Hey Siri, is voice search really the next big thing in marketing?
Marketers are constantly being bombarded with thought-leaders claiming that certain tactics or techniques are the next big thing. It can be tricky to know which marketing trends will pass in a few months and which will become part of our daily lives.
There’s been plenty of noise around voice search over the last couple of years, but is it really the marketing ‘silver bullet’ some claim it is? The data collected around local voice search seems to think so.
Local voice search, also known as voice-enabled search, allows consumers to use voice commands linked to their eclectic devices to easily search the internet, a website, or an app for information about local businesses. Popular examples of voice search include Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana.
46% of people who use voice search on their smartphones look for local business information one or more times per day. These are people who have not done research on which business they prefer and oftentimes, they go with the first or second option recommended by their voice search. If your business isn’t one of them, that could become a huge problem.
This guide will walk you through the types of questions consumers are searching for, explain the different voice search channels, and teach you how to optimize your online business listings for search.
Types of voice search queries
The first step to conquering local voice search is understanding what information consumers are searching for. Understanding what customers are searching will help you tailor the information on your local online listings and review sites. This makes it easier for customers to find the information they’re looking for.
The answers to these common search questions are collected as featured snippets in search engines. This makes it easier for searchers to find answers. Search queries that target long-tail keywords are also important to dominating voice search.
These more complex questions can be trickier to optimize for but can drive incredible value for your business. Most queries for local search can be categorized into one of two types: discovery queries and direct queries.
In a discovery query, customers are looking for a type of business. Usually they are looking for a type of service and will use local voice search to find businesses in their area. Discovery queries will auto-populate responses for the consumer based on local search and SEO.
Examples of discovery queries:
“Find a coffee shop in the West Loop.”
“What are the best bars near Wrigley Field?”
In a direct query, customers are looking to take a specific action or ask information about a specific business. In this case, the consumer already knows about your business.
Direct queries rely on your business having updated contact and business information online to work. For example, if you don’t list your phone number online, customers can’t call you from voice search.
Examples of discovery queries:
“Call Breakfast House on North Ashland Avenue.”
“Make a reservation at Tuco and Blondie.”
There is a third type of query known as a knowledge query, where customers are looking for the answer to a specific question. With a more advanced local SEO strategy, your business could create content around highly searched topics in the hopes of driving traffic and leads.
This strategy is part of a larger content marketing strategy your business could choose to utilize. However, it’s a time consuming process that costs money and manpower. If you’re just starting out on local listing management, it’s best to optimize for discovery and direct queries first.
Examples of knowledge queries:
“When was the first car built?”
“How much did the first car cost?”
Tips for mastering local voice search
Now that you understand the basics, it’s time to dig into the details. There are a few moving parts when it comes to local voice search. Online search strategies are part digital marketing, part audience research, and part technical SEO.
It can be a lot to handle, especially for small business owners who have a million other things to worry about. That’s why many choose to employ the use of local listing management software.
These solutions are designed to collect all of your online profiles in one place and make it easy to keep all of your information up to date. These solutions can also be used to monitor online reviews on websites like Yelp. This is just another way you can stay close to the customer and understand them better.
Whether you choose to use software or handle your profiles manually, these tips can help you get a handle on your strategy.
Claim your online profiles
Before you can manage your online profiles, you need admin access to those accounts. There are dozens of online review sites with more added each and every day. Claiming all of your online profiles increases the chances of consumers finding your business.
Some of the top online business directories include:
Google My Business
Once you’ve claimed your profiles, it’s time to optimize them. Include all of the basic information for your business first, then work on responding to customer reviews and complaints. It’s good practice to check your local listings every couple of days to stay on top of things.
Understand the voice search landscape
There are a few key players in voice search that you’re probably familiar with. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana are four of the big ones. These are all examples of common virtual assistants that use voice search to source and answer questions.
The interesting thing about voice search is that currently, the market share for these virtual assistants is pretty evenly distributed. Siri and Google Assistant share roughly 36% of the virtual assistant landscape, while Alexa owns about 25%. Cortana rounds out the list with 19% of the market share.
What does this mean for your business? It means you need to optimize your local listings for all of these virtual assistants. Customers still use a variety of virtual assistants for voice search and no one company owns the majority share of voice search.
These virtual assistants are often integrated into other technology products offered by these companies. Devices created by Microsoft come with Cortana, Apple products come with Siri – you get the picture.
Here are the most common devices consumers use to conduct voice searches:
Home voice assistants
If you know that a majority of your customers use a certain company’s products, it’s easier to focus your strategy. This can be done with the help of your digital marketing data. The more complete picture you can get of who your consumers are and which devices they use, the easier this step will be.
How to optimize for specific voice search channels
Unlike normal search engine results pages, voice search users are fed a definite list (normally three) of local results. These are often based on the results that Google likes best (other search engines are available), and don’t really differ depending on if you’re searching with a device or a voice assistant.
Of course the method for voice search results could change at any point, but for now, if you rank in the top three online, you’re far more likely to appear on voice searches.
Businesses that show up in local results, and thus, voice search results, have:
Proximity to the searcher
Regular positive reviews
Frequent links through to their website and content
Conversation on social media
Local and industry-specific directory listings
Another way to maximize the chance of appearing in voice search results is through the use of schema markup. Schema is a way to tell search engines what’s happening on your page — including phone numbers, review ratings, Q&A capabilities, and much more. If search engines can easily find your information, the easier it is for them to repeat these back to searchers.
However, it’s not a universal experience across all voice-enabled devices. For example, those using Google Home are often fed results based on the answer boxes you see in search results. These can be difficult to achieve and tend to be for fact-based results rather than local business recommendations.
How to optimize voice search for Siri
Siri pulls its local business data from Apple Maps Connect and Siri, so it’s important to claim your Apple Maps listing and optimize it for your business. Start by going to Apple Maps Connect and sign in with your Apple ID. Then it’s as simple as claiming your business listing and optimizing your information.
Apple Maps Connect does not allow reviews or photos because they pull all of that information directly from online review sites like Yelp. Don’t neglect to claim and brush up your Yelp profile during this part of the process. All of that data feeds into local voice search making it easier for customers to find your business.
How to optimize voice search for Google Assistant
Google Assistant pulls nearly all of its information from your Google My Business account.
Similar to claiming your Apple Maps account, you’ll go to the Google My Business website and find the option to claim your account. Fill out all of your information to claim the account and begin optimizing your profile. Google offers a free business account, so long as you can verify you’re the owner of the business you’re claiming.
How to optimize voice search for Alexa
While Alexa dominates the smart speaker market, it does not have stranglehold on voice search. It only has a 25% share of the voice search market.
Alexa gets almost all of its business from two sources: Yelp and Yext. Everything from business hours, addresses, reviews, and photos are funneled in from these two websites. If you don’t have a Yext account, there’s no need to worry about getting one. Alexa will defer to your Yelp account for all the information it needs about your business.
How to optimize voice search for Cortana
Cortana is included with all Microsoft products, including Microsoft Windows, Xbox and Microsoft Office. This adds up to a nearly 20% market share with nearly one in five voice searches happening through Cortana.
Cortana collects business information from Bing Places, which makes it an online profile you’ll want to claim. Simply go to the Bing Places website, claim your business, and work on updating your information. As with the other three, Cortana curates reviews and photos from places like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Claim those accounts during this process to keep things running smoothly.
Make your brand voice heard
Voice search is ever evolving, and requires action and attention to keep up with changing digital trends. This technology is nothing to fear; with new features added every day that can help bring businesses and consumers together, you should welcome it with open arms. If businesses really want to make an impact with voice search, now’s the time to speak up.
Lauren Pope is a Content Marketing Manager at Oracle and a former content marketer at G2. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, the G2 Learning Hub, and other sites. In her free time, Lauren enjoys watching true crime shows and singing karaoke. (she/her/hers)
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