Since the official inception of mobile voice search with Apple’s launch of Siri in 2011, consumers, search professionals and businesses have watched for the rise of voice search in local. Despite Siri’s initial inadequacies and obvious voice recognition challenges, savvy multitasking mobile consumers are finally adopting the technology to find the best nearby restaurant, an urgent care center or a plumber in a pinch.
Why? It’s fairly intuitive, really. Many folks search on the go and can speak faster than they can type and need both hands free in this 24/7 world. As voice search becomes more sophisticated and is able to generate more local business results, consumers are gravitating to it for its ease of use and convenience.
Siri made headlines again last week as it exited beta, also receiving an upgrade in the new iOS 7. With the popularity of voice search growing, Microsoft, too, is considering getting in the game with its rumored personal assistant, dubbed Cortana, that would tap Bing for search results. And, let’s not forget Google, which is making headway with Google Now and Voice Search, now tied directly into Google Knowledge Graph for more detailed search results.
As the voice search wars heat up, it is clear that search professionals and local businesses should take a closer look at how they and their clients are presented in voice search results and how their collective digital marketing efforts are impacting “voice search” visibility.
Ratings & Reviews Influence Results
We all know that user reviews and strong consumer ratings are an essential component of local search listings, but how might they impact voice search?
When performing a voice search for the term “roofing contractors” in Herndon, VA, both Siri and Google Voice present a detailed list of local businesses.
When you ask both search tools, “What is the best roofing contractor?” the results are slightly different. Siri offers the same listing set as it did for the general “roofing contractor” search, but the listings are now sorted by their associated ratings and reviews, with highly ranked businesses first. Separately, Google Voice presents a single local listing for an actual business that includes the terms “Best” and “Roofing Contractor” in the company name — even though the business itself is located in South Florida.
Takeaway: Businesses need to be mindful of their user ratings and reviews across Google, Yahoo, Foursquare, Yelp and other sites. Encouraging loyal customers to post positive results that include specific locations has never been more important, as they increasingly influence how a local business appears in local search results – whether it be voice search or results on a desktop or mobile device.
Proximity & Relevancy Both Key For SEO
There has been a long debate over whether search engines should place higher weight on proximity or relevance — in my opinion, the mix of the two presents the best results. When looking for a local pizza restaurant, Google Voice Search presented results based on Google PageRank, weighting businesses based on relevancy. Conversely, Siri’s results are ranked by proximity to my location.
Takeaway: We’ve observed that Siri focuses more on proximity and Google Voice hones in more on relevancy. Marketers shouldn’t dismiss or weight one more than the other based on the differences in both Google and Siri’s voice search algorithms.
As Google attempts to present searchers with the most relevant answers based on specific search terms and phrases, website content that addresses a mix of “spoken” questions is imperative for ranking well in local search results.
This type of detail and keyword proliferation should be uniform across a site, including a business’ About page or FAQ page. Today, Google places tremendous value on rich content, so paying close attention to your blog entries, social media posts, photos and videos is a must for all local businesses to increase relevancy.
Ensuring a business’ name, address and phone number (NAP) are accurate and complete in all search engines, directories and social sites is critical for ranking well in proximity for both online search as well as voice search. Also, it is important to select one or more business categories. This basic information needs to be consistent across all sites to build trust and confidence for local search listings across the local search ecosystem.
Voice-Based Searches Vs. Text-Based Searches
There is heavy focus and documented ongoing research on desktop and mobile keyword searches performed in the search box; however, there isn’t a whole lot out there yet on “natural language” search when it comes to voice. As people speak and search for businesses verbally, they are more likely to use longer queries or insert questions, e.g., “Where can I find the closest brushless car wash?” vs. “car wash herndon va.”
As more voice searches are completed, it is likely that the scope and variety of terms will broaden the keywords and phrases businesses should be ranked for. Marketers will need to consider specific questions, commands and phrases more likely to be said via a voice search.
Takeaway: Popular keywords are important, but focusing on long-tail keywords will be just as crucial. Creating content tied to these less competitive keywords can help drive traffic to your website. Based on Google Analytics, the top 20 keywords represent the majority of search traffic volume. However, we that believe over time, voice search will create more dispersion.
For example, if a consumer searches for replacement windows, hundreds of thousands of businesses are competing to rank well for a narrow set of highly competitive keywords. Voice search naturally expands the keyword and phrase variables that may not have achieved the highest volume or strongest conversion potential in the past. A sound SEO strategy examining the expanded keyword and phrasing possibilities should be explored.
Will the emergence of local voice search change local SEO tactics? What’s your voice search experience been to date?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.