You may not even think about how often you use voice-activated devices in your day-to-day life. Whether you’re asking Siri for directions, Alexa is adding milk to your grocery list, or Google Assistant is setting a reminder for your dentist appointment, voice-activated devices have become a normal and integral part of our digital lives.
As a result, voice search is becoming increasingly popular. Businesses and marketing teams need to ensure they’re optimizing their digital marketing campaigns to take voice search into account. After all, you want to be at the top of the list when someone asks Siri to find HVAC repair services nearby or who the best dentist in town is.
While voice search won’t be outperforming traditional search anytime soon, there has been significant growth in that sector over the past five years. In fact, a recent study by Brightlocal found that 53% of people who own smart speakers use them for local business searches every day. Make sure you’re capturing that audience right when they’re looking for your services!
Not sure how to get started? No problem! We’ve created this comprehensive small business voice search checklist to help ensure that you’re optimizing your campaigns and capturing your audience at the right moment.
Voice Trends and Insights
Devices and Smart Assistants
The first thing you have to consider when you start optimizing for voice search is the devices. While many voice-activated speakers, smartphones, and other smart devices offer similar services, they operate on different data aggregators. This means that they may pull up slightly different answers to the same queries.
So you want to make sure you’re optimizing not just for voice search in general, but for the devices your target audience is most likely to use!
Alexa is one of the oldest and most popular voice-activated devices. The first voice assistant to be available in speaker form, Alexa is an Amazon product that searches, purchases, and assists you digitally.
Alexa uses Bing as its search data rather than Google. For business listings and reviews she pulls from Yelp. So When you’re considering Alexa in your campaigns, make sure you’re optimizing and advertising on Bing as well as Google!
Siri is Apple’s voice assistant. She is used in their iPhones and connected devices like smartwatches, etc. However, even though Apple has its own browser (Safari), Siri uses Google for voice search algorithms. For business listings, it goes through Apple Maps. And for review-related queries, it pulls info directly from Yelp.
This means that when you’re optimizing for Siri, you should focus on your Google, Apple Maps, and Yelp listings.
Google offers a range of voice-based technology, from Google Assistant in Android phones to Google Home, Google Mini, and Nest security devices.
Because they are such a large and all-encompassing company, they tend to source all information directly from other Google products. For search, they pull from Google, and for business listings and reviews they pull from Google My Business. Google My Business is the number one place to start when optimizing for Google Assistant.
Cortana is a lesser-known name in the voice-search world but is rapidly coming up in features and popularity. This is Microsoft’s answer to the digital assistant. Unsurprisingly, this means that Cortana pulls from Bing for search and business listings while relying on Yelp to answer questions about business reviews.
How Is Voice Search Used During the Customer Journey?
Before we get deeper into our small business voice search checklist, it’s important that we discuss where voice search falls in the customer journey. This will help you refine your content and marketing campaigns as you optimize for voice.
Google Assistant and Siri are tied for the most popular digital assistant at 36% each of the market share. Alexa holds 25%, and Cortana is the least popular (though still significant) with 19%.
These numbers are also directly correlated to what we know about current voice-search behavior and trends. Namely, that people are most likely to use voice search on their smartphones. This gives Google Assistant (Android) and Siri (iPhone) the advantage over speaker-only systems like Alexa and Cortana.
56% of people in a BrightLocal study reported that they use their smartphone’s voice search for local business searches. 28% use computers, 26% use tablets, and 18% use smart speakers.
This is significant for local businesses because it tells us how people are searching for us online. Generally speaking, people use voice search in the Discovery and Direct phases of the customer journey.
In the discovery phase of the customer journey, people are doing research. They may ask questions like, “Where is the nearest chiropractor?” or “Who is the best attorney in [City Name]?”
You want to show up in these searches because this is when people are forming opinions about who they’re going to give their business. Optimize your online presence to ensure that you’re in the top three results that pop up! Often, voice response doesn’t go past the first three listings–people don’t have the same attention span or capacity to absorb information when they’re listening as they do when they’re reading.
The “direct” phase of the customer journey is also known as “contact”. That’s because a customer is reaching out to you directly to ask a question, get a quote, or place an order.
“Call Phillips and Nolan Law Firm.” “Make a reservation at Local Eatery.”
While this can feel like a victory–they’re already contacting you!–it is vital that you optimize for these kinds of search queries. If your phone number is incorrect or your system doesn’t accept certain kinds of connections or calls, you could lose a customer! People are more likely to contact another business than they are to look up your correct contact info.
Improving Your Voice Search Reach
Now we’ve reached the practical application section of our small business voice search checklist. There is a lot of overlap in optimization across the voice devices, so we’ve pulled out some specific tips for each digital assistant as well as some general optimization tips and tricks for voice search.
Tips to optimize for Siri
The local business information used by Siri comes from Apple Maps Connect. This powers Apple Maps as well as Siri. The first step to optimization is signing into Apple Maps Connect with your Apple ID and claiming your business listing! Ensure that the following information is correct and up to date:
- Business Name
- Phone Number
- Business Category
- Website URL
- Social Media Links
You can also set your business hours, but keep them general–you can’t set holiday hours in Apple as you can in Google My Business.
Because all of Siri’s review info comes from Yelp, you’ll also want to optimize on those platforms. You cannot upload reviews or photos onto your Apple account directly.
Tips to optimize for Google Assistant
This is the easiest and most holistic system to optimize because Google uses its own products for everything. All of Google Assistants’ data on local businesses comes straight from Google My Business so make sure you’re paying special attention to that platform!
- Make sure your info is current and correct
- Verify Your listing
- Upload photos and videos of your products/employees/projects
- Fill out the menu/products/services sections
- Create FAQs for the Q&A section
- Enable direct messaging (as long as you have someone to respond to it!)
- Link your Google My Business account to your Google Ads account
- Respond to and cultivate reviews
Tips to optimize for Amazon Alexa
While Alexa covers 25% of the voice search market overall, in the smart speaker race she dominates with a 70% market share. This Amazon product gets its local business info from Yelp and Yext (a data management tool for business directories).
- Optimize your Yelp page with:
- Correct and current contact info
- Responses to reviews
- Consider implementing a software that directly integrates with Alexa and allows you to control what information shows up in Alexa’s voice search results (like the Surefire Local Marketing Platform).
Surefire Local Marketing Platform gathers information on businesses and automatically submits it to Alexa. This makes it very easy to optimize–all you have to do is give them the correct information. However, it is important to note that you can show up on Alexa without using software that has a direct integration. Your Yelp profile then becomes even more crucial to your rankings.
Tips to optimize for Microsoft Cortana
One in five voice searches is performed with Cortana through Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, and Xbox. It gets all of its data on local businesses through Bing.
Bing is not anyone’s favorite internet browser, but with one in five searches going through it… it’s worth optimizing. And think about how far ahead you’ll be of the competition who ignores this under-sung browser!
Claim your Bing Places listing
- Update with correct contact info and hours
- Upload photos
- List services
- Verify your listing
- Consider advertising through Bing Ads
Want to Learn More About Local Voice Search Optimization?
Attend a Surefire Local Marketing Platform demo! Our all-in-one marketing intelligence platform allows you to receive notifications and respond to reviews from all major social media and directory listing sites. Update your Google my Business profile, respond to Yelp Reviews in real-time, or make a social post–all from one convenient platform! Make voice search optimization a breeze with the Surefire Local Marketing Platform! Contact us to set up a demo today.