city. When she's not writing, designing, or engaging with Acquisio's community, she spends time with her dog Derp, a local Instagram star.

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