There is a now infamous statistic among search marketers that 50% of all searches will be conducted by voice by 2020. This stat creates a distraction from the true opportunity for search marketers which is not actually voice search -- it is successful voice integration for brands.
In terms of SEO, I might be interested in ranking for voice search, but only as a vanity. If an electrician's webpage is the voice result for "Why is my power out?" it does not mean that company is landing more customers or making more money.
And what about conversational commerce? Isn't the promise that marketers and advertisers will be able to tap into Alexa's huge user base of fifty million people and make everything available for purchase, just by saying "Alexa, buy more toilet paper"? Well, not quite. Recent data shows that only 0.2% of that huge audience used their Echo for a voice-activated purchase more than once. Turns out people don't trust invisible robot assistants to get basic transactions right just yet.
When you segment it out, most people using voice search are giving commands and performing actions, not seeking information or buying things. This is where the actual opportunity lies.
Every product or service has the potential to be voice integrated using Google Actions or Alexa skills. This makes it possible to create conversation actions or smart home actions through internet of things technology. For example, if you are developing smart home lighting, you can integrate the controls directly with Google Assistant to control the lighting in your home by voice. Brands that tap into this early will be elevated from "they're providing a good or service" to "this is magical".
Think of my example with the electrician. Should an electrician try to rank for questions and answers? It seems that a better approach would be to create an interactive troubleshooter that walks their customers through some basic steps and solutions, then ends with a phone call to their business if the problem remains unresolved. In the earlier scenario, the electrician makes no additional revenue and does something neat. In the latter scenario, he helps people, makes money and does both in an innovative way.
Voice integration is a marketing strategy with huge potential, but just as electricity and high speed internet became commonplace and expected, so too will voice integration. The brands that get in early and do it right will have an edge over brands that do not; early adopters will have the benefit of being able to position their brand as the premiere brand in their field. This does not mean that you should jump in and create a skill for Alexa. Bandwagon marketing is not effective.
First, do your research. A good SEO analyst can dive into keyword data to discover the problems, frustrations and questions that people are searching online as it relates to your business. If you don't have a good SEO analyst handy, talk to your sales people. They have direct interaction with your customers every day and can tell you what they're complaining about. That is effective research as well.
Once you know the problems people are having as it relates to your niche or industry, then consider creating a voice activated solution to that problem. Most problems will not be solvable by voice integration, and that is okay. Take the problems that can be voice-solvable and create your "magic" moment.
Brett Elliott is a full-time SEO Analyst at Strategic America and Founder of White Chain SEO, a digital consultancy that provides turnkey SEO solutions and has a two-part mission: evangelize SEO to the uninitiated and advocate for a better industry by teaching white hat methods that work.