It’s strange that Alexa and Siri feel like they’re an integral part of our lives, considering Siri was only launched in the relatively recent 2011. Even in such a short space of time, these virtual ladies have completely revolutionised the way we all find information, creating some real challenges for marketers and copywriters in the process.
Voice search is becoming increasingly popular with people from all walks of life, from millennials to reformed technophobes. It’s a pretty great indicator of the popularity of something if your parents own and use it. Think of how many parents and grandparents use voice assistants on a regular basis.
In fact, 55% of teenagers and 41% of adults conduct at least one voice search per day. Voice search is estimated to bump up to a huge 50% of all search queries online by 2020. That’s up from 20% in 2016.
So, it’s clear people are searching for and accessing information differently now. But what does this mean for copywriters?
Why is voice search growing so quickly?
Google Trends shows that voice search queries have risen 35x since 2008. And those queries have really taken off since 2013. That’s pretty monumental.
The huge rise in voice search is a product of three factors:
- Searching with your voice is 3.7x faster than typing
- Voice search is great for mobile use
- Voice search is incredibly convenient
Being able to search for things easily, quickly, and whilst on the move is valuable to most people. Although we don’t want to admit it, people are a bit lazy. Personally, even having to type out “shopping centre near me” is too much of an effort.
When you can simply speak your query, you feel like you’re saving time and effort whilst still receiving a specific answer to your search.
This is very powerful as it allows people to search quickly and effectively for information.
This affects SEO, and anything that affects SEO affects copywriting too.
Out with the old, in with the new
Cast your minds back with me to the ‘prehistoric’ time of the 2000s. Before the meteoric rise in virtual assistants and voice search (there’s a joke about meteors and prehistoric life there somewhere), back when people did things like type queries into Google, searches usually revolved around a small selection of keywords.
For example, if you were really craving chocolate brownies, you might search “brownies near me.” But using Alexa, Siri, or Cortana, a typical search might be “What restaurants in Exeter have the best brownies?”
This highlights the growing emphasis on a more human experience for consumers, even when using digital mediums. Most people treat their Alexa or Siri like a real person, with the vast majority using “please” and “thank you,” or even “sorry.”
Is this just because our mums raised us well?
Well, yes. But some of it is because you have a human-sounding voice giving the answers to your queries. It sounds like a conversation. This interaction encourages conversational search techniques, leading to longer and more specific searches.
Rather than typing a few keywords into Google in the hope that they will give you the correct answer, voice search easily allows you to ask the exact question you want.
Taking a mobile first approach
Since voice search is so quick and convenient to use on the go, many consumers are using voice search on their mobile devices. So, if it wasn’t already important to make your content mobile-friendly, you certainly need to take smaller screens into consideration now.
Some quick ways to optimise for mobiles include:
• Shorter headlines (fewer than 7 words)
• Shorter paragraphs (1 to 3 sentences)
• Snappier formatting (subheadings, bullet points, etc)
Not only will this make it easier for those who are actually using screens to digest your content, but it will also make it easily digestible (and easily found) by those using virtual assistants.
When you ask Alexa whether apples are good for you, she’ll be much more likely to choose an answer that’s short and informative than to reel off a 1000 word blog post about the nutritional benefit of apples.
And yes, the irony of me writing an in-depth blog post about voice search and recommending conciseness is not lost on me either.
So, how does this affect copywriting?
As is always the case with good copywriting, you need to make sure that your copywriting is geared towards consumer preferences and behaviours.
As more and more often, people are searching for longer phrases that mirror natural speech, your copy should reflect this. Keep it short, conversational, and useful.
It’s also better nowadays to create Q&A based content which contains a lot of long-tailed keywords. This means that your writing now needs to answer a direct question or problem. Theoretical blogs aren’t quite passé, but they might get less traffic than they got before.
So, whilst they’re still a great piece of content, you do need to make sure that other pieces of content fulfil the voice search criteria.
But I don’t have the time to redo all my content!
Don’t panic. This doesn’t mean that you have to totally overhaul all your content, but you should probably go through all content and make sure that it fulfils this new need for in-depth, easily accessible answers.
Want an easy way of achieving this? Change some of your content into questions. For example, say you have a blog with the title “Best Handbags in 2019.” Changing that title to something like “What are the best handbags that you can buy in 2019?” will make it much more searchable by voice assistants.
As technology continues to evolve around us, copywriters will continue to evolve. With the more natural online experience that voice search offers, our copy can become more conversational, more useful, and more fun.
In a time when more and more aspects of our lives are managed by machines, writing copy that sounds human has never been more important.
Although I think it’s a shame that Alexa can’t show you funny dog pics yet.