< Back to Lineup Newsroom

Voice Search for Advertising: Gimmick or New Normal?

Lineup Systems | Industry Analysis | 3rd December 2019
Voice Search for Advertising: Gimmick or New Normal?

Making a query of any kind and receiving an answer via the Internet has become ubiquitous to life. Now, consumers are bypassing manually typing in queries for voice search.

Last year, we predicted that this would increasingly become the standard method for search in 2019 in "10 Digital Advertising Trends to Look for in 2019". We also anticipated that advertisers and publishers would begin to use voice in creative new ways to reach consumer audiences. In this post, we’ll take a look at how these predictions panned out—and see if voice search is really just an advertising gimmick...or the new normal. 

Increased Usage for Shopping, Search Function, and More

If voice search for advertising is to be effective in terms of cost and impact, it needs a wide, loyal user base. This fact begs the question: How many people actually used it in 2019, and for what?

Key Stats from 2019

In 2019, 41% of adults and 55% of teens used voice search at least once a day. In 2020, at least 50% of all online searches will be via voice, and 30% of all browsing sessions will include voice search. In any case, this technology is on the rise—and shows no signs of slowing down

Device users across multiple age ranges are making verbal commands, led by the 25-49 age bracket. Users in the 18-24 age bracket, however, have been the strongest early adopters of the technology, and say that they’ll use voice search more in the future.

What does this mean for advertisers and publishers? A strong market for voice search now—and for years to come.

How It's Used

Voice search is often used by those who are multitasking, such as users who are driving a car, watching TV, cooking a meal, or working out. That being the case, voice search queries are often made to ask for directions, quickly fact-check, or even look up a recipe.

Still, an increasing number of people are using voice search for local queries and for online shopping. 58% of consumers say they have used voice search to find a local business in the past year. And while voice search isn’t used as frequently for shopping, it’s finding a surprise niche: male consumers are more likely than women to use voice search for shopping, especially for replenishing products.

Voice-Enabled Devices on the Rise

Finally, voice search devices are increasing in popularity. In fact, Amazon’s “Echo Dot” was the most purchased item on Amazon during the 2018 holiday season. And by 2022, 55% of households are anticipated to own a “smart speaker” that responds to voice search.

Exciting New Opportunities for Advertisers

With consumers making more voice commands and buying more voice-enabled devices, the market is primed for advertisers to use voice search—and publishers to sell valuable new space.

Voice search for advertising would allow businesses to run paid, targeted ads on platforms with voice capabilities. Imagine a user makes a command—“Buy new couch”—and receives an audible response that includes strategically placed ads. These results might include an ad from a local brick-and-mortar store, an ad from a recently viewed website, or an ad from another online retailer that the consumer has purchased from.

Who Is Using Voice Search Advertising Now?

Earlier this year, Spotify launched a test campaign of voice-enabled ads that allow users to speak back to an ad, taking action to access a specific branded playlist or podcast.  And while the platform hasn’t sold advertising space to other companies just quite yet, the campaign shows promising possibilities for the future.

Pandora has also launched a test campaign using voice-enabled advertising, allowing users to verbally interact with their devices by asking for more information about a product or service, purchasing the item, or skipping the ad altogether.

Still, these companies are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to voice search advertising. Google hasn’t adopted voice for advertising just yet. Instead, they are continuing to focus on building trust with users by providing ad-free results. And that comes with one caveat to voice search for advertising: consumers could be less likely to use voice search if they feel that results are saturated with paid advertising.

Optimizing Search Engine Results for Voice

Although voice search for paid advertising has yet to become mainstream, advertisers should still optimize their sites for spoken queries. When someone searches via voice, the audio response will also usually rank within the first page of traditional search engine results. In fact, 75% of all voice search results will also rank within the top three positions on a traditional search.

To optimize content for voice search, advertisers must consider the fact that queries will include more conversational language and more complex questions. For example, users looking for local businesses or services might use keyphrases including “where is” or “help me find.”

As natural language processing (NLP) improves over time, expect voice search to increase in accuracy and quality—potentially encouraging more adopters of the technology.

Voice Search for the News: Google’s “Speakable”

Voice search has so far been discussed as a strategy for producing basic responses to questions and commands. But voice search could potentially be used for a range of applications, such as summarizing valuable news content.

“Speakable” is a feature for Google Assistant and Google News that summarizes key points from an article and speaks them back to the user. In theory, “Speakable” could be used outside of Google News to summarize different types of content. This function of voice search has yet to become mainstream but may increase in the future, again, offering advertisers more exposure and valuable new opportunities for the paid ad space.

Conclusion: Voice Search is Here to Stay

Given the widespread, increasing usage of voice search—and the exciting new strategies and campaigns being launched by advertisers—it looks like voice search is here to stay. Much like skepticism surrounding “using your phone as a computer” with the early iPhones, skeptics of voice search may, in the end, be proved wrong. Voice search could change the way we interact with our devices—and the way advertisers and publishers think about reaching audiences.