The Ultimate Guide to Voice Search: Get Found through Alexa, Siri & Google Assistant
Most local business owners are already familiar with search engine optimization and how it works. You too probably have updated your content, included relevant keywords, and also ensured your ads are relevant to your target audience. Yes, all these are great for helping potential customers find your business. But that’s not all you could do.
Voice search is also another important aspect to consider when building brand awareness. If you are yet to include voice search in your optimization strategy, now might just be the right time to do so. It provides an excellent way to help your business get found by more people and help increase conversions. So, let’s see how to go about that!
First Thing First, Why Is Voice Search So Important?
Voice search will make a great addition to your marketing strategy. But before you start thinking of how or why you should do that, you need to first understand what it is. Having a good understanding of what voice search is, its potential benefits to your business, and how it fits into your marketing strategy will go a long way to help you achieve the most from it.
Consumers now have several ways by which they find local businesses online. In fact, most part of a customer’s purchase decision are done outside of your website. Only 27% of customer engagement happen on your website. That means your website only plays a minor role in your overall digital footprint.
To ensure you get good and consistent traffic to your website, that is where having a good understanding of how Google works comes in. You need to know what exactly the search engine is looking for when it’s trying to searchers’ queries.
There has been so much evolvement in technology today. Consumers now speak to their mobile phones and smart speakers when searching for a business online. Just two years ago, voice queries represent about 20% of Google’s searches. That means now is just the right time every business owner needs to consider voice search when planning their digital marketing strategy.
So, What Exactly is Voice Search?
Voice search happens when a voice command or query is given to a virtual assistant on a device. It then recognizes the command or query, analyzes your intent, and uses that to provide a relevant response from search engine results.
There are now a couple of devices that can help users achieve this, including devices like thermostat, Alexa, smart watch, smartphones, Google Home, and many more. Interestingly, your customers aren’t going to get the same experience when they search using voice methods as when they search using traditional text methods.
Voice search is more common among millennial and Gen Z users
Perhaps you are wondering who uses voice search. It is more common among millennial and Gen Z users. But it is now quickly finding foot in other demographics. Voice search is presently highest among younger consumers, in households with income more than $100k, and in households with children.
About 21% of searchers use voice search every week. While this may not look like a big deal from the surface, that’s about one out of five searchers if observed from another perspective. That means if your business could be properly optimized for voice search, you will be winning that percentage to yourself every week.
Understanding the Key Factors That Determines Your Local Ranking
To rank on the search engines for local voice searches, there are some factors you need to understand. These factors are what help your business show up in SERPs when potential customers search using voice commands.
It is no news again that search engine favors fresh content when deciding which content to show in the search engine result page. This is also true for voice searches. If you want your business to rank for local voice search, you should ask yourself how fresh is your content and how recent is it to the time of search?
But this is not only limited to the content on your website. It also extends to your entire digital footprint, including your social media, website, online ads, and anywhere else your brand might be showing online.
How credible are you in your industry? Do others see you as an authority there? Do you have a brand presence in your market? All of these come together to decide if you are going to stand the chance of ranking for local voice searches.
This also has to do with your entire digital footprint. All your online profiles should have the same information on them. When that is done, then ask yourself if your content makes sense to your audience. Are the answers in the content relevant to what the searcher was looking for? Are you showcasing yourself as an authority in your industry – one who can be a better source of reliable information than your competitors?
Most searchers want to do business or buy a product right away. So are your business hours set to Open at the time the searcher was performing the search? Google will tend to favor businesses that are open at that moment over ones that are not.
This is your location in relation to where the searcher is searching from. Remember that proximity plays a huge role when deciding if a local business will rank for certain queries or not.
The Marketing Funnel and what it means to your Local Business
The primary idea behind the traditional marketing funnel is to show you how people are actually interacting with your business and at which stage they are in the buying cycle. Phases in the funnel include Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action, and Leads.
Your goal is to get people to the bottom of the funnel. That is where they are making that call to your office, filling out a contact form, or coming in person to your store location. But before a potential customer can find their way through to the bottom of the funnel, you have to do a lot of work nurturing them.
Voice search creates a new opportunity to get more people into your sales funnel. When your business is optimized for voice search, it means it will be present just at the same place your customers are, and when they are ready to proceed in their customer journeys, your business will be right there to receive them. That way, you will have a better chance of having the bottom of your sales funnel filled with customers that are ready to pay.
Optimizing for voice search also gives you an edge over your competitors because Google and other search engines see your business to be better and so will more likely rank your brand when searchers are looking for the types of products or services you offer.
Internet Marketing Has Taken a New Turn: What Is Important Right Now
Contrary to the regular keyword-based queries we normally see with traditional text searches, people searching using voice search tend to make their queries in the form of questions. For instance, instead of using “auto locksmith in Denver,” they are more likely to say, “Hey Siri, find an auto locksmith near me” or something like, “Alexa, get me a roofing contractor nearby with a 4-star rating or higher.”
A page doesn’t even have to have a keyword prominent on it before it shows up as a search result. Google algorithm has evolved so much that even without depending on keywords, it can understand what a website page is all about by digesting the words, structured data, and images present on the page.
Yes, keywords are useful when properly placed on a page, but stuffing your page with keywords will not make your page perform any better. In fact, it can land you penalties from search engines.
In summary, in the new era of intent marketing, little emphasis is placed on keywords. Instead, it is now all about how well a page can answer the questions people are asking. So if you have always been keyword-focused, you might need to change your perspective and become answer-focused instead.
You must bear this in mind as you adjust your digital marketing strategy.
Is Your Website Voice Search Ready?
business using voice search is the accuracy of your business’s information on various platforms online. This is especially true for directories. When Google is presenting its results, it looks at more than 30 online directories and compares the information there with the one on your Google My Business page.
If there is any inconsistency in your information, that may reduce your chance of getting ranked for the query searched for. That means Google will have to go for your competitors. On the other hand, if your information is accurate and consistent across the board, that’s a good signal to Google to rank your website.
The truth is, the bulk of your voice search readiness score is going to be determined by Google, Bing, and Yelp. These are often referred to as the “big three” when it comes to online directories. And to be on the right side of these three, you need to make sure you maintain accurate and consistent information across your entire digital footprint, including your social media accounts, website, and other online sources.
However, when it comes to voice search readiness, about 96% of businesses have incorrect or missing information across the “big three.”
Voice Search Readiness (VSR); What Does It Mean?
So, let’s get it straight. VSR simply means getting all of your information correct so that search engines won’t have issues doubting your website for credibility when sending people your way when they search for something relevant to your product or services.
The most information here is your NAP – that is your business name, address, and phone number. You will need to ensure that your NAP, service area, operation hours, and other important information are correct and the same throughout your digital footprint. So everything still comes down to how well you are optimizing your online presence. If this is what you think you can do all by yourself, that’s okay. But if not, it’s okay to give the job out to an SEO agency you can trust to help you manage all of your digital needs.
Voice Search and Structured Data
With voice search now on the increase, it is important for every business owner to revisit their digital marketing strategy and find a place for voice search marketing there.
That may require optimizing your content, directory listings, and website to make it easier for voice searchers to get what they need from your website. If you are ready get some work done now, here are some tasks you should include on your list in order to become voice search ready:
Important Factors That Determine If You’re Voice Search Ready
Structured data makes it easy for Google and other online platforms to automatically read your site and pull information from its source code or HTML. To easily and quickly understand the types of information there, Google uses a data vocabulary called schema. In short, structured data is what helps Google to be able to recognize:
- Who you are
- Where you are
- How to contact you
Using structured data on your site means you will be helping Google to help its customers, and in return, Google will pay more attention to your brand and send more leads your way.
#1: Directory Listings
As earlier stated in this guide, it is crucial that you have your information complete and accurate on all available directory listings, especially in the big three – GMB, Bing, and Yelp. So let’s see what each of this entails and how you can get them running to bring more voice searchers to your business.
Google My Business (GMB)
GMB should be a vital part of any local business’s marketing strategy. With GMB, you can list all of the information people need to know about your business in just a single place. And that is the same information that will be shown to prospective customers across your service area.
So, how do you work on your Google My Business listing so it contributes to your voice search readiness?
- Claim your GMB listing: Of course, this is the first thing to do when looking to improve your online presence.
- Get customer reviews to reinforce trust: One way to easily rank for searches with “top”, “best”, and “highest-rated” is having customer reviews on your listings.
- Use Google embeds on your website: If you have ever heard about Google embed, then you will understand its importance to a local business. So, embed your map location to your website – your Contact Us page will be perfect for that.
- Create FAQs: Increase your chances of ranking for long-tail voice search phrases by creating relevant questions and answers in the FAQ section of your GMB.
When all these have been put in place, Google will now have enough information to feed into the devices that are driving voice search, including Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. At the same time, Google is going to put your reputation into consideration when showing you as a relevant business in the search results.
That means your star rating will also come into play here. For instance, when people search using “best”, Google will filter the results showcasing only businesses with four-star ratings and above.
Like GMB, Yelp is also an important local directory to factor into your marketing strategy. Plus, it has the same process as Google My Business, too. So here are the things you need to do with your Yelp listing too:
- Claim your listing on Yelp
Don’t leave money on the table, do all it takes to get your foot well with voice search. So claim your business page on Yelp. Reviews and information there are feed into Siri, Alexa, and Cortana voice search results.
- Get reviews to build trust with your customers
Maintain a good reputation on Yelp with the way you respond to reviewers there – both positive and negative.
When it comes to voice search, Bing is not a small player at all. So, you will want to make sure you claim your listing there too. Your Bing reviews and information will also feed into Cortana voice search results.
#2: Your Website
Apart from structured data, there is a need to also optimize some other aspects of your website so you can easily rank for voice search queries. Below are some things you should do:
- Make sure your site loads quickly
Users searching via voice search do so with their mobile devices and are expecting to have the right answers at their fingertips as quickly as possible. In fact, the average voice search results load in 4.6 seconds. So put extra commitment into ensuring your site load time is reduced to the minimum.
- Submit your sitemap to Google
This is not as difficult as most people think in a few steps, you will be done with it. Just go to your Google Search Console. From your dashboard, click on Crawl, then on Sitemaps, and finally Add Test Sitemap.
- Prioritize high-quality pages in your sitemap
Let Google bots crawl pages that include video and images first. Also, ensure you have a lot of unique content and reviews on those pages.
- Include structured data
Your website design is also important. Right from the beginning, make sure your site is well designed and managed from a best practices standpoint. Let every element on the site be clearly defined, including the products, places, events, people, reviews, how-to content, etc. all of these have a way of contributing to your search readiness.
- Ensure your website is mobile-friendly
More than 90% of voice search queries come via mobile. So if you are going to benefit from this, you just need to make sure your website is as mobile-friendly as possible.
You don’t need to be remembered how important your content is, but we might need to remind you that Google considers it as the number one ranking factor across their platforms. Being able to consistently create quality and relevant content will bring you to the good side of Google. So let’s look at some important things to keep in mind when creating your content.
- Keep it simple and concise
Simplicity is gold. At least for the sake of the consumer, keep your message simple and concise. The average voice search is done at a comprehension level of a 14-year old.
- Create content that can be used for featured snippet
Increase your chance of getting ranked by answering keyword-based questions concisely. The truth is that almost half of voice search answers actually come from featured snippets.
- Comprehensive keyword research is important
Don’t write until you have done your research. But remember that voice search queries are usually different from traditional text queries. They usually come in form of questions. So when you are writing your blogs, web pages, and social posts, make sure you bear this in mind.
- Create FAQs pages
Since most searchers using voice searches are looking for information in the form of questions that they need answers to. So, position yourself well for these low-hanging fruits by having an FAQ page and increase your chance of ranking for voice search.
- leverage long-tail keywords
Only a very few of voice search results have the exact keywords in the title. So get long-tail keywords and incorporate them into the body of your content that specifically answers questions.
Nevertheless, it is also important that you understand that the way people type queries is not the same way they speak. Google is looking for a way to meet the needs of its searchers in the best way possible. So, create specific landing pages on your website to which Google can confidently direct users when your content matches what they are looking for.
A quick tip is to not limit yourself to a particular keyword or subject. Instead. Cast a fairly wide net with your talking points so you can easily attract as many viable leads as possible.
Simple hacks to Improve Your Voice Search Readiness Score
Let’s get to how you can improve your VSR and take your business to the next level.
Begin with the Basics
- Begin your journey with Google
Start with Google and make sure you complete your Google My Business page with correct and up-to-date information. The same information must also be correct across all platforms your business is found.
- Pay attention to Yelp and Bing too
While Google may be a big player when it comes to online searches, there are also some other players you should also pay attention to. Yelp and Bing also play important parts in local voice searches. In fact, they power more voice search applications than you would ever imagine.
- Provide accurate information
Again, you need to ensure your information is consistent across all platforms. You might wonder why we keep reemphasizing this. That’s because it means a lot to local businesses and local searches. And since many businesses are not taking note of this, it is a huge opportunity for you to get on top of the competition and help your business win at all levels.
- Take advantage of some useful software
Yes, there are software that can help you manage your VSR and online presence. About 77% of businesses use them.
- Work on your language
Don’t forget to only use language that the average voice searcher will use when writing your content and listings. People using voice search for your products and services speaks to their devices, so make sure you put yourself in their shoes so you can appropriately reflect that in your content.
VSR makes it easy for you to reach more local customers and give your online presence that extra boost it needs to take your business to the next level. But ensure you have correct and accurate information online because that is the foundation on which every other thing that pertains to ranking in voice search results lies.
And the better your voice search readiness score is, the better your chances for ranking well for local voice searches. Don’t forget that only a small percentage of local businesses are currently voice search ready. Take advantage of that and help your business rise to the top for local voice searches.
If you are looking to reach local customers in ways that meet their expectations and exact needs, then think of how to incorporate voice search marketing into your marketing strategy. It will definitely pay off.