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About Our guest

Courtney Cox Wakefield - Author, Speaker, and Head of Consumer Digital Marketing at Children's Health Hospital

Courtney has spent her career helping clients let go of the impulse to copy their competitors and start innovating, placing the customer at the center.

Courtney is passionate in her work to destroy digital marketing mediocrity. Her skills and experience include SEO, PPC, User Testing, User Experience Design, WordPress Development, Marketing Automation, eCommerce, and more.

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Show notes

Part 1

Voice Search: The New Search Engine Book (02:43) 

A lot of people reached out after the book was published and they wanted to talk about it. We’ve also had some good sales numbers. 

I've always been the type of marketer who's looking at what's next. I’m a techie at heart and I was an early adopter of the voice first technology. I bought an Amazon Alexa in the first couple of weeks that Amazon launched it and I started creating a smart home. 

However, even though this technology was useful for me, finding some good answers or good content was really difficult and I started looking more into it. 

During lunch with my friend, we have spoken about this topic and we decided to write a comprehensive resource on voice search. That’s how the book came to life. 

The Basics of Voice Search (05:24) 

The first technology that actually enabled this was created by IBM in their early days. They created some technology that can actually understand human speech, but then it stagnated for years. It got slightly better but it only became possible when we started creating machine learning algorithms. 

The Relations Between The Old Text-to-Speech Technologies To What We Are Seeing Today (06:50) 

They are still related and the Dragon software made that speech recognition piece possible. However, understanding what I’m saying is one thing, but understanding what I’m saying and being able to pull information from another source and deliver it back to me is a totally new layer. 

The Overall Landscape of Voice Search (08:02) 

There are really two different paths that you can go with voice search. You can go with the direct path or you can go with the organic path. 

You can optimize your content to rank well and perform well for voice searches or you can build a skill that someone actually has to recall before your content can be read to them and that can be a little more challenging for users.

If you have a huge marketing team and a very large tech team that can support the creation of a skill and an action while you are optimizing your content to work well on voice, that's great. 

However, the small companies with a small marketing and tech team, are barely focusing on their voice search content and I think that’s concerning because they are missing out. 

Do Marketers Need To Think About Content That’s Fit For The Go Or For The Home (13:20) 

I’d say both. At home, more local searches are done than any other type of search. People want to know what's the best emergency room near them, what are the good restaurants, what’s the traffic like etc. 

The way to optimize for that is by making sure that you've optimized your local listings and that can be done manually. Personally, I don’t prefer to do it manually. I use a tool like Yext that pushes all that information out to all the data aggregators and all the different publishers. 

If you don't have a good local strategy, I wouldn't focus on almost anything else. So I’d say, get that local strategy solid and then you can start focusing on other concepts. 

Part 2

The Voice Search Providers And Companies That Are Doing a Great Job In Voice Search Industry (03:30) 

The three big players are Amazon, Apple, and Google. Microsoft also has Cortana, but it is not as used as the previous three. There are also some big emerging players in this field, but they are not as famous as they operate in a B2B space. 

For example, there are some products which were specifically built for healthcare providers and they work with the electronic medical record system. This means that doctors are also able to use that voice technology.

Amazon is also trying to leverage this and they are working on their own B2B product called Alexa For Business. They are trying to enter into hospitals, schools, and other businesses to create better experiences for customers. 

Amazon, Google, Apple - Who’s Gonna Win? (05:30) 

It’s hard to say but Apple is too far behind to win. They came in with Siri but their Apple Home Pod has been a flop and it’s very important to have that in-home piece to dominate in the market. 

Their sales have been a flop, mainly because their voice search products came later in the market. They weren’t one of those early adaptors of the technology and they missed out on that because many of us have already filled our homes with Alexa devices. 

Apple also doesn’t have two major things that Google and Amazon have. Google has the ability to pull in all of that rich search information about us and Amazon has that consumer data about you from all of your shopping. 

Also, Siri just provides Google search results instead of giving a real answer and that’s not what people want. People want to interact with this technology. 

In general, I’d say that Amazon is on the top right now because they are leveraging the best of both worlds. However, it still remains to be seen who will win this war. 

Other Players In The Voice Search Industry (12:40) 

Those are definitely the big three. There are other thought leaders on this technology such as Voice First FM - they have several podcasts about the technology and they always have interesting people on them. I recommend you check them out.

Part 3

The Impact Of Voice Search On Content Industry and SEO (03:10) 

There are two groups of people when it comes to this matter. One group believes that this technology is stealing their content and not giving them any traffic in return. It is not sending people to their websites where they can control the message. The other group sees the value in leveraging this technology. Both groups have some good points. 

I believe that some things that Google and other search engines for voice are doing are not necessarily the best for our businesses, but they are giving us a ton of value in return that we can leverage. In a lot of cases, I think it's worth it. 

This technology is particularly risky for eCommerce space. Amazon and Google will drive people to their products and if you're not there in their marketplace, you're going to lose. 

Voice Search Industry vs. SEO Industry (10:39) 

When it comes to the growth pace of the voice search industry, it reached 50 percent adoption in less than five years. That's faster than any other technology that came before. We as an industry are going to have to adopt voice faster than we were willing to adopt mobile or we're going to miss out. 

Comscore is predicting that 50 percent of all searches will happen via voice by 2020, and Gartner has predicted that 30 percent of all searches will be done via a screenless device by 2020. 

Part 4

How Marketers Can Leverage Voice Search To Have a Positive Impact On Their Business (03:15) 

There isn’t really a clear roadmap for how marketers should leverage voice search. Also, I think that most marketers start at the end of that roadmap instead of the beginning. 

Almost everybody wants to start with skills, but the reality is that most of the searches that are done via voice are local searches. 

You absolutely must start with local first and you must create a strong local strategy. Make sure you have a relevant listing and that you have a full control of it. The most important listings are Google and Yelp. 

Check out the four data aggregators and look up for your business information. Make sure that it is relevant and accurate. Tools such as Yext can make sure that the information is pushed constantly and up to date. Alexa is using Yext as their main source of local data now.

The Other Ways That People Are Using The Voice Search Devices And Formats Of Content That Need To Be Voice Enabled (05:12) 

If marketers really want to leverage content, they need to have an organic voice strategy before they build an app. The way to do that is to just optimize for the featured snippet or the instant answer. 

You've got to optimize for that and have a really good strategy for being there for different questions or you're going to lose out.

The Resources For Ranking On Position Zero (06:46) 

A podcast called The Voices of Search is a great resource for learning about position zero. Moz also has some really great resources. 

In my opinion, there are four important pillars to leveraging position zero. 

The first is doing your audience research. If you don't understand the questions that your audience is asking, you're probably going to write your content in a way that is operationally driven and that's not going to be useful for voice. 

Find out the biggest pain points, the biggest questions that customers have. After that start preparing content that concisely answers that question.

The other pillars are competitor research and measurement. But the first two pillars - audience research and content optimization - they are the most important. 

Measuring The Impact of Voice Search (08:45) 

Right now, we don’t have a lot of great tools available for the measurement of voice search. Google Analytics doesn’t split it out. They track traffic but not impressions in the same way that we would need it to for our voice search efforts.    

Start with checking out your appearance in the search results and whether you rank for position zero. That's what's going to be read off for most searches. 

The more appearances that you have for those searches in the answer box, the better. Tools such as Searchmetrics and SEMrush allow you to search for featured snippet appearance. 

Search impressions are going to be a good metric, but I am still waiting to see who's going to come up with a perfect tool for measuring this stuff.

Part 5

The Growth Of Voice Search (03:07) 

There are two things that we should look for in the future, but I don’t think that will be happening anytime soon. 

The first thing is that these voice search providers are going to start to monetize the platform. 

The second thing is hyper-personalization. If you have a few of these devices in your home, they recognize exactly how much time you’ve spent in the living room, or kitchen, or bedroom for example. Because of this, you should expect to see people buying that data. 

The Privacy Impact (05:00) 

There is a lot of talk about this issue and a lot of inaction on the part of consumers to resist or do anything about it. If people were really truly worried about these privacy concerns, we would not have seen a 50 percent adoption of these devices in only five years. 

A lot of people are talking about privacy concerns but they are still buying and using these devices. 

Future Technologies And Use Cases (06:50) 

I think the ability to create useful skills is going to increase. Right now the capability of skills is pretty low. 

I think we should look forward at what the capabilities are going to be in the future and forgive some of these bad use cases for voice apps at the moment. 

The Future of Voice Search 10-20-30 Years From Now (11:26) 

I find myself often in random situations when I’d want to use a voice search technology but it’s not available to me. There was a time when it would have seemed crazy to say that we’re gonna get some sort of device enabled in our brains, that could hear us and understand what we’re thinking. I think that in a few years this won’t sound as crazy as it sounds today. 

It's really inconvenient to have to pull your phone out of your pocket anytime you want to do something and it would be a lot better if it was just always on. 

Another thing that I see will be happening is just the ability for marketers to leverage the data that we have available on the technology.

The Voice Search - The New Search Engine Book (14:13) 

This is the book which I’ve published with my co-author. And you can find it at this address: