For local brands, voice search optimization is quickly becoming a necessary component of a holistic search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. According to BrightLocal’s 2018 Voice Search for Local Business Study, just 18 percent of consumers have used smart speakers for local voice searches. However, among consumers who own a smart speaker, more than three-fourths use the device to perform local searches at least weekly – with 53 percent doing so daily.
As smart speaker adoption and voice searches continue to grow, multi-location brands, franchise systems and local businesses should take note: more and more consumers will be using these devices to search for local businesses every year.
Voice-enabled speaker users in the United States (in millions)
To get ready, it’s important for local brand marketers like you to start optimizing your brand’s digital footprint for local voice search by:
- Understanding how consumers use voice search on their smart speakers.
- Optimizing digital properties like location pages and local listings for voice search.
We’ll go through each of these steps in more detail below, mainly focusing on local searches on smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home. However, many of these action items will apply to voice search optimization across devices.
Step No. 1: Understanding how consumers use voice search
To reach customers conducting local searches on their smart speakers, you need to understand both how consumers conduct searches on these devices and what information they expect to find.
How consumers conduct searches on smart speakers
In general, voice queries vary quite a bit from the standard search terms consumers use in text-based searches. For voice searches via smart speakers, users tend to:
- Search in a more conversational tone.
- Use longer-tail search terms.
- Conduct question-based or information-gathering searches.
Many smart speaker users engage with the devices as if they’re talking to a human – using phrases like “please,” “thank you” and even “sorry.” According to Think with Google, “41 percent of people who own a voice-activated speaker say it feels like talking to a friend or another person.”
With voice searches, queries tend to be more conversational and longer-winded than text-based searches where people usually use shorthand keywords. This more conversational relationship with the device also leads to searches that are more question-based, as if the searcher is asking a friend for advice.
Most common voice search trigger words
For example, if a searcher was looking for a car window repair shop, they might type something like this it into the search bar:
“car window repair”
This short and simple search style has been the norm for a long time. It’s the reason SEO professionals optimized websites around fragmented terms rather than conversational phrases for years. But with voice search, the ability to speak to a device leads to queries that look more like this:
“where can go to fix a crack in my car’s window?”
To optimize your digital properties for voice search, focus on these more conversational terms. If you need help finding conversational keywords related to your brand, try a tool like Serpstat; their tool will show you data like keyword difficulty and volume, along with what special results like featured snippets show up in searches for that term.
What consumers expect when they conduct searches on smart speakers
Smart speaker functionality is still evolving. Unless the user activates skills or apps, they typically can’t carry out actions that smartphones can handle like making reservations or calling a business, which impacts how people conduct searches on smart speakers. When consumers conduct voice searches on smart speakers, they’re typically more interested in finding information about a brand than being able to take a specific action.
What smart speaker owners would like from brands
Local consumers are more likely to search for this information when researching certain business types than others. If your brand falls into any of the following business categories, it’s even more essential that you optimize your digital presence for voice search.
Types of businesses consumers would consider using voice search to find
Step No. 2: Voice search optimization for your local digital properties
Now that you have a better understanding of how consumers use their smart speakers, you can move on to optimizing your digital properties for local voice searches. This includes optimizing your brand’s:
- Location pages on your website.
- Local business listings.
Optimizing location pages for smart speaker searches
For multi-location brands, it’s important to develop unique pages for every location to perform well in any type of local search. These pages should include unique content for each location, and a description of the products and services offered.
Here are a few tips for optimizing your brand’s location pages for voice search:
No. 1: Build out in-depth content
According to a study from Backlinko, the average length of the pages in Google Home results was more than 2,300 words. Most location pages have nowhere near that high of a word count. And, most brands would struggle to develop that much relevant content for each location. However, local brands should still try to build out these pages with as much content as possible.
At a minimum, each page should include:
- The location’s business name, address and phone number (NAP data).
- The location’s business hours.
- A map of the location.
- A list of the products and services the location offers.
- Any reviews specific to that location.
- Links to specific social media profiles.
To further optimize the page, consider adding the following content:
- A short description of each product and service (with links to more in-depth pages).
- Information about key employees (awards, certification, etc.).
- How long the location has been open.
- Information about nearby attractions and landmarks.
- A scroll of recent social media activity.
- The payment types the location accepts.
- Upcoming events at the location.
No. 2: Create FAQs sections or pages
To help you build out in-depth location pages, create a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to address common queries from your customers. Whether it’s on your location page or a separate page linked to it, having a list of FAQs and answers can help your local business appear as a featured snippet result on Google, which can be very helpful when it comes to voice searches.
While featured snippets never appear in the same results as local map packs for non-voice searches (i.e., Google doesn’t see them as inherently local answers), they still have a lot of value for local brands.
3 types of featured snippets
(percent of time Google shows that type of snippet)
Paragraph snippets are by far the most popular and provide businesses a chance to answer common questions from customers. If your brand can find a way to dominate feature snippets, it increases your chances of appearing (by voice at least) in common informational voice searches.
No. 3: Implement structured data
Structured data like Schema Markup helps search engines understand essential business information about your location by marking up data like:
- Business name
- Brand the location is associated with
- Physical address
- Area served
- Phone number
- Aggregate rating
- Payment accepted
Implementing structured data is key in voice search as the digital assistants that power smart speakers need to be able to quickly read and understand webpages to deliver answers. The more relevant markup you can add to your page, the easier it will be to understand.
Optimizing local listings for voice search results
As a local marketer, it’s also important for you to optimize local business listings for any type of search. Optimizing local listings helps your brand’s presence in voice search by making sure your location data is accurate and optimized on the sites where smart speakers get their local business answers.
Powered by Alexa, Amazon’s Echo uses information from Yelp to find places nearby based on the address users save in their device settings. Here’s a look at how users can search for local businesses using Alexa:
On Google, local brands can manage their location data using the Google My Business dashboard. Here are some ways to talk with your Google Assistant on Google Home about local places and information:
The Google Assistant also has a local services program that allows businesses to be featured in results for services like:
- Appliance repair
- Garage door repair
- Heating and air conditioning
- House cleaning
- House painting
Most standard local listings programs syndicate data to both Google and Yelp. But, it’s important to make sure your data is syndicated across the local ecosystem to prevent incorrect information on lower-trafficked sites from popping up on larger sites like Google, Yelp and Bing.
Following these steps is a good start to optimize your brand’s presence for local voice searches on smart speakers. But, as the technology advances and more people turn to smart speakers to find local business information, you’ll need to evolve your strategy to continue to reach these consumers.