OK, Google: What are the top five ways digital marketers can prepare for the voice search takeover?

For years now one of the trendiest, and simultaneously most inconclusive, topics among digital marketers has been the ground-breaking shift from traditional to voice search. With mobile usage statistics continually rising, this is not anticipated to be one of those changes that gets lost in the minutiae (even though we may like to pretend that no change does). Though few of us in marketing have felt the ground rumble just yet – there is a reason we have been trying to stay ahead of this shift. So, what can digital marketers do to stay ahead of the transition to voice search – this ominous “voice search takeover”? Will there even be a noticeable change from the marketer-side?

At Google’s I/O conference in May, AI was the primary theme. No surprise there—with Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Fire, soon to be Google Lens, and other personal travel-sized iRobots running around, AI is now and will continue to be a buzzword. Google is no exception to that rule. A parallel focal point of the keynote (which, if you missed it is summed up nicely here by Forbes) was the huge emphasis on Google Assistant becoming more conversational. Google’s Scott Huffman said that now over 70% of Google Assistant requests are in natural language and not in traditional keyword lingo.


This means that increasingly (assuming more people hop on board with robot assistants, which are currently trending up and to the right) searches will be more grammatically correct, longer-tailed, and semantically driven. Maybe. All the on-page SEO and content people out there are already popping champagne bottles over the fact that they won’t have to try and naturally incorporate some high-volume, low-competition jargon six times in one paragraph of content.

But hold on…

Since Google’s release of the Hummingbird update in 2013, the idea of semantic-search has already been a priority for content-driven folks. So, is this change really going to affect what we are doing?

It’s becoming clear (better late than never) that this radical shift to voice may not be radical if we continue to focus on the right things as marketers. We can hypothesize all day that the transition to voice search will bring local SEO to the forefront, that queries themselves will be longer-tailed and more diverse, or that voice search is going to change {insert your favorite hypothesis here!} about digital marketing. But realistically, we won’t know until we get there – the only data we have is retroactive. Disappointingly (or not), our task as marketers is to make the absolute best using the data that we have. For now, much of that is laying a solid foundation both technically on-site and in the overall marketing methodologies we employ.

Here is a list of the five absolute best ways digital marketers can prepare for the Voice Search Takeover:

  1. Good UX is key

This has a million sub-parts but has been a Google priority since day one. Here are some of the ways to ensure that your site is performing for users:

·        Use structured data markup – since it is still grossly underutilized, having good markup makes it easier for sites to rise to the top of the SERP’s and be featured as rich snippets. Though this part is often not considered as UX (because it is not technically on-site), it is still a part of the user journey that needs to be simplified and improved as much as possible.

·        Implement a tag management system like GTM now (migrating is not going to get easier down the road – start now and get ahead). Tag management will reduce page load speed making your site faster, easier to navigate, and overall more user-friendly. As an added bonus, tag management simplifies life for marketers and developers alike. Win, win!

·        Use a secure site protocol – though this has been a known ranking factor since 2014, most sites still haven’t made the shift to https://. Besides being a direct-ranking factor, having a secure site also impacts user trust which is arguably just as (or more) important for long-term website success.

·        Continuously improve site speed.

·        Improve mobile sites – The rule here is quit making them if you are going to make them poorly! With the recent mobile-first index update, improving and optimizing mobile sites should be a number one business priority.


2) Content is king

With voice searches potentially lengthening search queries overall -minimizing marketers’ ability to as successfully keyword inflate content- actually good content needs to be a priority. Since day one, Google has been telling us to provide relevant, user-friendly content. Now it makes more sense than ever to do that.


3) Clean Your Data

Though Analytics may not directly affect your SERP rankings, it (hopefully) affects overall business decisions and should ALWAYS be a primary focus for marketers and businesses alike. Make sure that the reports you are generating are providing good, high-integrity data or the decisions that you are making may have a fundamentally unsound basis. Without clean data, how can we ever know if what we are doing is working?! If you haven’t set up Analytics yet, or done an audit recently, Avinash Kaushik is an amazing Analytics resource to learn from or you can request a free Analytics audit here:


4) Minimize segmentation in your marketing approach

I want to put this one chronologically first because it is arguably the number one sin of most marketers – both for in-house and agency folks alike. We humans like to think in organized, neat, compartmentalized buckets. To stay ahead and to really be well-equipped for the “Voice takeover” or ANY other changes in the digital realm moving forward, the trick is to think holistically about the user-journey and what the business needs to do to accommodate continuous improvement of that journey (cross-departmental communication required–gasp!).


5. Refine your overall marketing methodology

At its core, marketing is the practice of understanding the business in such a way that you can articulate its value to customers and potential customers effectively. This means fully understanding the customer journey and refining your marketing and business strategies iteratively to accommodate shifting customer priorities.

The challenge here is that good marketing takes one step further than just “good sales” or “good account management”. For successful sales and account management it is imperative to understand your client’s needs. Good marketing, however, requires not only that you understand your client well, but that you understand your client’s customer well. This one degree of separation, though it seems small, is often the reason why marketers (even great ones!) can fall flat. Customer-centric marketing is critical to getting ahead and staying ahead, independent of industry changes.

Good, technically sound, user-friendly sites with great content are not going to be cataclysmically affected if/when the great Voice Takeover does in fact occur. Build a sturdy foundation now, and we will all make it through hunky dory to the other side.