What Advertisers Can Do to Prepare for More Visual and Voice Searches

March 7, 2019

This is a guest post from Charlotte Haab, Account Lead at
3Q Digital.

Voice and visual search methods are quickly becoming more mainstream. There’s our Amazon ambassador Alexa, of course, our old pal Siri, the lesser-known Cortana—we even have voice assistance available in our refrigerators these days. Search marketers are starting to notice an influx in queries starting with “hey google”—but how do we address these in our strategy?

Then there’s visual search, a lesser explored but potentially very powerful eCommerce tool. Major advertisers like Pinterest and retail giants like Target are increasingly starting to embrace visual capabilities.

Here’s what you can do right now to start preparing for increased voice and visual searches.

Write Conversational Content

When people are conducting voice searches, it’s often in the form of longer tail detailed questions. These types of queries are important because they represent a very strong and very specific intent. While there’s no way to optimize ads to this yet, you can better your chances of serving an organic result by optimizing your SEO.

Make sure you have plenty of conversational content on your site. For example, if you’re a retailer, your pages should include phrases like, “where you can buy xyz…” or “to buy xyz near you.” This will make you more likely to get picked organically as the answer or first result to one of these questions, bolstering your brand and likely increasing traffic.

Update Your Paid Search Structure Accordingly

No voice ads are currently being served. However, advertisers are starting to notice voice commands in their normal search queries.

voice search

Note that many of these are long tail. Voice queries on average are at least 5-6 keywords. Voice queries are also typically very local—usually asking for nearby locations or directions.

To get ahead of this trend, advertisers can mine their search queries for voice commands and build out campaigns specifically around them. Depending on how they perform and what your goals are, you may want to bid higher or lower on these types of queries—or even exclusively target more local areas.

Another option is to exclude them completely using negatives. Simply negate “hey google” to stop showing here.

Update Your Structured Data Specs

Recently, Google made a new schema.org specification available, that if set up correctly on your backend will indicate to various voice assistants if a section of your website is particularly “speakable.”

Having this configured properly in your backend will allow easy text to speech conversion when voice assistants start reading results—making your brand more likely to be chosen as the answer. Again, while this isn’t monetized in any way, it’s valuable for brand recognition and traffic to your site!

Advertise on Applicable Platforms

Lastly—and this largely applies to the lesser sought after visual search—it’s important for brands to stay ahead of the technology and for advertisers to be where that technology exists. For instance, visual search isn't a bigger deal at the moment because brands need to adopt technology to use it well.

Some brands are ahead of the curve here, like Target or Pinterest. On Pinterest you can simply snap a picture in the search bar and the results will return hundreds of Pins that match your photo. I tested this out with a random tube of lip balm on my desk, and it sent me right to a shoppable Pin!

If you want to show up in visual searches, you’ve got to be where they exist, which right now is largely just Pinterest. Visual search is sure to gain more traction as more companies adopt the advanced technology, but for now, it’s somewhat few and far between.

voice search

Stay Current on the State of the Market

While the technology for visual search hasn’t been widely adopted yet, and there’s currently no clear way of monetizing voice search, there is speculation on how advertisers like Google and Amazon might achieve this in the future.

The conversational language in voice searches often makes intent super clear—so while the perfect ad may exist, it’s a pretty awful user experience to sit through an audio ad before getting an answer to your question. Experts believe users would likely revolt against such a concept.

As a workaround, it’s been speculated that ads may serve after organic results from voice searches, offering people an option to hear the sponsored content. If they say yes, they’ll read an ad and potentially have the link sent straight to their smartphone to encourage conversion.

The other major roadblock is that people are very unlikely to buy in an eCommerce setting without some sort of visual. The latest products, like Echo Show, and Home Hub—available with screens—have the potential to upend that, by combining voice and visual browsing capabilities to make a sale.

Ultimately, these are all very new technologies that have yet to fully catch on in a major way. While we’re not quite there yet, there’s no doubt in my mind that advertising giants will find a way to monetize voice and visual search.

Charlotte Haab

3Q Digital
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