“Hey, Google—give me directions to [insert local business listing here].”
At some point, you’ve probably grabbed your phone and performed a voice search similar to this one.
Maybe you directed Siri to search for a new chiropractor near you. Could be, you asked Alexa to play a favorite radio station. Or you’re learning how to use the new Google Home device.
The point is, voice search is becoming a thing. Is your business ready?
What Voice Search Means for Local Business Listings
By now, you should already have a local business listing on Google My Business. Ditto for listings on other search engines and on your social media pages.
But with voice search coming into play, there’s still more you can do to be findable online.
First, a little history.
Before Alexa and Siri
A decade ago, hungry consumers might have typed “restaurants San Francisco” in the search bar. (Many still do this).
Even five years ago, Google’s search bar dominated the online index scene with searches that delivered more literal than contextual results.
Google’s algorithm was also busy evolving during this time, especially after its Hummingbird update.
After Hummingbird, Google’s algorithm began to search searchers’ intended meaning, not just the words they typed into Google’s search bar.
As intelligent personal assistants like Siri arrived on the scene, not too many users were interested—at first.
In fact, according to Neil Patel, in 2013 a full 85 percent of iOS users reported that they didn’t use digital assistants like Siri when searching online.
Flash forward to today.
According to HubSpot, today this same restaurant query might look like, “Where is the best place to eat near me right now?”
Notice that the search phrase is now a question, and it doesn’t need to include the name of the city to get results.
It’s the perfect example of how voice search is changing the game online.
Today’s Search for Your Local Business Listing
Back in 2014, Google conducted a mobile voice study which revealed that some 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults use voice search more than once daily.
And that was 2014.
Just a year later, a MindMeld study reported the number of voice search users climbed towards 60 percent, with experts like Patel expecting voice search to grow “exponentially.”
So what is voice search like now?
Today, someone searching for Mark Zuckerberg could type his name into a search bar—but it’s a lot easier to ask via voice search:
With voice search, it’s natural to use conversational words (e.g., who/what/where/when/how) to access information.
Today’s smartphone user also uses voice search primarily for local searches.
“It’s no wonder that mobile voice search is three times more likely to be local based than text search.” – Neil Patel
It’s clear that voice search may be an untapped opportunity for your local business listing. Here’s how to take advantage of voice search trends.
How to Optimize for Voice Search
Although not everyone is using voice search (yet), you can still benefit from paying attention now.
To begin, take a look at the following voice search optimization strategies. Even if you implement one or two, you’ll be on the right track.
Add Structured Markup for Local Business Data
What does your Google My Business listing show? When we said “show me intermountain healthcare,” here’s what we got:
As shown in the box on the right, Google provides a ‘knowledge graph’ for this particular provider.
What’s the significance of a knowledge graph? It’s an example of structured data (or structured markup).
Moz defines structured data this way:
“‘Structured data’ as a general term simply refers to any data which is organized (i.e., given ‘structure’). In an SEO context, (this term) refers to … some type of markup on a webpage, in order to provide additional detail around the page’s content.” – Bridget Randolph, Moz
Google’s knowledge graph box is just one example of structured markup that helps consumers better understand what your business is about.
First things first: Make sure you’ve claimed your Google My Business listing. Then you can add structured data.
How to add structured (schema) markup to your website
- Get started with Google’s structured data markup helper.
- Need another viewpoint? Read this.
- If you have a WordPress site, try the Schema App Structured Data plugin.
- For extra help, talk to your webmaster.
Think adding structured data is too challenging? Don’t give up. The payoff can be immense (and not just with voice search).
Answer more questions
“Alexa, does my business have a FAQ page?”
Answering customer questions is another great way to optimize your local business listing for voice search.
But what questions are your customers asking?
We used a tool called Answer the Public to find out. Here’s how it works:
- Using the dental industry as our model, we entered “dental cleaning” in the search bar.
- Answer the Public pulled up the following top results:
Questions ranged from “are dental cleanings safe during pregnancy” to “how much dental cleaning costs without insurance” and “will dental cleaning hurt.”
In nearly every instance, people used how/why/where/which/what/who/when phraseology for their queries.
Also, most questions were long, suggesting a higher incidence of voice search.
How to answer your customers’ questions
By now, the implication should be obvious.
If you know the most popular questions in your industry—including local questions—you can answer them on your website, on Google My Business, and on social media.
Try these ideas:
- Get a feel for the results Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and other digital personal assistants are pulling up.
- Incorporate keywords like “near me” or “store hours” into your title tags, internal links, and anchor text.
- Mention landmarks near your location and other descriptions of your neighborhood.
- Always share your business information in simple text format on your site (usually in the footer).
- Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) are always up to date on all business listings.
- Ensure that your website is mobile friendly with responsive design and quick loading time.
- Create a FAQ page that lists common industry-specific questions and clearly answers them.
- If you have a blog, create an entire blog post that answers more common questions.
- Answer other questions within GMB or on your social channels.
- In general, incorporate more long-tail keywords on your website (see the ‘Ask the Public’ graphic above).
Think More Like a Customer
You know the phrase: the more things change, the more they stay the same?
It’s that way with voice search, too.
Which is to say, you gotta think the way your customers do. For example, do your own voice searches include:
- Natural speech patterns (e.g., “what does teeth whitening cost?” vs. “teeth whitening costs”)
- Long-tail keyword searches (e.g., “find size large red angora sweaters near me”)
- Searcher intent and consumer demographics (e.g., “what laptops are least expensive for college students?”)
- Local searches (e.g., “where is the nearest veterinary clinic?”)
In all of this, empathy can take you at least part way.
For everything else, expect to pay due diligence and implement some of the strategies we’ve discussed in this post.
What are you doing to optimize your local business listing for voice search? Reach us at @banyansocial and share your thoughts.