Several studies from last year indicated a significant increase in voice-assisted searches. In one study, 60 percent of respondents stated that they had started using virtual assistants and voice search in the past 12 months. Popular virtual assistants, include Siri, Cortana, Google Voice Search/Now, Viv, Amazon Alexa, and now, Google Home. These applications are all training their users to access the benefits of voice-activated devices. We are also seeing an increase in the performance of these applications compared to their initial debuts. At first, many of the applications deterred users because their responses were not always correct. How many times would you speak into your phone, only to receive an answer that had absolutely nothing to do with your command? Only now are we starting to see seamless accurate voice applications. The timing couldn’t be more perfect considering the increased migration to mobile devices and search queries conducted through mobile platforms. Amazon’s Alexa, for example, allows you to order a pizza from Domino’s. Is this making us lazier or more efficient? You decide.
What does this mean for paid search? The answer specifically applies to paid local search. Let’s say you ask Google about local restaurants in a certain area. Google will read off nearby restaurants for you to choose from, but it is going to be difficult to make a decision without an image of the restaurant or its signature items. This is one of the major issues with in-home digital search assistants like Google Home or Amazon Alexa. Are we supposed to just sit there and wait for Google to shout out 15 nearby restaurants before we make a decision? Or, are we going to trust Google’s decision on its first choice for nearby restaurant? You must also remember that Google doesn’t choose the best answer. It picks the answer that paid to be first.
This seems to be good news for paid search ads on the surface but a closer look suggests that this might not be the case. The main downside to selling ads through voice search is that it destroys user trust. Are you going to trust Google or Amazon’s choice of restaurant if you know that it is only showing up because the restaurant is paying to be number one? Instead of basing the results on metrics such as rating, the restaurant is being served to you because Google and Amazon are making money off of it. All we can do is hope that the restaurants that are paying companies like Google and Amazon have the best food in town!