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The Truth About Voice as a Powerful Trend (Thinks Out Loud Episode 201)

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The Truth About Voice as a Powerful Trend (Thinks Out Loud Episode 201)

The Truth About Voice as a Powerful Trend (Thinks Out Loud Episode 201) – Headlines and Show Notes

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The Truth about Voice as a Powerful Trend – Thinks Out Loud Episode 201 (August 30, 2017) Transcript

Well hello again everyone and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter, today is Wednesday, August 30, and this is episode 201 of the big show. Thank you once again for tuning in, I really do appreciate it. I’ve got a terrific show for you this week. A couple weeks ago, in our 200th episode, I talked about some key trends. I talked about mobile, and content being king, and customer experience being queen, and data being the crown jewels and how those all tied together to create the kind of experience and the kind of business performance that you are looking for. And I got a number of emails and some messages on Twitter and places like that asking about voice, why wasn't it in there.

Now I have talked about voice before; I brought it up in episode 199 talking about how millennials, mobile payments, and voice will serve as key drivers of mobile commerce as we go forward. But it is fair to ask why isn't it a bigger deal, why as I talked about some of these key trends you should be paying attention to, why isn't voice there?

Well, there's a few things we need to cover.

First, let's make a distinction between voice search like you would find with Google, voice search when you're just on your mobile phone and asking Google to find you something; and the kinds of voice applications or chatbots like you'd find with Apple Siri or Amazon's Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana, or Google's Assistant. They're really two different things for now; whether or not they will be two different things in time is another matter. But right now we need to treat them a little differently.

And when we talk about voice search it is big and getting bigger: about a fifth of all mobile searches are conducted using voice and that number continues to grow so we'll come back to that at the end of the episode and put that aside for the moment.

When we talk about voice-activated tools like Siri or Alexa or Cortana or Assistant, it gets a bit complicated. There was some huge news on this front today when it was announced that Amazon and Microsoft have agreed to connect their Alexa and Cortana voice-based assistants. Now if that seems like a big deal to you it should because it will certainly emerge as a really big deal and you really owe it to yourself to read Brian Roemmele's take on it, which I will of course link to in the show notes. But as big as this will be there's a few reasons you shouldn't be putting too much focus on this type of voice application for your business… at least not yet.

Low Market Penetration for Voice-Driven Personal Assistants

The first reason is that the penetration of these kinds of devices and these kinds of utilities is still relatively low. They’re growing like a weed, the growth is huge, but the actual penetration is still relatively low. Only about 7% of people have one of these devices according to data from Edison Research and that I first heard about my friend Mark Schaefer’s “The Marketing Companion” podcast. Now 7% up from zero in just a couple of years is amazing. It's also really just a fraction of your potential customers. Now these folks are interesting people in that 42% of them say that their device is essential to their everyday lives, while 65% either agree or strongly agree that they wouldn't go back want to go back to life without one. 42% of them owned more than one device and 45% plan to purchase another one.

So these are people really love these things. By the way, I fall into that category; I love it, wouldn't go back, and I own three of them. But we're still only talking about 7% of the population. And more importantly over 70% of those in the study either strongly agree or agree that they don't know enough about their device to use all of its features. And that really leads to the next issue…

No Standard Exists for Developing Chatbots

The next reason why I wouldn't put all my eggs in this basket right now is that chatbots are not standard; they differ by platform. Now the Amazon/Microsoft announcement might change that some, but you know…

If you want to think about it easily, chatbots are essentially just apps for voice; that’s the easiest way to think about it. And right now it's a fairly fragmented marketplace between Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Assistant — which itself can be used on Google Home or on Google Assistant on Android and the like.

Unlike mobile where you have pretty straightforward path to say “okay if I'm going after money I want iOS; if I’m going after scale I want Android,” but there's just not a really clear path forward on chatbots for the moment and building them is not the simplest thing in the world right now now. Those two facts will change but it's not true yet. So if you're thinking about moving forward with these, you have to think about where your customers are, which percentage of that 7% are on which of these things and do you have to create a chatbot for every single one of them. That's a big deal and I don't know that most brands and businesses are ready for that yet.

Content Matters More than Voice… At Least for Now

The third one, and this is where this gets really interesting: Voice depends on content. So this is something you can do today to be ready for chatbots and be ready for voice and it helps you with voice search, which as I said at the beginning is really, really important. So this is kind of key. When you're thinking about what you should do for voice, you really should be thinking about, “What should I be doing about my content? How can I get my content house in order?”

AI is going to do increasingly positive job of determining which content you, um, see, right? So if I ask a question of, “find me a great restaurant near here,: or if I say, “What book I should read?” or “What's the weather going to be?” or “Where should I go for my next trip?” or things along those lines, the AI’s in these devices will do a better job over time answering those questions.

They will also depend on content. There's a terrific article in The Verge today about how YouTube improved its content feed that shares content to keep you on the site. Which is a classic example of a case of AI making big data little, something I talked about in episode 196. But if you don't have good content and if that content isn't well structured for the needs of the chatbot, you never get the game.

Importance of Long-Tail Keywords to Chat and Voice

So if you want to do something for voice, you want to start thinking about content. And I mentioned customer experience being such a key trend, well, obviously context is a key component of that customer experience. Content depends upon that context. So if you're thinking about voice, first you need to think more about what's your searchers’ intent, what’s your customers’ intent when they're asking questions, what's the actual problem there trying to solve, and what are the conversational phrases that they’ll use to get the answer to the question? You want to ask yourself does your content answer your customer’s question, not In the figurative sense, but literally.

Think, “Hey Siri, what's a great Thai restaurant around here?” or “OK, Google, where should I buy a pair of pants?” Right? You’ve got to think about these longer-tail keywords and these sort of conversational elements that your customers are to use when they're looking for the products or services you offer. The search queries tend to be longer so what a focus on that and think longer tail. You also want to think about making sure that you've got sufficient content that answers any number of the questions that they will have. Where they will be in their journey will determine a big piece of that. Delivering a great chatbot experience, by the way, depends on the same reality, so you’ve really got to cover both bases. Or to put it another way around, if you don't cover these bases your chatbot and your voice search will both be terrible. So you’re going to have to think through that whole process:

  • What is the customer's journey?
  • What is their intent?
  • What are the conversational phrases that they’re going to care about and going to use?
  • How well does your content answer those questions?
  • And have you thought through the longer tail keywords that you will need to be able to address to do just that?

Now from a purely voice search perspective and as we get deeper into voice as a platform, you also should start really looking into using schema for your SEO. Now that's a bit technical for the podcast but look at the references that I’ve linked to in the show notes and talk about them with your developers. That’s something you should be doing today anyway and can really help you to go forward.

The Truth About Voice as a Powerful Trends

So, when we talk about the truth about voice, voice is not hype. Earlier this year I talked about whether voice, VR, AR, and AI represent hype or hope for marketers, and voice is definitely not hype. It will be huge. And there are activities you can start today. But voice in the sense of Echoes and Siri and Google Assistant and the like aren't critical to your growth right now.

Building the right kind of content that answers your customers questions whether they type it or whether they talk it is. Winning, when we talk about marketing, often depends not on chasing the latest and greatest, but on prioritization and execution. If you can do a good job of creating great content, if you can think through the customer's journey and answer their questions with intent at each stage, if you actually have the right keywords that match up — the longer tail keywords that match up with the problems they're trying to solve — you’re going to be in a much better position both for voice search now… and for voice as we get into more sophisticated chatbots later.

And I can tell you in all sincerity that's the truth about voice as a powerful trend.


Now looking at the clock on the wall we are out of time for this week. I do want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today's episode as well as an archive of all episodes by going to Tim Again that's Tim Just look for episode 201. And while you're there you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes you find there so you get us delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week. You can also subscribe in iTunes or the Google Play Music store or Stitcher Radio or whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. Just do a search for Tim Peter Thinks, Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud, or plain old Thinks Out Loud, we should show up for any of those. And if you'd be willing to provide a rating on iTunes, the Google Play Store, or Stitcher Radio while you're there, I would really appreciate it. You can also contact me by going to, on Twitter using the Twitter handle @tcpeter, or via email by emailing again that's With that I want to say thanks again for tuning in, I really do appreciate it. I hope you have a fantastic weekend and I will look forward to talking with you back here on Thinks Out Loud again next week. Until then take care everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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