As new technology is developed, consumer behavior evolves with it, along with the demand for new local SEO and search strategies. Today this technology is digital assistants; tomorrow it will be something different. Now is the time for local businesses and companies that serve local businesses to consider how voice search will impact search results.
With the continual growth in popularity of Siri, Alexa, Google Now, and Cortana, optimizing web content for spoken search queries is no longer an option, but a must. Last year, Google revealed that 20% of mobile queries on its Android app were voice searches, and this number will only go up as more consumers embrace digital assistant devices.
Today’s consumers can easily conduct voice searches from just about anywhere: on their mobile devices, smartwatches, and even while driving. Thanks to products like Apple’s CarPlay, which allows iPhone users to speak to Siri through their vehicle console, drivers can conduct hands-free searches on the road. Voice search is only expected to gain popularity in the coming years. In fact, comScore predicts that 50% of all search queries will be voice search in 2020.
It’s easy to understand why voice search is catching on – it’s convenient, hands-free, and an on-the-go alternative to typed mobile and desktop searches. What’s not quite as obvious is how this latest evolution of search will impact local businesses and local SEO.
So, what do local businesses need to know about voice search? Here are a few of the most important ways voice search is disrupting traditional local SEO strategies.
How Voice Search is Changing the Nature of Search
Longer Search Queries
We all know that people speak differently than they type. When consumers search online using Google, they typically keep their queries short. But when consumers use voice commands to conduct a search, they tend to use longer sentences and more verbose phrases. Local businesses can take advantage of this shift by optimizing their websites for long-tail local search terms that aren’t yet being heavily targeted.
Conversational Search Terms
When consumers talk to a digital assistant instead of typing a search into Google, they’re not only using longer search queries but also using more natural language. Businesses should write content that matches the conversational tone of voice search and optimize for phrases that are likely to be used when speaking to digital assistants.
It’s a good idea to look back at the business’ recent analytics to see which natural-sounding keywords are bringing traffic to the website. Because of Google limiting what you can see in analytics, you’ll also want to look in Google Search Console and consider using other third party tools like SEMrush. This allows the business to figure out what customers are saying when they use voice search and provides a great starting point for developing a strategy to target voice search as it gains popularity.
Increased Demand for Direct Answers
Asking informational questions is one of the most common uses of voice search. Just like search engines, digital assistants aim to provide the most relevant, specific answer to user questions. This is more convenient than making users sift through a list of possible answers (unless the search results don’t match the user’s intent, which is another important issue). However, this also makes it harder for businesses to rank in voice search results.
The solution for local businesses? Include the question and more specific information that answers questions unique to the business and its industry. Figure out what customers want to know and build a content strategy around answering those questions. Remember to integrate long-tail keywords and write in a natural voice.
Intent Trumps Keywords
Since voice search is expected to return more direct, relevant answers, digital assistants are being programmed to understand user intent (RankBrain, anyone?) – rather than simply identifying the keywords being used. As this technology improves, context and intent will play an important role in choosing which results are returned in voice search.
This means that the best assistants will be able to understand the connection between a series of related questions rather than just interpret them all as individual searches. That could mean the ability to factor in the user’s past searches or real-world plans when asked a specific question (such as, “When does Tom’s flight land?”). Depending on the question, the assistant might require access to other things like the searcher’s email and calendar. (Otherwise, it might not know which Tom I am referring to.)
Reduced Screen Time
Not all virtual assistant devices come with a screen. According to Mediapos, about 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020 thanks to devices like Google’s Home and Amazon’s Echo devices. Although this is a significant chunk of search traffic, voice search will remain one aspect of local search among many. Businesses shouldn’t rely on additional content to provide the answer; it’s important to keep the question and answer close together on the page.
Voice search and the strategies for local businesses to rank in these results will continue to evolve as AIs get smarter and as consumers’ usage and comfort level increases. In the meantime, let me know how voice search is shaping your local SEO strategies. What do you think will be the biggest adjustment for local businesses?
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