Voice Search & PPC: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Make some space in your search marketing strategy this year, because we’ve got new roommates. Google, Siri, Alexa and Cortana have infiltrated the homes of our users and it appears that they are here to stay. Over the span of just a few years, voice search has boomed, with voice assistants practically flying off the shelves. It’s predicted that 50% of all searches will be voice by 2020. While this new technology is very exciting, it’s impossible to ignore the impact this will have on pay per click advertising.

Dictated Search Vs. Pure Voice Search

Before we delve into the nitty gritty of voice search, we want to make a clear distinction. When we talk about voice search, we’re talking about screen-less searching.

Many people confuse voice with dictated search: asking Siri or Google a question on your phone. Doing so pulls a list of results you can view on your screen and is therefore not a pure, screen-less voice search.

dictated SERP Make It Rain

Strategizing your online campaigns for dictated search is similar to voice search strategy, as users employ much more conversational language than they do while browsing on a search engine.

The key to dictated search strategies, is to think about the intent of your customers, and aim to answer their questions in your ads.

There are loads of cool tools to help with ideas for long tail keyword phrases and volumes, Storybase is our personal favorite (no, this isn’t a sponsored post – we just like them). It’s a great tool to brainstorm what you should be bidding on in your PPC campaigns.

For more info on optimizing for dictated search, get in touch! We’d love to chat about how we can help.

Voice Search Landscape

AI Learning Effecting PPC

Now that we’ve clarified what exactly we mean by “voice search,” let’s dive into the topic.

Using virtual assistants is a somewhat new concept, and Alexa doesn’t have all the answers just yet. This year, marketers will pave the way with new strategies for using PPC for voice search, as consumers find new ways to incorporate it into their lives.

Though we’ve titled this article ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,’ we prefer to deliver the bad news first. So brace yourself for some uncomfortable facts:

The Bad

As AI technology improves and voice assistants grow smarter, more and more users across the globe are switching to screen-less searching. No screens, means no chance for searchers to see your company’s organic or paid results.

AI voice assistants Make It Rain PPC

We’ve put together a list of alarming stats to outline just how scary the situation is for PPC managers in the near future:

-Over 60 million people in the US are reported to be using digital assistants. By 2020, experts predict that 30% of web browsing will be screen-less.

65% of people who own an Amazon Echo or Google Home reported that they can’t imagine going back to the days before they had their smart device.

-In fact, 47% expect their voice technology usage to increase. People are beginning to view their voice-activated speakers as helpful friends, and as an essential part of their lives.

The devices have spoken: we can no longer ignore this threat to our PPC campaigns.

Ai Sophia GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

There is some positivity to this scenario though. Microsoft’s Purna Virii weighed in with some of her practical wisdom:

“While there will be a shift away from screens, voice won’t kill screens – just like mobile didn’t kill desktop.”

There may be an initial drop off of paid searches while the excitement of virtual assistants takes over, but people won’t just give up screen searches all together. While their contributions will be cut, mobile and desktop will continue to play a crucial role in the user search journey.

As voice searches continue to grow, new ad platforms will develop – offering new opportunities to advertise on the devices people speak to throughout all aspects of their lives. PPC marketers will be forced to evolve, or become irrelevant.


The Good

Call us optimists, but us Make-It-Rain’ers actually view voice search as mostly a positive for the paid search world. With any shakeup in the industry, changes mean new opportunities. PPC managers can no longer rest on the laurels of our keyword success. We’re going to be forced to think outside the box, and inside our users’ minds.

As online marketers, our goal has always been to provide the easiest possible way for your customers to find what they are looking for. We aim to make life easier for consumers and clients alike, by bridging the gap and connecting a need with a fulfillment.

To create a successful voice strategy, you’ll have to go back to the basics and analyze how people are searching for what they need. User intent is going to become the key focus for PPC campaigns tailored to voice.

Ads that best answer the searcher’s query will be served to them – which makes answering your customers questions priority numero uno! The more relevant your ads, the more likely they are to be served – a win-win for both brands and consumers.

Voice search will enable users to make purchases much more quickly and easily. Once PPC integrates into smart devices, brands will have a chance to develop a streamlined method of converting customers in a much faster, more frequent way.

Millennials are among the earliest adapters of smart devices, and 43% were reported to have made a purchase through a voice device last year. 37% of those reported that they ‘always’ use the voice search platform to make purchases.

Hotel booking site, Kayak, has already begun testing the waters with voice purchasing, allowing customers to book a room through their Alexa device.

voice search purchasing make it rain

While this is accomplished under an Alexa ‘skill’ and not PPC, the implications are massive for how voice will affect user purchase behavior with paid ads in the future.


There aren’t currently any paid ad opportunities within the voice search realm, but PPC managers have spent endless amounts of time speculating, day-dreaming and hair-pulling about the possibilities of what new ad platforms might look like.

We’ve already seen a shift of focus in the PPC industry, from keywords to user intent and audience based targeting. Our guess is that this trend will continue to rise and play a more crucial role in the strategies PPC managers make on any new voice search targeted ad platforms. Remarketing ads will take on a whole new format, with the opportunity to target users who have visited your store or website through their smart devices based on where they are and what they are doing at that moment.

It’s likely that Google will pave the way for new ad platforms to accommodate the growing voice search user base. The search engine giant controlled 74.54% share of search engine use in 2017, and was voted the most popular voice assistant at CES.

Google’s Express service has been teaming up with retailers across the US in an attempt to compete with Amazon Prime’s fast and free delivery service. This service could be a natural platform for voice search ads to enter into.

Amazon will surely give Google a run for their money on this front as well, with Alexa’s streamlined integration into Amazon prime user accounts making it easier than ever for quick voice search purchases.

The Ugly

future of AI marketing Make It Rain

Total AI takeover!

Okay so, maybe it’s a tad dramatic, but the unknown is a scary landscape to navigate. The truth is, no one knows for sure what the future has in store for AI powered voice assistants. We may find ourselves in a Minority Report-esk world, with our lives at the mercy of super computers.

More likely though, we’ll find new and innovative ways to use this technology for improving how consumers receive information and make purchases online.

One thing we know for sure: the tides are changing for PPC. Advertisers will need to stay on their toes to remain successful with their online campaigns in the coming years.