As more of us use voice search to do everything from checking the weather to doing the weekly food shop, it’s important for marketers to keep track of the customer journey to the checkout. Rhea Hall-Spencer, Head of Demand Generation for ResponseTap, explains what voice search looks like right now and where call tracking can slot into the story. 

It seems that everyone is using voice search now, with the popularity of voice assistants soaring in recent years. In fact, according to Ofcom, around one in five UK households had a smart speaker in their home in 2019 – that’s 5.5 million homes. 

But these devices have been in the making for a while. The Google Voice Search app for iOS was launched back in 2008. Two years later, Google released personalized voice recognition on Android devices, and Siri was first released as a standalone app by a startup and bought by Apple a few months later. 

So, for just over a decade, smartphone users have been able to search by voice, putting their queries to the device in the palm of their hand. When it comes to this type of search, where are we now? And where does call tracking fit in? 

How popular is voice search? 

More and more people are using voice search to find what they’re looking for, with 65% of American 25 to 49-year-olds speaking to their voice-enabled devices at least once per day, according to PwC. Meanwhile, global strategy consultants OC&C estimate that over £4 billion will be spent here in the UK through voice commerce by 2022.  

It was widely circulated that 50% of searches would be by voice search in 2020. While we may not be there yet, there is still a significant number putting their queries to their smart speaker and their voice-activated personal assistants. And that means we need to be aware of the way we are searching in the 2020s.

How did we get here? 

In 2013 – the year that Hummingbird, Google’s semantic search algorithm update came into play – Amit Singhal, the head of Google’s search rankings team, said: “The destiny of Google’s search engine is to become that Star Trek computer, and that’s what we are building.” This reference has been much quoted since then and in the years that have passed it seems that the progress made by the search giant has led to his prediction almost becoming a reality. 

Google has been adapting and updating to incorporate voice search for a while now. The most significant shift was the introduction of the ‘featured snippet’ – or Position 0. This is the content that Google offers at the top of the search results page as a direct answer to a full question. 

Voice queries average 29 words in length, according to a study by Backlinko. So, when we use voice search, we’re asking full questions and being conversational rather than typing in specific keywords into the browser. Therefore, the featured snippet is designed to quickly provide the answer the searcher is looking for  

For brands, this has meant a shift in how they present on-page content. The keywords are in the form of question and answer phrases and the aim is for brands to be seen as answering those questions early in the search results so users will choose them. 

Where does call tracking fit in? 

You’ve probably already reworked your campaigns to account for this rise in voice search. It’s likely that you’ve spent time rewording landing pages and marketing collateral. However, have you been working on inbound call strategies that address the shift to voice search? 

Like asking Siri what the weather is like today, consumers are using their smart speakers to call brands directly. This means that there’s an opportunity here for marketers to rethink how they optimize their campaigns for this type of communication. When customers want to call for the service near them, you want your clients to be the first number they dial.   

To help you chart the progress of this journey, call tracking can be essential. If you are already using call tracking, you’ll know that you can find out how the customer reached the number before dialing, and this is true of voice search. You can use dynamic call tracking tools to see the campaign messages customers saw to persuade them to make the call via their smart speaker. 

Keyword-level call tracking comes into play here. By inputting and tracking key phrases that customers might ask on their journey to the phone conversation with your brand, you can measure the success of your inbound calls via voice search. 

You can chart how the customer arrived at the phone call, what they asked their device to reach you, and report on this afterwards to help form and shape future campaigns. 

Is voice search the future?

By incorporating voice search into your inbound call strategy, you are in a great position to create a full picture of the customer journey. This focus on voice is potentially tapping into one-fifth of the UK who have and use their smart speaker – a huge number of potential customers that you can direct your campaigns at.  

When it comes to how to use call tracking to successfully tap into this customer base, it’s worth investing in robust call tracking software. This can open up new opportunities for you and shape the way campaigns look in the coming years as voice search continues to rise in popularity.