Hey Google, what’s the weather?
Alexa, play the latest news.
Hey Siri, find a local coffee shop.
In 2017, we witnessed an influx of smart speakers and more voice command technology. It’s estimated that 39 million Americans (one in six adults) now own a smart speaker.
Of course, that doesn’t account for people who use voice command on their smartphones, using Siri or Google Assistant. I don’t own a smart speaker, but I use Google Assistant at least twice per day on my smartphone.
While smart speakers and voice commands are growing in use and popularity, does it really mean much for online marketing? Particularly, does this increase mean much for search engine optimization for local businesses?
I think there are two sides, a yes and no, in regards to search engine optimization for voice search.
First, How Do People Use Smart Speakers & Voice Search?
To answer the question of whether we should care about smart speakers and voice search in regards to online marketing, we need to know what people are using this technology for.
So how do people use their smart speaker and what do they ask of it?
If you think about it, having a Google Home or Amazon Echo at home or in the office comes down to having the device for music or everyday needs or tasks.
If you’re cooking dinner, you need to set timers, entertain yourself with some music or hear a news recap, and possibly memory dump your reminders for the next week.
It’s about practical use, as indicated by the data above. We ask a smart speaker and smartphone to do practical things for us in the moment.
Personal Use Case Study
Again, I don’t have a smart speaker, but I use my Google Pixel 2 smartphone with Google Assistant the same way as some use their smart speaker. Let me share with you the things I most often ask Google Assistant to do:
- Set a reminder
- Make a call
- Send a quick message
- Get the weather
- Hear recent news
- Call a local restaurant for take out
- Calculations/conversions - “how many tablespoons in five cups?”
Two Functions Could Lead to Local Business Interactions
When it comes down to online marketing for a local business or organization and optimizing for voice search, let’s notice that only two of functions listed in the ATLAS data could result in a local business interaction.
Those two functions – ask general questions and get directions.
Out of all of the functions, only two could possibly land you (as a local business or organization) an interaction with a customer. That’s not as promising as we would like. This is why it’s both a yes and no. These two functions could lead to business, but most interactions will not (at this time at least).
However, with those two in mind we need to take a few steps to cashing in on those if they could lead to a customer interaction and then a transaction.
Optimizing for Voice Search & Smart Speakers
Function One: Ask General Questions
For you as a local business or organization, you need to think in terms of frequently asked questions pertaining to what you do.
If you’re a landscaping company, then your questions might be the following:
- How much does landscaping cost?
- When should I do landscaping?
- Can landscaping increase my home value?
If you’re a local medical nonprofit, then your questions might be these:
- Is there a free health clinic nearby?
- Where can I get medical help without insurance?
Dedicate a page on your website to answer all general questions or FAQs you can possibly think of for your organization or business. This sort of optimization will not only benefit you capturing voice searches, but just searches in general. It’s a two-for-one special.
Function Two: Get Directions
If someone is asking for directions, then search engines better have your address on hand.
Make sure you have a Google My Business profile and that your address is absolutely correct on it. Make sure your address is listed on your website and is absolutely correct as well.
Then, take the time to add your business or organization to other online listing sites, such as Yelp, Bing, YP, and even Facebook. The more your address is listed online, the greater chance you have of providing those directions, which will likely turn into a transaction once they arrive.
How Is Voice Search Changing Google & SEO?
Recently, we discovered Google tried an experiment for some searches, like the time, weather, and calculations, where it only displayed one answer and showed zero results. It looked like this:
This is directly correlated to voice search because as you know, if you ask Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant something specific, then they will return with one answer or one result 90 percent of the time.
We had yet to see that within Google search directly. This tells us Google is considering mixing their voice search functionality with desktop Google search.
As of right now, Google stopped the experiment. They say they’re looking to improve it, which means they aren’t dropping it.
This is cause for some concern because a zero results display like the experiment means we as organizations and businesses could lose visibility.
Personally, I don’t expect this to disrupt local searches and local results, but this trend could push beyond what we’re seeing right now. That’s why we need to keep an eye out and do everything we can to capitalize on the voice search model, which we optimize for a specific, single result.
- Only a small fraction of smart speaker use and voice tech could lead to local organization and business interaction/transaction
- Most people use smart speakers and voice commands for practical use
- Voice search does push us with having exact answers to our audience’s questions and making sure those answers are found on our websites
- Voice search does push us to have exact local listings and multiple listings
- Smart speakers and voice search are causing Google to experiment more and more with zero results and exact answers to questions