In the 2018 election, I filled out my mail-in ballot, smartphone in hand, and I used Google to pull up a ballot guide from New Era Colorado. Halfway down the ballot, I remembered my Google Home Mini was in the room, and I thought to myself, “Is anyone asking Google Voice who they should vote for? And who would it suggest?”
So I asked. The answer I got led me to this conclusion: next cycle's campaigns ignore voice search at their peril.
As our adoption and dependency on voice search increase, they could have a huge effect on voters’ perceptions of candidates. Folks are beginning to innately trust Alexa’s voice as a subject matter expert.
A study on voice search found that 32 percent of consumers own a smart speaker, and adoption is trending up. The same study also found that of those consumers surveyed, 47 percent report using the devices for online searches and about the same number ask for the news. Since 2010, we’ve also seen aggregate voice search and queries increase 700 percent.
Now, given that a record $8.93 billion was spent on political advertising during these midterms, 22 percent of that going to digital, it’s safe to say that it’s safe to say that what’s coming next presidential cycle will be a deluge—making getting a message out even harder. In that environment, a smart speaker’s answer to a voter’s question could make or break a candidacy in a tight 2020 race.
While consumer brands are concerned about being the top result for “nearest coffee shop” or “best dish detergent,” campaign marketers need to be worried about a bigger question: “Alexa, who do I vote for?”
In the 2020 cycle, people will be asking these devices about candidates and ballot initiatives. So we should be asking: How can we make sure Alexa or Google Home is finding our ideas or our candidates first? Unlike search, there are no second answers. In Alexa’s case, you can’t scroll down results for an unbiased opinion. That’s just not how we interact with voice search.
To the undecided voter, Alexa’s answer will be the most important political endorsement of 2020 as they will be asking questions that compare candidates or ask for both sides of a ballot initiative. To increase the odds of Alexa or Google Home picking your source, SEO now needs to include conversational descriptions that cater to voice search algorithms. The art of SEO has a new discipline, and digital consultants should start practicing now.
In fact, business advertisers are already starting to use new strategies to make sure that voice search picks their site over another.
When devising a voice search strategy, know that Alexa and Google Home both heavily rely on Wikipedia for their search results. The lesson of this is simple: Wikipedia editors must be an integral part of every campaign’s communication and adverting strategy in 2020. Campaigns must ensure that their candidates are not the victims of edit trolls, that their platforms are up to date, and that they’re using language that favors the campaign.
Moreover, advertisers will be able to see voice search results in Google Analytics, and therefore know if voice search is pulling data and answers from their landing pages.
It’s only a matter of time until clients catch on and ask for how their pages and content are doing on voice search and digital consultants need to be ready to hand them the results they’re looking for.
When I asked Google Voice about the governor’s race in Colorado before the November vote, it answered with an article that compared the candidate’s stance on issues in the state. As groups and campaigns start planning for next cycle, they must be aware of voice search and tailor their digital strategies to meet this emerging and quickly growing household technological dependency.
Brian Young is digital director for ProgressNow Colorado, a comprehensive digital political communications agency. A version of this piece was first published on LinkedIn.