This article series spotlights key business trends identified by the expert members of Forbes Councils. Find out if you qualify for Forbes Agency Council here.
According to a recent report by Strategy Analytics, global smart speaker sales hit record highs in 2019, with 147 million units sold, representing a 70% increase. Smart speakers and virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple’s Siri have become prolific in recent years, as hands-free voice command becomes the dominant way consumers perform searches, shop online and complete everyday tasks.
This has substantial implications for both big brands and small businesses. According to Think with Google, 27% of the world’s population is now using mobile voice search. A recent PwC survey of a representative group of 1,000 Americans found that 90% of consumers are familiar with voice-enabled devices and 72% of them have taken advantage of this technology. In 2018, a study by Bright Local revealed that nearly half of consumers who use voice search seek local business information daily.
Forbes Agency Council member Victor Smushkevich is the founder of Smart Street Media, a Los Angeles-based full-service digital marketing agency specializing in SEO and lead generation. Having generated hundreds of millions of dollars for clients over the past 11 years, Smushkevich has been closely monitoring the exponential growth of voice search and weighing its implications for business. He said voice-activated search is poised to overtake browser search in the near future.
“I’ve witnessed many industry trends and have helped businesses adjust to meet each one. And I believe the use of smart speakers or virtual assistants is the most critical trend of them all,” Smushkevich said. “These devices are redefining how consumers get things done and locate essential information. Virtual assistants are penetrating markets at a high rate each year, making it crucial that businesses prepare for what will probably be the inevitable voice revolution.”
Smushkevich has already begun capitalizing on this trend. “At Smart Street Media, we’ve polished our structured data markup to help us appear more in voice search results,” he said. Structured data is code added to HTML markup to provide more information to search engines, enabling algorithms to comprehend a page better. Smart speakers utilize structured data and rich results (additional information, such as reviews, answer boxes, recipes and events appearing on search engine results pages), which are pulled from structured data.
“Smart speakers rely on rich results when answering voice queries. Fine-tuning our implementation of structured data has helped us win more prominent positions in rich results and, subsequently, voice search results,” Smushkevich said.
He recommends professionals in the search marketing industry start optimizing for voice search now. “Humanity generally gravitates towards convenience, so voice search is likely here to stay. It isn’t going to be a short-lived trend.” In his view, getting hands-on experience is the best way to understand the potential for voice search. “Anyone with a smartphone can download Google Assistant or Siri, and they even come pre-installed on some devices,” he said. PwC’s in-depth “Prepare for the voice revolution” report is another recommended resource.
Smushkevich cautions that waiting too long to optimize for voice search may be an enormous missed opportunity. “The growing number of virtual assistant users isn’t slowing down, and anybody with a smartphone can use voice search. Imagine the amount of traffic one would be losing out on if no action is taken to optimize for voice. I’m almost sure that voice search technology will become faster, more intelligent and more accurate over time. Start now to avoid any regrets later.”
For more information, check out Victor Smushkevich’s executive profile here. To learn more about Forbes Agency Council and see if you qualify for membership, click here.