2020 is the Time for Local Businesses to Take Voice Search Seriously

2020 is the Time for Local Businesses to Take Voice Search Seriously

Search engine optimization (SEO) has helped many brands establish a strong presence, both online and offline. By securing an optimal spot on search engine results pages or SERPs, your business attracts a good amount of website traffic.

Your online visibility carries over to the physical space as well. It helps consumers recall your business name and location when your brand is quickly searchable in digital platforms. This lets them easily navigate their way into your brick-and-mortar store or restaurant.

SEO has come a long way. Before the age of spiders, the Panda, and the penguin, search engines struggled to give satisfying answers. But with every algorithm update, Google and other search engines have evolved into machine-learning, hyper-smart systems capable of breaking down even the most complex queries to provide users what they’re looking for.

Search engines continue to evolve alongside technology. And one tech has been looming on the horizon of digital marketing for a while now: voice search.

Voice Search and the Impatient Consumer

In 2011, Apple introduced Siri on the iPhone 4S – the first-ever voice assistant capable of holding a conversation. This software helped users get things done just by asking – from making calls, sending texts, searching the internet, and more.

Since then, voice search has grown into a more advanced technology. Several competitors have entered the market since Siri, including Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa. These digital assistant give people options, encouraging them to try out the software. More importantly, voice assistants fulfill consumers’ need for immediacy.

The value proposition of voice search is simple: it’s so much easier to talk than type. This feature is extremely attractive to today’s impatient consumers.

Buyer expectations have changed drastically over the years. Empowered by their smartphones, they can quickly search the internet for answers to their problems and queries. So they expect you to respond just as fast.  Because of the availability and convenience of voice search, it’s set to only become more popular.

Many industry experts predict that voice search is the disruptive tech of 2020. This year, half of all online searches will be done through voice.

As a brand, this forecast means stepping up your SEO strategy to accommodate the characteristics of voice searches. But if you’re a local business, the boom of voice search means so much more.

Voice Search for Local Businesses

Voice queries have characteristics distinct from typed-in ones. First, they use natural language and longer search terms – usually in the form of a question. Second, the figures vary per source but many industry experts say that a good chunk of voice searches are location-based. People like to search for stores or brands “near me” when they’re on the go or on a hurry. And performing this query through voice speeds up the process even more.

Third, voice search mostly happens on mobile devices. In 2016, 20 percent of mobile queries were voiced, according to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Again, voice queries are made through smartphones because the searchers are typically on the road.

With voice search positioned to flourish this year, milking the rising technology’s capabilities can bring you plenty of benefits. For one, optimizing for voice helps you rise to the top of SERPs, driving more traffic both online and offline.

Effective voice optimization techniques are hinged on the key attributes mentioned earlier.

Voice Search Optimization Techniques

Win voice searches by focusing on these two things: “near me” searches and featured snippets.

Target Featured Snippets

Featured snippets provide concise, direct answers to queries, so they occupy “position zero.” Most voice assistants will only read aloud the top result, which should be the most satisfying answer to the query. Since 12.29 percent of searches return featured snippets, it makes sense for you to optimize for these.

SERP snippets also help you win zero-click searches. Many queries are answered directly on the results page through rich snippets. Because consumers have grown more impatient than ever, not having to scan several web pages works to their advantage.

Below are some techniques for winning rich snippets:

  • Make your content a 1:1 match with the  search intent. In short, ensure that your blog posts or web copy directly answers popular queries. And try to answer other related questions in your content to maximize its value.
  • Optimize your media. Photos and videos commonly appear in rich snippets. Use alt tags for your images to make them readable for search engines. Make sure the description is unique from your write-up to maximize its impact.
  • Do keyword research for question-type queries. Tools like Answer the Public give you a list of question related to one topic and segments them into whats, whens, wheres, whos, and hows. These questions help you plan your content. The People Also Ask box also shows the common queries users have in relation to your original search.
  • Target “Near Me” Searches. Voice searches want something nearby and accessible, resulting in a growth in “near me” and “near me right now” searches. Food, entertainment, banking, apparel, and personal care businesses are  the most common categories for voice searches.

You can target “near me” queries by including the following keywords in your content:

  • Terms and phrases people use to call your state, city, and neighborhood
  • Landmarks near your business address
  • Titles of local institutions relevant to your industry

Here are other ways to win “near me” queries:

  • Claim your Google listing. Open a business account on Google My Business and verify it. Supply the important details such as your official business name, address, store hours, phone number, email, short reviews, and visual aids. Make sure your info is consistent throughout all your channels to avoid confusing your potential customers. A Google listing also
    helps you capture the branded knowledge graph, a form of rich snippet that provides an overview of your business. In short, a Google listing helps you win
    both “near me” searches and featured snippets. 
  • Use schema markup. Schema markup makes your web pages more readable for search engines, allowing them to extract more information. The search engine will then present your info in a more organized way for the readers, improving user experience. Use schema markup to each of your locations pages to win geo-targeted searches.
  •  Make your site mobile-friendly. “Near me” searches are mostly done on mobile by people on the go. They expect quick-loading, easily navigable pages that let them find what they’re looking for in just a few clicks. Create accelerated mobile pages (AMP) to make your website smartphone-compatible.

Ultimately, the goal of voice search optimization is to provide a better search experience for users, helping them find what they need as fast as possible. Create your web pages with your
audience’s ease of use in mind to facilitate their progression from site visitor to lead, and eventually, to loyal customer.

With expert help, you can have a website that is voice-search-optimized – user- and search-friendly anytime, on any device.

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Read our local SEO case study, “Starting from Zero,” to find out how we used SEO best practices and market research to improve an Italian restaurant’s online

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