Introduction to Voice Search Marketing
You’ve probably heard of search engine optimization for what seems like forever. You’ve altered your content, sprinkled in keywords, and made sure your ads are relevant to what your audience wants to see. What else could you possibly do? Well, if you haven’t included voice search in your optimization strategy, you could be missing out on a lot of potential brand awareness, so let’s start there.
Why Do You Need to Incorporate Voice Search Optimization Into Your Strategies?
Customers have more ways than ever to discover and engage with local businesses. 73% of customer engagement actually happens off your website. In other words, your website is just a fraction of your overall digital footprint. There’s a lot of activity that happens long before customers even find their way onto your website. So, when we talk about voice search today, it’s a matter of understanding what it is and how important it is to your business, then what to do to enact your strategies.
The key to driving traffic to your website is understanding how Google works and what the search engine looks for when it’s answering searchers’ queries. Voice search is a rapidly growing consideration that every business needs to account for when planning their digital marketing strategies. Just two years ago, 20% of Google’s searches were made by voice queries—a number that’s largely representative of the ease in which consumers use devices such as smart speakers and their mobile phones these days. Fast forward to the forecasts for 2024, and the number of digital voice assistants is expected to reach 8.4 billion units. (For reference, that’s more digital voice assistants than the number of people on this planet!)
With such an uptick in the use of digital voice assistants, you need to understand what these numbers mean and how they can impact your overall marketing strategies.
How Is Voice Search Defined?
Voice search happens when you say a query or command out loud to a virtual assistant on a device. The assistant then recognizes the voice command or query, analyzes the intent, and provides a response to that query from search engine results. This happens in a couple of different ways. From a device standpoint, you could be using any number of tools, such as your:
- Laptop or computer
- Google Home
- TV remote
Your customers’ search experience will be different if they’re using voice methods than if they were using traditional text search methods in terms of the results presented.
Who Uses Voice Search?
Voice search adoption has naturally caught on more quickly with a younger crowd, but it’s rapidly finding its way to all demographics. It’s highest usage currently occurs with younger consumers, in households with children, and in households with incomes greater than $100k. 21% of people use voice search on a weekly basis. On the surface, this may not sound like a lot, but if you think about it, that’s one in five people that you’re not talking to if your business isn’t utilizing voice search optimization techniques.
Local Ranking Factors
What drives local ranking factors? There are five main points that can help your local business be seen on the search engine.
How recent was the content created from the user’s search date? How fresh is your content? This relates to your entire digital footprint, including your website, social media, online advertisements, and anywhere else you might be putting your brand online.
Where are you in relation to the person searching? Proximity is a main ranking factor for local businesses.
Does your content provide answers to the questions people are searching for? The crux of your online presence is dependent upon getting all of your online profiles up to par in terms of hours, name, address, and other pertinent information. From there, you have to create content that makes sense to your readers. Are you answering their questions? Are you showcasing yourself as a leader in your industry who can offer them greater knowledge and solutions than your competitors?
Do others see you as an expert and a credible business? Do you have a brand presence in your market, and if not, what can you do to improve this?
Are your business hours set to open at the moment someone is performing a search? Google will consider whether or not you’re open when it determines which local businesses to serve up on its search engine results pages (SERPs).
The Marketing Funnel & Local Businesses
The traditional marketing funnel essentially tells you how people are interacting with your brand and which stage they’re at in the buying cycle. The bottom of the funnel is your goal—this is where people are picking up the phone and calling you, filling out a contact form, or coming directly into your brick-and-mortar location. But to get them to that part of the funnel, you need to nurture your leads. This means bringing them through all the phases of the funnel—awareness, interest, decision, action, and finally, leads.
Voice search is an integral part in ushering people into your sales funnel. Optimizing for voice search enables you to do the things that are necessary to be present and available where your customers are so when they’re ready to make their way through their customer journeys, your business will be easily accessible. When you optimize your entire digital marketing strategy—including voice search—your bottom-of-the-funnel leads will be more likely to convert into paying customers.
Obviously, you want your conversation rate to be better than your competitors, and paying attention to voice search trends is one way to stay on top. This is because it means you’re doing higher funnel activities better than your competition, so Google and the other search engines will likely give a nod to your brand when searchers are seeking the types of products and services you offer.
New Era of Intent Marketing
People are now searching in the form of questions, not necessarily keywords that traditional text search is used to seeing. Instead of a text search for “roofing contractor in Denver”, today’s voice searchers might say, “Hey Siri, find a roofing contractor who’s near me.” Potential customers might also say something like, “Hey Alexa, show me a top-rated window replacement contractor near me with a 4-star rating or higher.”
As search is evolving, what we’re moving away from is keywords. Voice search marketing isn’t about having the right keywords; rather, it’s about questions people are asking and how your business can answer those questions easily online. As you look at how your business presents itself online, you should examine whether you’re keyword-focused or answer-focused. This is the high-level shift you need to have in your mind as you embark on your digital marketing strategies.
It’s important to note that, in today’s era, a keyword does not need to be present on a page for that page to be returned on a search result. Today’s Google is smart enough to understand the information that’s on a page and what it’s all about, so it doesn’t need keywords to fill in the blanks. Sure, keywords are helpful when they’re placed properly, but your content doesn’t need to be (and, actually, shouldn’t be!) stuffed with keywords. In fact, over-stuffing of keywords can actually lead to penalties from the search engines. Searches have evolved so much today that Google can digest the information on a page, including the words, images, and structured data, in ways that facilitate its understanding of what your business is all about.
What is Voice Search Readiness (VSR)?
So, are you ready to embark on this new era of online searching? From a voice search readiness standpoint, 96% of businesses had errors or missing information across Google, Yelp, and Bing. These are the “big three” as far as online directories, which means it’s important to stay in good standing with them and keep all of your online information up to date and accurate. This doesn’t only mean your website (although, that’s certainly important! It also means your entire digital footprint, including social media accounts and other online sources).
Google is looking at 30 online directories and comparing your business information to your Google My Business Listing. If your information is consistent across all platforms, that’s a good signal to Google. Alternatively, if your information is inconsistent, that’s a bad signal, and Google may choose to showcase one of your competitors over your own business.
In a nutshell, voice readiness means having all of your information up to date so the search engines can confidently send people in your direction when they search for something that’s relevant to the products or services you provide. Ranking is influenced by the accuracy of your online presence. When someone searches for a nearby business through voice search, the accuracy of your business’s information across key directory listings will determine whether or not you’re recommended. 90% of your voice search readiness score is determined by Google, Yelp, and Bing.
Voice Search & Structured Data
Structured data lets Google and other web platforms automatically read your site and directly pull product data from your HTML. Schema.org is a collection of structured data markup and annotations that are supported and used by major search engines and web platforms, including Google. Essentially, it’s a wrapper that’s placed around certain types of information so your business data or reviews can help Google understand the information you’re providing it faster and more efficiently. If you’re using structured data, you’re helping Google help its customers; in return, the search engine is more likely to pay attention to your brand and send people your way.
You need to be including structured data into your site in order to have a healthy digital footprint.
Voice search readiness ultimately comes down to how effective you are at optimizing your online presence. This can be a pretty big job if you’re doing it yourself, which is why many of our clients come to Surefire Local and ask us to manage all of their digital needs efficiently and at scale.
When it comes to your business, the most important information involving voice search is something called NAP—that’s name, address, and phone number. This means you need to ensure that your address, opening hours, phone number, business name, website, and zip code are all correct throughout your digital footprint. Any other elements that are related to your business would also fall into this structure. Using schema (or structured data), you want to be sure you’re helping Google understand:
- Who you are
- Where you are
- How to get in contact with you
Are You Voice Search Ready? A Comprehensive Voice Search Marketing Checklist
Voice search marketing requires you to re-examine your digital marketing strategies so your directory listings, content, and website make sense to voice searchers.
Pillar #1: Directory Listings
As we stated, you need to make sure your information is complete and up to date on all available directory listings.
Google My Business
Google My Business is an imperative part of any local business’s marketing strategy. This platform provides you with the ability to list all of the relevant information people will need to know about your business in one place—but it’s not just going on your Google My Business profile; it’s potentially being spread to future customers across your region.
- Claim your GMB listing. This is the #1 thing you can do to make an improvement in your online presence.
- Embed on your website. Add your map location to your Contact Us page on your website.
- Create FAQs. Build contextual search value within your GMB profile and rank for long-tail voice search phrases.
- Get reviews and engage. Reviews help you rank for searches with “best”, “top”, and “highest-rated”.
From here, Google will begin to feed your information into the devices that are driving voice search, including both Google Assistant and Siri. Google then molds the search results based on some of the structured data you’ve created on your site. It will also take your reputation into account, meaning your star rating is going to affect the results people see when they use voice search. Google filters local results when “best” is used to show only businesses with 4-star-ratings and higher in the results.
Yelp offers a similar process to Google My Business.
- Claim your business. Yelp reviews feed into Alexa, Siri, and Cortana voice search results.
- Get reviews and engage. Yelp is among the most-used platforms by consumers, and people are definitely paying attention to the way you interact with reviewers (both those who leave positive and negative reviews).
Bing is also an important player in the voice search game. You need to make sure you claim your Bing listing because your Bing reviews will feed into Cortana voice search results.
Pillar #2: Content
Most people know that content is important, but according to Google, content is actually the #1 ranking factor. Your content absolutely matters. Here are some things to keep in mind as you create your online content.
- Keep your message simple. Keep it simple for the consumer. The average voice search is conducted at a comprehension level of a 14-year-old.
- Keyword research. Voice search queries are longer than traditional text queries and usually occur in the form of a question. You need to integrate this into your content when you’re creating blogs, web pages, and social posts.
- Create a FAQs page. This is one of the easiest ways to optimize for voice search since many searchers are looking for information in the form of questions they need answered.
- Featured snippet content. Get ranked by answering keywords concisely. 40.7% of voice search answers come from the featured snippets.
- Long-tail keywords. Add keywords into the body of the content that specifically answers questions. Less than 2% of voice search results have the exact keywords in the title.
It’s important to understand that there’s a difference between the ways in which people type and how they actually speak. Google is looking to better match answers with a person’s search intent, meaning, it’s important to have specific landing pages on your website (such as category pages, blog articles, and local pages) where the search engine can send them to when your content matches what searchers are looking for. Be careful not to focus on one particular subject or keyword; you want to cast a wide net with your talking points to attract as many viable leads as possible.
Pillar #3: Your Website
Let’s dive deeper into the ways you can optimize your website for voice search marketing. From a voice search standpoint, we’ll get into structured data again (a theme you’ll hear over and over again if you’re truly interested in optimizing your site for today’s searchers). There are other important components, as well.
Optimized Site Speed
The average voice search result loads in 4.6 seconds. That’s 52% faster than the average page. The majority of searches these days are done on mobile devices, so the whole idea of speed is very important because searchers have limited time and high expectations that results will be delivered directly to their phones instantaneously.
Including structured data means your website is designed, created, and managed in an ongoing manner from a best practices standpoint. You should include clear definitions of:
- How-to content
Each of these elements, when designed with structured data, serves to make your pages more relevant to the search engines and the end searcher.
Submit Your Sitemap to Google
Go to your Google Search Console. From your dashboard, click Crawl > Sitemaps > Add Test Sitemap.
Prioritize High-Quality Pages in Your Sitemap
Direct bots to pages that include images and video. Make sure you have a lot of unique content, and prompt user engagement through reviews.
Most voice search queries come via mobile, so it’s crucial to make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
How to Improve Your Search Readiness Score
Now let’s take it back to you and your business. How can you improve your search readiness score?
Begin with the Basics
- Start with Google. Your Google My Business profile must be complete and contain accurate information.
- Yelp & Bing Matter. Most people think of Google when they think of online searches, but Yelp and Bing hold a lot of real estate in the local search business, too. They power more voice search applications than you may realize.
- Leverage Software. 77% of businesses seek help to manage their voice search readiness and online presence. At Surefire Local, we’re proud to represent many local businesses of all sizes and from all industries, as they find their way into the voice search revolution.
- Accurate Information. Your hours, phone number, location, name, and website information must be correct everywhere. Many businesses are not consistent across all platforms in terms of information, and that’s a huge opportunity for you to improve your brand and remain competitive.
- Voice-Friendly Language. Use language on your listings and content that voice searchers will use when searching for you. Keep in mind that people are using voice to search for your services and products, and your content needs to reflect
Summing It All Up
VSR is a golden opportunity to reach more local customers and easily improve your online presence. Having accurate business information online is a foundational element to ranking in voice search results. And, don’t forget, the better your review score is, the better your chances of securing that top spot in the local voice search queries will be. Remember, only 4% of local businesses are currently voice search ready, and 77% of them are using outside vendors.
This era is a golden opportunity for you to reach more local customers in ways that meet their needs and expectations.
How Surefire Local Fits Into the Voice Search Mix
You should be leveraging agile software to meet rising trends. More and more people are searching using voice search on Amazon, Alexa, Google Home, or Siri. Your business website, content, and online directory listings must be optimized so voice search results are accurate for your business. A centralized, all-in-one local marketing platform can help you manage all of this and more on an ongoing basis.
From an ongoing account-management perspective, we help you make sure everything is operating as it should—whether you’re trying to be found on Amazon, Alexa, Google Home, or Siri. We’re constantly testing, probing, and making sure everything is accurate and working as it should. The same thing goes when it comes to your website in terms of how that’s being actively managed. Many businesses think they can create a really good-looking website and be done with their online efforts, but that’s simply not the case. You need to make sure your website is being cultivated, along with the rest of your digital footprint, including your social media sites and online directory information.
Of course, you want to pay attention to Google, Yelp, and Bing because those are currently the three pillars when it comes to voice searches, but there are also about 60 other platforms you may want to look at. Should you be on all of them? Absolutely not. But, should you have your online information situated in a way that makes it easy for Google to understand who you are and what you’re all about? Absolutely!
The idea is to roll all of this information up into a centralized place so it’s all right there for you to use and easily accessible. Your employees should be able to log into one centralized place where they can see and do all the things necessary to improve your digital footprint. This is what Surefire Local is known for. Our platform provides an easy-to-use dashboard that offers all the information you need in one single place. At the click of a button, you or your team members can check in on engagements, post blogs, or see how you’re doing in relation to your competitors. The Surefire Local marketing platform is all about helping you improve your digital footprint in ways that make sense for both your brand and your potential customers.
When you’re ready to make the most of your digital efforts, reach out to Surefire Local. Our experts are here to help drive home the value of your local business to potential customers across your city or region. You can request a free demo from us by sending us a note online or calling (703) 884-8442.