The concept of word of mouth is changing. Voice search is going to be the game changer. It’s going to happen fast and I don’t think business owners really grasp how it could change their bottom line. In this article, I’m going to explain how voice search works, how it will grow, how branding can help and how your online presence will impact results.
How Did We Get Here?
One of our new clients is just starting to get into the social media game and is changing their website. Despite an older website, lack of social media and no reviews, they generate millions in revenue as a company with 50 years in business. All of that was generated by word of mouth. They build homes, so it’s a big ticket item. Clients are generally in the 35-60 age group, high middle income families. In other words, generations that relied on face to face referrals and the type of business where individuals want a lot of feedback from people they really trust.
But even they started to notice that some people asked them why they don’t have reviews? Where they a new home builder? Why did they not have a Facebook page? Without an online presence, they actually looked like a new businesses.
This spooked the owner and that is how our conversation started. They have got by just fine for awhile. They built a reputation that has helped them but in the next 5, 10, 20 years it is going to become much more difficult, if not impossible, to survive on face to face referrals.
People under 30 don’t meet up with their friends to find businesses. The next generation of customers won’t base their decisions on a conversation they have with their friends at work. They are already wired to go online and check out businesses. They open their phone when they want to find a service. Online reviews give you advice from multiple people rather than 2 friends at work.
In coming years, even just asking for recommendations on Facebook is going to seem like the “old way.” Taking the time to read though 20 reviews is going to be “too time consuming.” This process will be become automated by the big tech companies.
Every piece of critical research suggests that voice search will play a big role in how customers find businesses.
Alexa – Who Makes a Good Cinnamon Roll?
Voice search is already here. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant are being utilized and growing every month. Voice search has already doubled from 2017. By 2020, Comscore research suggests that over 50% of searches will be done without a screen. 41% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say it feels like talking to a friend.
Voice search will become the go to way for people to find a business. It will be the most common way to quickly find a business in 3-5 years. Right now, the search technology is so new that people aren’t 100% comfortable with using voice search to find products and services. They aren’t sure if the answers are good enough. They still want to “check out” businesses online. They still want to read reviews.
But like all new technology this will change over time. I remember it took some time to get use to email (yes, I’m 47). It took awhile for people to get comfortable using their credit card online. People took some time to get used to social media. And it use to feel weird to bring out your phone in public. Now walk outside on a busy day and look at the people glued to their smartphone.
We adapt quickly to new technology. We’ll go from 5% users to 15% to 70% to everyone using voice to find businesses. Why? Because the tech companies have AI that is getting better and better everyday. People will start to trust these results. In the end, it’s extremely convenient to find a businesses using a voice service.
I looked up a few services online and then jotted down the 5 businesses I’d call based on their online presence / reviews. I then went to Siri and asked. I went to Alexa and asked. I generally saw the same 8 businesses show up. All 5 of the ones I wrote down were part of this group of 8. I encourage you to do the same. The results are good.
Voice Search Results
Results will get better and better. Google, Apple and Amazon dominate the voice search market and these are massive companies that got big because they can process data and make things easier for people. Google is making driverless cars. Organizing search results is simple in comparison.
For now, your online presence has a big impact on normal search engine results and voice search results. This means you need to have good, consistent reviews in Google, Facebook and Yelp. You need a website optimized for search. You need high quality links pointing to your website. And you need accurate business listings.
The big tech companies already work on technology that reads intent of users. That means that conversations on social media can have an impact. In other words, your business being mentioned in casual conversation can have an impact on search results.
How Do Businesses Prepare?
There is no doubt in my mind that online reviews will play the largest role in determining how voice Search services bring up referrals. Online reviews are already an important factor when it comes to how an individual chooses a business. It’s also a major search factor in how Google ranks your business in local search and Google maps. So reviews will be part of the algorithm for voice search devices. The biggest factors in search results are reviews, website on page SEO and location.
There are four important factors with online reviews that will impact how you show up:
- The star rating
- The frequency of new reviews
- The total number of reviews
- How fast you respond to any review
As a business you can either be a company that just lets reviews happen or you can be one of the companies that politely and intelligently asks its customers for reviews. The ones that are asking for reviews right now are winning. They are building them day by day. So in 5 years when people are figuring out what business to go to by asking Alexa, your competitor with 600 reviews will be on top. While your 20 reviews puts you at the bottom.
Then you will have businesses that are taking advantage of the incredibly cheap facebook ad platform where you can engage with clients for a fraction of the cost of a TV or radio commercial. The businesses that are raising brand awareness become the cream of the crop.
If your businesses is putting its story in front of local customers, it will win. If Alexa gives you 3 results. Results 1 does facebook branding, result 2 and 3 do good at reviews but don’t use facebook, guess who gets the business?
The Real Kicker – It’s Cheap Right Now
Here’s the thing that is even better. It is not expensive to build reviews. It’s not expensive to get your business listed online and it’s not expensive to build a social media strategy. It’s generally cheap to build local social followers and its extremely cheap to create brand awareness ads on Facebook.
But be aware that this will change in 5 years. We are in the infancy period. Facebook was born in 2008. It didn’t start allowing ads until 2012. The first few years were limited to newsfeed and sidebar ads. Instagram ads didn’t come until 2016 and Facebook Messenger ads in 2017. We are just getting started.
Look at this screenshot, taken today, November 6, 2018. We are starting to see the big boys catch on. This screen shows GoDaddy and Citibank advertising. I still do not believe we are fully saturated by the big brands. We aren’t seeing Pepsi, Nike and hundreds of other big brands bidding on Facebook Ads. For now, these ad buyers still stick with the same dying television media ads. They buy archaic ads from their golf buddies on Madison Avenue. They still pay billions for TV commercials ($80 billion in 2018). Most people fast forward through them and see our clients’ facebook and instagram ads.
At some point they will slowly roll over and most of that $80 billion will be in online ads. Reaching 1000 people for $5-$10 won’t last forever. I use to buy Adwords for one of my websites for 5 cents. I remember being mad when I had to pay 30 cents per click. It stopped being profitable about $1 a click. Just looked a few seconds ago and those same keywords are $5-$8 per click now 15 years later. My guess is that in 5 years, Facebook brand awareness ads will cost $50-$100 to reach 1000 people and they will still be more effective than traditional media.
In other words, if you plan is to wait 1,2, 3 or 5 year to do your “brand building” you are going to lose because it’s a matter of reaching people. And it will get more expensive. I think in 20 years we are going to look back and laugh about how easy it was to be a build a brand in this time.
If you own a business and you want to find out how to get prepared for coming changes, then contact us using the form below. Our range of solutions go from incredibly inexpensive to dominating your local market. Whether you work with us or not, I encourage you to focus on building your online presence and take advantage of cheap brand building on social media.