Is your business optimized for voice searches?

Siri, find me a story about voice searches for small businesses.

This year, the chatter in small business marketing circles is moving from SEO its VSO (voice-search optimization), as it should be. By next year, more than half of all internet searches will likely be voice searches, using AI-enabled assistants like Siri, Alexa, Google, Cortana and others.

This all means small businesses need to up their VSO game. Last year, sales of smart speakers for the home doubled, and Amazon, Google and Apple has been partnering with home builders, car makers and hotel chains to grow their usage. Next year, half of U.S. households are expected to have one. And we already know our phones might as well be permanently attached to our bodies.

It’s not only retailers that must up their voice-search game. Spoken and typed queries can bring up different results, so small businesses of all types that depend on the internet for business need to start using structured data with a defined length and format to optimize voice-search results.

Last year, 58% of consumers used voice search to find local business information, according to BrightLocal’s Voice Search for Local Business Study 2018. 46% of voice search users searched for a local business daily; 28% used voice search to search for a local business about once a week. Not surprisingly, millennials were the biggest users, with 81% having used voice search on their phones to find out about local businesses. What’s more, 76% of smart speaker users perform local searches at least weekly; 27% of users visit the website of a local business after making a voice search.

And there’s this: An important way voice search differs from text search is that voice searches are three times more likely to be locally based, according to another study.

Alexa, tell me how to up my VSO game.

  • Your business’s location, hours and phone number need to be on your website and in all search engine directories (such as Google My Business and Bing’s Places for Business). Put location-related keywords in your website content, tags, and image tags. This sounds basic but this year, Uberall, a location marketing firm, studied 73,000 business listings for accuracy and completeness, checking for basic data such as address, hours of operation, contact information, and website. Only 4% – 4%! – had correct up-to-date information on all key platforms.
  • In developing your content, use natural language throughout and incorporate multiple-word keywords. Website content written in a conversational tone is more likely to land in voice search results. Use short, readable sentences; voice search looks for quick answers. Multiple-word keywords, called long-tail keywords, have four words or more and should incorporate phrases that sound like they would be naturally be part of a  question customers would ask. Google Keyword Planner can help.
  • Add questions and answers to your website. This way, search engines will be able to better match your content to the queries. Creating a FAQ page is a good way to start developing question and answer content. Later on, you can create product or service descriptions, blog posts, and other content that answers questions.
  • Check your site speed and security. If your website does not load quickly and properly, your business is not going to show up in voice search results of the customer. As to security, 70% of Google Home result pages were secured with an important security certificate, HTTPS and SSL.
  • Reputation matters. Businesses with high consumer ratings are likely to do better in voice searches.

OK, Google, anything else I should know about voice searches?

  • Start by optimizing your Google My Business profile. Make sure all its information and images about your business section are completely accurate. Take advantage of features Google offers, including Google Posts, Messaging, the new description, and product and service offerings.
  • Aspire to be a Snippet. Featured snippets are selected search results that are prioritized on the top of Google’s organic results, right under the ads. Creating the content that is correct, authorized and informative can create an opportunity for your business to be spotted by Google and to be the answer to the question of the voice searcher.
  • Optimize your website for mobile. Your site needs to load fast on a mobile device or your potential customer may move on to another business. Google has a free mobile-friendly website test.

More than half of voice-activated speaker owners report that they experience a natural feeling when talking to it, and 62% of smart speaker users say they are likely to buy something through the speaker in the next month, according to Google. Voice assistants like Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and Alexa are here to stay, getting smarter all the time, and seem destined to continue to grow in popularity – whether they are on your phone, in your car or in your home. Make them work hard for your business.

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