In recent days it's been hard to avoid the mysterious laughing Alexa. Headlines such as "Alexa's laughing at us" or "Amazon assistant Alexa not yet a domestic goddess" were shared on social media far and wide. Amazon customers shared videos of their voice-controlled home devices producing an unprovoked laugh, described as "creepy" and "spontaneous."
Amazon says it knows why this is happening. Apparently, on occasion, Alexa can mistakenly hear the words, "Alexa, laugh" when other words are spoken near it. In a statement they said they are going to disable the command and change it to "Alexa, can you laugh?" where she'll respond, "Sure, I can laugh." So I guess that's that.
All of this got me thinking about voice assistant devices in general. According to Alpine AI's January 2018 estimates, there are now over one billion voice searches across devices per month. With those kinds of numbers, your business should get involved. Some of the biggest brands are already ahead of the curve.
Voice activation is ideal for lazy nights and take-out food on the sofa. Dominos was quick off the mark, and in addition to ordering pizza via voice, you can now input your favorite Dominos pizza and have it remembered for future voice orders. Whirlpool responded to a different Alpine AI report which showed "home automation" as the second-most popular voice device feature by introducing home appliances operated by voice control.
Siri has been able to request Uber rides and updates since late 2016, and now this feature is available via Alexa and Google Home. Also since 2016, PayPal has made it possible to use Siri on an iPhone or iPad iOS 10 to send and request money from a contact with a voice command. Making this accessible in 30 countries, Siri connects with the PayPal app, pulling up a details sheet of the transaction before your authorization.
So, the big players are investing in voice and reaping the benefit. But all they do is sell products or services, just like your business. So if they are getting involved, what's stopping you?
Much like having an app or a mobile-first website, voice activation is another platform that you need to consider, and being found in a voice search is as crucial as being found on a mobile, tablet or desktop. Getting involved in voice needn't be complex. Here are three ways to get you started:
1. Alexa Skills Kit
Amazon has put together a brilliant guide to getting involved with voice. Much like building an app or a website, there are rules to follow and guidelines to consider. It includes their Voice Design Guide, which leads you through all the stages of the design process: Learn, Design, Build and Launch.
You'll need to consider the questions users will ask and the way your design will respond, and the guide includes a checklist to make sure your interaction feels natural, responds accurately and gives great service. Consider working with a Voice User Interface agency for more support.
If you're not ready to design your own voice interaction, then at the very least you need to make sure your business is showing up in voice search results. A great way to help make this happen is to make use of structured data called Schema markup.
Schema helps search engines understand the content of your website. When direct questions are being asked of the likes of Alexa, such as "Where can I buy a new laptop?" accurate schema markup will help your laptop business show up in search results. There's a brilliant tool for creating schema markup over at Microdata Generator and you can then check your data structure with Google.
3. Conversational content and understanding intent
Your content is crucial for success in voice search. Questions asked of the likes of Alexa and Siri are more structured than when we type. We speak as if to a friend or partner. Make sure your content is answering the questions searchers will ask in a natural way. Write conversational, informative content.
Try to understand the intent behind the query. If the user is asking about the differences between a Macbook and a Surface they may just be researching their purchase. If they are asking how much a Macbook costs then they are more intent on making a purchase.
Make sure your content includes long tail keywords that will have relevance to that intent. This longtail keyword generator can help you work these out.
Voice is here to stay. Make sure your brand gets heard.