Are Voice Assistants Helping Your Brand?

by | Apr 4, 2019 | Amazon, Google, Resources | 0 comments

Edison Research and Triton Digital have released the 2019 findings for the adoption of mobile devices, social media services, and online audio in their 2019 Infinite Dial report. According to the report, smart speaker ownership has seen tremendous growth and it is only expected to grow more.

Two years ago, only 7% of study participants reported owning a smart speaker. Today, that number has grown to 23%. Furthermore, 26% of today’s participants own 3 or more smart devices, while only 11% owned multiple devices in 2018 (Peckham, 2019). As more consumers adopt smart speakers and utilize voice assistants, a new marketing frontier is flourishing before our eyes. However, this fruitful and exciting frontier isn’t as straightforward or navigable as many brands would like it to be.

When it comes to connecting with consumers via a smart speaker, brands must confront increased competition, consumer complacency, and content optimization. Fortunately, with the proper strategy in place, a brand can take advantage of this booming market.

Implementing a Smart Speaker Strategy

Direct Agents has continued to monitor how consumers are adopting smart speaker technology and we have modified our clients’ strategies to capitalize on the smart speaker market. Working with a challenger in the pet care space, our SEO team performed keyword research in order to identify quick answer opportunities for blog content that would convert to voice search queries. Direct Agents’ content marketing team designed blog posts to answer these queries; optimizing the titles and formatting the content of each post to be easily selected and read by a voice assistant. From the actual content to onsite HTML, each blog post targeted the voice search position. The three blog posts with the quickest answers represented 79% of total blog sessions, showing the growing importance of voice search in organic visibility as more people use smart speakers, voice assistants and voice search.

Increased Competition

At the moment, most brands are focusing on Alexa Skills and Google Actions in order to interact with consumers. As of January, there are a total of 4,253 Google Actions and 60,000 Alexa Skills (Kinsella, 2019). However, those totals are growing day by day.

In terms of utility, Skills and Actions are critical tools. They put the “assist” in virtual assistant. Given the usefulness of Alexa Skills and Google Actions, the space is only becoming more crowded. Not only are brands competing with other brands to build Skills and Actions, but brands are competing with users creating their own Skills and Actions.

According to Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land, “Google and Amazon are trying to make it very easy to create voice apps. Google offers templates for actions. Similarly, Alexa Skills Blueprints now enable anyone to create a Skill ‘in minutes’ without code and then publish them to the Alexa Skills store. This is great for democratizing app development but may ultimately be bad for the platform if it adds more mediocre apps and noise” (Sterling, 2019). 

If Sterling is correct about the impending onslaught of mediocre apps and noise, brands must create a skill or action that users deliberately seek out and add to his or her device. Until a brand builds an app that is not only useful but considered essential by the consumer, the biggest brands benefiting from voice assistants in terms of presence and interaction are the makers of voice assistants themselves, i.e. Google and Amazon. 

Consumer Complacency

]Another challenge facing brands is consumer complacency. Both Amazon and Google are having trouble getting Echo and Home users to discover and add new apps to their devices (Del Rey, 2017). Rather than using new Skills or Actions, many consumers are using capabilities already accessible on the device. Additionally, even when a user adds a Skill or Action, they are likely to become inactive after a certain period of time. As Jason Del Rey writes, “What’s more, when developers for Alexa and its competitor, Google Assistant, do get someone to enable a voice app, there’s only a 3 percent chance, on average, that the person will be an active user by week 2” (Del Rey, 2017). 

Though interacting with voice assistants and smart devices is becoming the norm, how we are interacting with brands hasn’t radically changed to fit the medium. According to Adobe, the top five uses for voice assistants are music, weather, fun questions, online search, and alarms (Molla, 2018). You listen to music, you listen to the weather forecast, you listen to an answer when it is read aloud, and you hear your alarm going off. None of these require much of an overhaul to be successful on a voice assistant. As a result, brands with an inherent listening element, such as a broadcasting or streaming services, are benefitting the most from voice assistants. One brand that has seen impressive results from voice assistant use is NPR. 

Meg Goldthwaite, Chief Marketing Officer of NPR, writes, “This past year (2018), smart speaker streaming has helped drive an 8 percent increase in the number of hours that people listen to digital broadcasts…Between 2014 and 2018, the audience for NPR podcasts more than doubled, to 130 million downloads by 16 million users each month” (Goldwaithe, 2018). Thanks to voice technology, NPR, which has been around for almost 50 years, is seeing a new wave of enthusiasm and reaching younger audience segments without major heavy lifting. 

For the many brands that don’t have an inherent listening element, sponsoring a radio program or purchasing ad placements can help them achieve cut-through. In the case of NPR, “…88 percent of NPR’s podcast listeners say they’ve taken action because of a sponsor announcement—from seeing a movie to checking out a financial planning app to visiting a website—and 80 percent of NPR podcast listeners say they hold a more positive opinion of brands that support NPR” (Goldthwaite, 2018). By sponsoring a podcast or advertising on a streaming service, brands can encourage listeners to buy their product or service, and perhaps even download their Skill or Action.

Content Optimization

So if the best way to connect with consumers is through creating a Skill or Action, but consumers are primarily using voice assistants’ off-the-shelf capabilities, what else can brand a do?

For starters, a brand can optimize its website content. “Updating search keywords to reflect how people actually talk, offering more web content in general, and beefing up brand FAQs so that they accurately answer queries customers might ask” will not only allow your brand to provide assistance by answering a user’s question, but it can reach those voice assistant owners that haven’t added any Skills or Actions (Molla, 2018). Furthermore, it is a great way for challenger brands to compete with market leaders.

Since users are mainly asking voice assistants to play music, predict the weather, and answer questions, it is fair to say they aren’t really an extension of your brand at the moment. However, that’s not to say they won’t be in the future. In the meantime, repurposing your current content and writing with voice in mind is a great strategy to implement.

Our SEO team and Amazon team at Direct Agents specialize in voice search and optimization. If you are interested in how our experts can help you, reach out to us directly at


– Madison Herring, SEO copywriter