5 Ways Consumers Interact With Smart Speakers

Voice-enabled search has been a growing force in digital media over the past couple of years and has now reached critical mass thanks to smartphones and smart speakers. In fact, comScore estimates 50 percent of all searches will be voice-based by next year. Like the transition to a mobile-first search landscape before it, voice search seems like the next big thing for advertisers.

With a 40 percent jump in ownership last year alone, smart speakers are making a dramatic impact on consumer behavior as users search for information, consume content and even shop in more natural and frictionless ways. This presents a viable opportunity to connect with consumers that brands can’t afford to pass up. But, before brands can start implementing strategies to connect with smart speaker users, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how these devices work and how people use them. In this blog we’ll take a look at:

  • How smart speakers and voice-enabled digital assistants work and who the major players in the market are.
  • The pace of smart speaker adoption.
  • How consumers are using smart speakers.

Smart speakers and voice-enabled digital assistants

Smart speakers are stand-alone hardware devices that provide voice-enabled digital guidance. They’re powered by digital assistants – AI-powered software that responds to voice commands. Examples of this software include Alexa (Amazon), Assistant (Google), Siri (Apple), Bixby (Samsung) and Cortana (Microsoft). You can find these digital assistants on a variety of devices other than smart speakers like phones, desktops/laptops, tablets, TVs, smart home devices, wearables, etc.

There are a variety of smart speakers available today, but the market is dominated by two major players – the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. Amazon Echo remains the most popular although Google Home has been closing the gap in recent months. Each company has a variety of options stemming from their main device.

Smart speaker adoption rates

According to eMarketer, nearly a quarter of the U.S. population, more than 77 million people, are smart speaker users. ClickZ estimates ownership will surge to 55 percent by 2022.

To illustrate just how quickly consumers are adopting smart speakers, consider this:

  • Smart speakers account for about 69 percent of voice assistant users. (It’s important to note there is significant overlap with voice assistant usage on smart speakers as well as smartphones and other devices.)
  • April 2019 research by Microsoft found 41 percent of smart speaker owners own two or more speakers.

So, no, smart speakers aren’t just a passing fad. Voice control is the next phase in the evolution of human-machine interaction. For advertisers, ignoring the power of smart speakers now would be akin to shrugging off the opportunity presented by smartphones audiences in 2011. To get prepared to reach smart speaker audiences, it’s important that brands understand how people are using these devices.

5 ways consumers interact with their smart speakers

In the same way that people use their phones differently, smart speaker owners use the devices in a variety of ways. Since smart speakers remain a burgeoning product, users are still learning all the things they can do with them. Simultaneously, the makers of these devices regularly push out updates so new functionality is available almost every day.

Let’s look at five common ways consumers are interacting with their smart speakers today.

No. 1: Consumers use smart speakers to facilitate daily tasks

Many smart speaker users have integrated the devices into their daily routines, relying on their Echo or Home to facilitate a number of daily tasks. For example, by saying “Alexa, good morning” users can trigger a sequence of events to start their day like turning on the lights and having Alexa read the news or review their calendar for the day.

This ability to set up Routines has a variety of other uses like turning the TV on and off, locking the door and controlling a variety of smart home functionalities. Outside of the home, smart speakers can also be used to make other daily tasks easier – like grocery shopping. Echo users can put together their shopping lists using their voice without having to stop and write everything out. When they get to the store, they can just pull out their phones, open the app and the list is right there for them.

No. 2: Consumers interact with smart speakers more naturally than other devices

Voice search in general and voice-enabled speakers specifically illicit more natural communication from users than other digital devices. People treat their smart speakers less like a device and more like a companion. This relationship has even inspired the term “e-lative” (electronic relative).

According to Google:

Fifty-three percent of people who own a voice-activated speaker said it feels natural speaking to it, with many saying it feels like talking to a friend. Several respondents told us they’re saying “please” and “thank you” to their devices—something we’ve also seen in Google Home queries.

Understanding this more natural method of communication can help brands develop content that aligns with how users interact with their smart speakers and conduct voice searches. Developing content to reach these users will require a more conversational tone than the keyword-focused content brands have historically created for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

To improve results for the longer, more conversational queries consumers are using, Google recently rolled out a significant change to its core search algorithm that enables contextual understanding. Rather than focusing on individual keywords, each word is now processed in relation to all the other words in the search query.

Related – How Multi-Location Brands Can Optimize Websites for Voice Search Results

No. 3: Consumers rely on voice-enabled speakers for entertainment

While smart speakers can help users complete a variety of tasks, one of their main functions is entertainment. Nearly 80 percent of smart speaker owners use their device to play music or read. About 73 percent ask their smart speaker questions (excluding weather, news and traffic related inquiries). Words like “how”, “what”, “where” and “can” are among the top 25 keywords used in search queries.

No. 4: Consumers turn to voice-enabled speakers to find information quickly

It’s all about speed and convenience. Finding information without having to pull out a phone or open a laptop is a major selling point for smart speaker owners. According to PwC, 65 percent of 25-49-year-olds speak to their voice-enabled devices at least once a day. Many users consider searching with their voice to be more efficient and natural than traditional search.

While a significant percentage of this research is looking for general information that doesn’t contain a lot of buying intent (e.g., “how many cups are in a quart,” “what’s the weather going to be like today,” etc.), consumers do turn to smart speakers to research and make purchase decisions.

Smart speakers’ growing role in purchase decisions means brands will need to refine their SEO strategies to compete in a landscape that no longer offers the luxury of ten search results.

No. 5: Consumers use smart speakers to shop but buying is limited

Although about 40 percent of U.S. smart speaker owners have used them to shop, including researching products or putting them in an online shopping cart, only about 27 percent actually complete a purchase. However, buying is expected to increase as consumers become more comfortable and confident with voice interfaces.

This post was originally published in April 2018; it has been updated with new information to help you keep up with trends in smart speaker usage.

Related article: 5 Ways Your Brand Can Use Content Marketing to Connect With Smart Speaker Users

[Guide]: Voice Search Marketing – How to Reach Smart Speaker Users

Our Voice Search Marketing Guide can help your brand connect with consumers conducting voice searches on their smart speakers.

Download this guide to learn:

  • What smart speakers are and how these devices work.
  • How many people are using their smart speakers.
  • How consumers are using these devices to help them make purchases.
  • What you need to do to reach consumers on their smart speakers.

Marketing to Consumers on Smart Speakers - featured & social image

Voice search and smart speakers

Voice-enabled search has been a growing force in digital media and search marketing for the past few years. By 2020, it’s estimated that 50 percent of searches will be conducted by voice. Like the transition to a mobile-first search landscape before it, voice search seems to be the next big thing for marketers.

Similar to how smartphones disrupted marketing strategies a decade ago, voice-activated smart speakers are poised to dramatically change the way brands connect with consumers. Smart speaker adoption is growing rapidly and users are increasingly leaning on these devices to help them research purchase decisions. If your brand hasn’t started implementing strategies to reach these consumers, now is the time to start.

An overview of smart speakers and voice-enabled digital assistants

Smart speakers: Hardware devices powered by digital assistants that provide voice assistance to users.

Examples include:

  • Amazon’s Echo devices
  • Google’s Home devices
  • Apple’s HomePod

Digital assistants:

AI-powered software found in smart speakers that responds to voice commands.

Examples include:

  • Alexa (Amazon)
  • Assistant (Google)
  • Siri (Apple)

Who is using smart speakers

Smart speakers are far from reaching market saturation, but people are jumping on the bandwagon quickly. In 2018, more than 45 million people will use a smart speaker in the United States – that’s triple the number of users from 2016.

Smart speaker users (in millions)

Smart speaker users (in millions)

Amplify your marketing campaigns

Are you looking for solutions to help your brand connect with the growing number of smart speaker users? Mindstream Media Group is a full-solution media agency that can amplify your brand’s message across a variety of channels with customized marketing strategies and media solutions.

Search Engine Optimization

We increase your brand’s presence on top search engines by optimizing technical elements and copy on your site.

Local Listings Management

We deliver your brand’s location data across local platforms to reach the right consumers at the right times.

Content Marketing

We connect your brand to target audiences using a variety of engaging, relevant and informative content pieces.

Contact Mindstream Media Group to see how we can Fast-Forward Your Business.

Technical SEO Strategies to Boost Your Ranking in Smart Speaker Searches

This is the third post in our series detailing how brands can connect with smart speaker users. If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 of the series for an introduction to smart speakers and voice search, and Part 2 to learn how brands can use content marketing to reach voice searchers.

Voice search results, especially those conducted on smart speakers, are extremely competitive. Unlike mobile or desktop results, voice searches on smart speakers only serve up one result – i.e., “Position Zero.” To paraphrase the great Ricky Bobby: for smart speaker searches, “if you ain’t first, you’re last.”

In this winner-takes-all playing field, your brand needs to be on top of your SEO game if you want to reach smart speaker users. It’s not enough to be good, your site’s SEO and content have to be the best.

Luckily, if you’ve already started implementing desktop and mobile SEO best practices, you’re off to a great start. According to a study from Backlinko on Google Home search ranking factors, three-fourths of voice search results ranked in the top three positions in desktop searches. This correlation suggests optimizing your site for voice search doesn’t require a completely new SEO strategy; it just means taking your existing one to a new level.

Related: Ranking Factors in Google Home Results

To help you in this endeavor, here are five technical SEO strategies you can implement (or improve upon) to increase your website’s ranking in voice search results on smart speakers.

No. 1: Improve your backlink profile

The quality and quantity of a site’s backlinks (incoming links from other sites) are major ranking factors for Google’s desktop and mobile search results. To evaluate the strength of backlink profiles, Ahrefs developed the Domain Authority metric to determine the likelihood of a website ranking well in search results based on links.

Backlinko looked at the domain authority of sites appearing in Google Home results and “discovered that the average Domain Authority of a voice search result was 76.8. Needless to say to anyone that works in the SEO industry, this is a considerably high DR.”

Average Domain Authority of Google Home search results

Average domain rating of voice search result page

What you can do to improve your backlink profile

Here’s the good news: there’s no shortage of ways to increase the quality and quantity of backlinks to your site. The bad news: the most effective ways are all time-consuming. Since backlinks are such an important ranking factor across search results, it’s not something you can ignore.

Here are some tips to start improving your backlink profile:

  • Publish great content that other sites find valuable and want to link to. This could include guides, infographics, information-rich blog posts, etc.
  • Create content for other sites that link back to your site. There are a lot of reputable publishers with high authority domains that allow blog contributors. Identify these sites and start reaching out to see if they’ll let you contribute. Make sure to link back to your site but don’t force it, these should be natural links the site’s readers find valuable.
  • Clean up your existing links. Low-quality or spammy links do more damage than good for your site. These could include links from website comment sections, links with over-optimized anchor text, links from countries that are outside your audience base, etc.
  • Hire a pro. If you don’t have the time or someone with a strong SEO background on your team, it may be best to outsource this work (especially the backlink cleanup).

No. 2: Increase your website’s page speed

Search engines have long stressed the importance of page speed and Google has used it to determine desktop search rankings for a while. Earlier this year, Google announced that starting in July 2018 page speed will be also be ranking factor for mobile searches.

It makes sense that Google would carry this commitment to speed over to voice search. For Google Home searches, Backlinko discovered that the average voice search result page loads much faster than the average webpage.

For Google Home search result pages:

  • The average Time to First Byte (TTFB) of a voice search result was .54 seconds (vs. the worldwide average of 2.1 seconds).
  • The time it took for a search result page to load completely (4.6 seconds) was significantly faster than most pages (8.8 seconds).

Average page load times – Google Home results vs. average webpages

Page load time - voice search results vs average webpage

What you can do to improve page speed

The first step is to find out how your website’s current page speed score. Run your URL through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. This will give you speed and optimization scores for both the mobile and desktop version of your site.

Sometimes the tool isn’t able to return a page speed score. In this case, you can run a synthetic performance audit to estimate page speed. To access this report, open Chrome Developer tools by clicking the three dots in the upper right-hand corner > More tools > Developer tools (or you can save some time by just selecting Control/Command+Shift+I).

How to open developer tools in Google Chrome

These tools will not only give you an idea of the speed of your site, you’ll also get a list of items specific to your website to improve. Your next steps depend a lot on those results, but Google points to two factors that are the most important to a site’s speed scores.

  • Render blocking round trips: the round trips required to deliver render blocking resources. If most resources from a page are render blocking, PageSpeed Insights considers a page to have large optimization headroom. The developer could investigate Avoid Landing Page Redirects, Eliminate Render-blocking JavaScript and CSS, Leverage Browser Caching, Prioritize visible content and Reduce Server Response Time rules for optimization.
  • Response size: the total size of the response, including HTML main resources and all subresources. If most of the response body could be eliminated by compression or minification, PageSpeed Insights considers a page to have large optimization headroom. The developer could investigate Enable Compression, Minify Resources and Optimize Images rules for optimization.

No. 3: Secure your site with HTTPS

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is an internet protocol that protects data between the user’s computer and a website. Google called for “HTTPS everywhere” on the web and started using it as a ranking signal all the way back in 2014.

According to Google, HTTPS provides three key layers of protection:

  • Encryption – encrypting the exchanged data to keep it secure from eavesdroppers. That means that while the user is browsing a website, nobody can “listen” to their conversations, track their activities across multiple pages or steal their information.
  • Data integrity – data cannot be modified or corrupted during transfer, intentionally or otherwise, without being detected.
  • Authentication – proves that your users communicate with the intended website. It protects against man-in-the-middle attacks and builds user trust, which translates into other business benefits.

In general, it’s just a good idea to use HTTPS to protect your site visitors’ data, the improved search rankings are just an added bonus. As a general ranking factor, HTTPS should help your presence for search results on any device, but it may have a significant impact for searches on Google Home. According to Backlinko, 70 percent of Google Home result pages were secured with HTTPS vs. 50 percent of all Google’s desktop result pages.

What you need to do to migrate to HTTPS

First, determine if your site uses the HTTPS or HTTP protocol. This is a lot easier than finding page speed. Just open your home page and see if the URL at the top starts with “https://” or “http://” – if you do this in Chrome, you will also see a lock icon and the word “Secure” before the URL.

How to determine if your site uses HTTPS

If your site already uses HTTPS, congrats! You’re good to go.

If you’re still using HTTP, we’ve got a little work to do. This can be a very involved process that may require your IT team or an outside SEO agency.

Here’s overview of the steps you’ll need to take according to Google:

  • Obtain a security certificate from a reliable certificate authority (CA) that offers technical support.
  • Decide the kind of certificate you need:
    • Single certificate for single secure origin (e.g., www.example.com).
    • Multi-domain certificate for multiple well-known secure origins (e.g., www.example.com, cdn.example.com, example.co.uk).
    • Wildcard certificate for a secure origin with many dynamic subdomains (e.g., a.example.com, b.example.com).
  • Use server-side 301 redirects to send users and search engines to the HTTPS page.
  • Support HSTS which tells the browser to request HTTPS pages automatically, even if the user enters HTTP in the browser location bar. It also tells Google to serve secure URLs in the search results.

No. 4: Add structured data to your site

Even though Backlinko’s study found very little correlation between structured data and voice search rankings, this is still a valuable strategy for any type of search result. Adding structured data helps Google understand your website’s content, organize the information and match it to a searcher’s intent.

Here’s a little more detail from Google on structured data:

Google Search works hard to understand the content of a page. You can help us by providing explicit clues about the meaning of a page by including structured data. Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.

What you can do to add structured data to your site

There are a lot of different types of information you can optimize with structured data to help search engines understand your site’s content. You can use a structured data vocabulary like Schema Markup to identify attributes like recipes, products, articles, people, organization, location information, etc. Just find the code you need on schema.org and follow the instructions to add it to your webpages.

Here’s an example of website content without any markup:

Website content without structured data

There’s really no way for a search engine to distinguish that information from any other configuration of letters and numbers on the page. By adding structured data, search engines can understand those numbers and letters represent key pieces of information like the company’s local address, phone number and email address.

Here’s what that same content looks like to search engines after adding structured data:

Website content with structured data

As an example of how this works, Google has guidelines to help webmasters markup recipes to help searchers find them on Google Home. Using structured data, you can specify attributes like reviewer rating, cooking times and nutritional information.

According to Google, pages are eligible to appear for different search features depending on what structured data you add to a page.

  • Search: add recipe structured data to drive better engagement with rich results.
  • Guidance: enable your recipes to be read aloud by the Google Assistant on Google Home.
  • Carousel: add carousel structured data to enable your recipe to appear in a carousel of rich results. This can include images, page logos, and other interesting search result features.
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): Build your recipe pages with AMP to provide instant-loading recipes.

Getting started

These tips are just a starting point, there’s a lot more you can – and should – do to help your site’s ranking in search results. We know not all of these strategies are easy to implement and might take more time and resources that many marketing teams have available.

Need help increasing your site’s presence across voice, mobile or desktop search results? Contact Mindstream Media Group to learn more.

5 Ways Your Brand Can Use Content Marketing to Connect with Smart Speaker Users

Welcome to the second post in our series on how brands can reach smart speaker owners. In the first post, we provided some background on smart speakers and voice search in general. In this post, we’ll start diving into specific strategies brands can employ to connect with smart speaker users. 

An increasing number of smart speaker owners and the rising popularity of voice search have made it crucial for brands to implement strategies to reach these growing audiences. This will require a comprehensive digital marketing approach involving content creation, search engine optimization (SEO), paid advertising, app/skill development and more.

Consumers and smart speaker devices are in a honeymoon phase of sorts, still trying to define the relationship and how best to use the device. In general, smart speaker owners want the devices to automate tasks, help them find information and make their lives easier. As that relationship evolves, brands like yours will need to keep up with how consumers are using smart speakers.

Related – Check out our latest infographic to learn more about how smart speaker owners are using their devices

For now, when consumers do turn to smart speakers to learn about products and services, it’s important that your brand is there to provide the information they need. To accomplish this, let’s look at five strategies to create content for smart speaker audiences.

No. 1: Create the type of content that users want

Some of the most popular ways consumers use smart speakers don’t really present much of an opportunity for brands. Activities like playing music, setting timers and checking the weather aren’t really suited for most brands to create content that connects with users. However, there’s a variety of information smart speaker owners have said they would like to receive from brands.

What smart speaker owners would like from brands

What smart speaker owners would like to receive from brands

Source: Google

No. 2: Create content that matches the way users interact with smart speakers

Going a step further, it’s important not just to deliver the type of content smart speakers users want, brands also need to provide that content in the right tone and voice. By that, I don’t mean swapping out the tranquil rhythm of Alexa’s standard voice with the aggressively-loud pitch of Gordon Ramsay or the awkwardly-suggestive tone of Rebel Wilson; I mean creating content that matches how users interact with smart speakers.

Users tend to interact differently with smart speakers than other digital devices like smartphones and computers. According to Google, 53 percent of people who own a voice-activated speaker said it feels natural speaking to it, with 41 percent saying it feels like talking to a friend or another person.

When consumers use voice search on any device, natural interaction remains the norm. Almost 70 percent of requests to the Google Assistant – which runs on Google Home, smartphones, cars and other devices – are expressed in natural language, not the typical keywords people would use when typing out a search.

This leads to a style of communication that is more natural, conversational and informal – which impacts how digital assistants determine voice search results. A study analyzed 10,000 Google Home searches and found that the average search result was content written at a ninth-grade reading level.

So, if you’re creating content designed to reach smart speaker users, don’t be afraid to be more colloquial, use more rudimentary verbiage and definitely avoid using words like colloquial and rudimentary.

Related – How Multi-Location Brands Can Optimize for Voice Search

No. 3: Create more audio content

When creating content for smart speaker devices, brands should remember the inherent role these devices play – speakers. One way your brand can provide audio content is by starting a branded podcast. Talk about general interest topics that are germane to your industry and provide consumers the information they need to make purchase decisions related to your products and services.

Smart speaker owners

Smart Speaker audiences are consuming more audio content

No. 4: Create high-quality content

This should really go without saying, but if your brand wants to reach smart speaker owners and persuade them to become customers, it’s important that the content you put out is high-quality, relevant and engaging. This is especially true if your brand is looking to rank in the top spot in voice searches (which is crucial given there’s only one result).

Let’s go back to that study mentioned above that analyzed Google Home searches. The study found that the average domain rating of a voice search result was an impressive 76.8 and higher domain ratings are associated with a higher likelihood of ranking well in search results.

Domain rating is determined, in part, by how many quality incoming links a website has from other sites, and links are considered to be one of the most important (if not the most important) factor in search engine rankings.

Search engines see incoming links as votes of confidence for a website since other site owners must think the content is interesting and/or authoritative or they wouldn’t link to it. So, publishing high-quality content increases the chances of getting other sites to link to your pages which leads to higher rankings in search results.

Great content also generates social engagement. While Google has said that social signals don’t factor into their rankings, there’s definitely a strong correlation between the social engagement of a content piece and its performance in voice search results. This correlation is evident by the average number of Facebook and Twitter shares of voice search results. (For comparison, half the content on the web gets two Facebook shares or less.)

Average social shares for voice search result pages

No. 5: Create long-form, in-depth content

For years, a common SEO strategy was to create individual pages for each topic in hopes of ranking for keywords that were exclusive to that subject. However, this practice may not be the most effective at reaching voice searchers.

To understand why, let’s go back to that Google Home search study. The researchers of that study found the average word count of a Google voice search result is more than 2,300 words. On top of that, the study concluded that using specific keywords in a page’s title tag had very little influence on search rankings.

So, what does all of this mean?

For voice search results, this means it may be more effective to create webpages that cover multiple subjects and satisfy a variety of potential queries. The study presented a reasonable explanation for this reverse in SEO best practices:

Approximately 20 percent of all mobile searches are now voice searches (and according to Comscore, 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020). With so many voice searches, it’s impossible for Google to find a page dedicated to every query. Instead, Google explores the entire page for the best match for that particular voice search.

Luckily, brands don’t have to recreate the wheel to develop more comprehensive pages. In fact, a lot of websites already host pages that accomplish this goal – FAQ pages. For Google Home searches, 2.7 percent of results were FAQ pages. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s almost double the percentage of FAQ results in desktop searches.

Search results that are FAQ pages

FAQ pages as search results


FAQ pages answer a variety of specific questions making it very easy for search engines to understand the page’s content and present responses via voice search results. Also, FAQs are a great way to offer quick answers while also linking out to other pages on your site to provide more in-depth information. So, if your brand has already created a lot of hyper-specific pages, don’t toss them in the trash. Instead, just link to them from more comprehensive pages. That way, you’ll be covered for voice search and standard search results.

Want to create great content pieces to improve your brand’s performance in voice search results? Contact Mindstream Media Group to learn how our Content Marketing solution can help.

Subscribe to our blog for upcoming posts on strategies for reaching smart speaker users.

[Infographic]: Smart Speakers: The Rise of the Machines

Smart speakers have steadily increased in popularity in recent years making these devices a prime opportunity for brands to connect with consumers. To make this connection, it’s important for brands to understand how people are using smart speakers.

Download our free infographic to learn:

  • How many people are using smart speakers
  • How people are using their smart speakers to carry out daily tasks
  • How people are using their smart speakers to shop for products and services

This infographic is a part of our series on how brands can connect with consumers through smart speakers.

Subscribe to our blog for more strategies on how to optimize your brand’s presence to reach smart speaker users.

Infographic sources:

  • eMarketer, “Voice-Enabled Technology StatPack: Current Forecasts for Digital Assistants and Speakers,” August 2017
  • Google/Peerless Insights, “Voice-Activated Speakers: People’s Lives are Changing,” August 2017
  • MarketWatch via Adobe Analytics, January 2018
  • NPR and Edison Research, “The Smart Audio Report,” December 2017