Voice search isn’t a thing of the future. It’s here now. Every day, people are using voice commands to shop, communicate, and find information — and it’s only getting more prevalent. If you don’t want to get left behind, it’s time to optimize your business listings to get found with voice search.
When someone conducts a local voice search for your services, your company won’t just magically appear in the results. Just like traditional search engine optimization (SEO) and local SEO, you also have to optimize your online presence for voice searches — which requires a slightly different approach — in order to rank high in the results. Sure, it does require some effort, but if you do nothing, you’re leaving money on the table and letting potential business go to your competitors. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an SEO expert to implement a few changes.
Write conversational web content.
People talk differently than they type. In voice search, we use longer, conversational phrases that mirror natural speech. For example, someone looking to buy a new home might type into Google, “buying a house,” but via voice command, they’d be more likely to say, “How do I buy my first home?” For that reason, your website content should feature relevant, specific, natural-sounding language that someone would use to talk to a real person. These are called long-tail keywords.
Use a keyword search tool to find out what your target customers are searching for in your industry and local market, and weave those into your web content in the form of long-tail keywords. Not sure how to do this? Check out Answer the Public. It’s a tool that takes your keyword and turns it into useful phrases and questions that people are actually asking.
Create content in question and answer format by putting an FAQ page on your website. When someone asks their phone or digital assistant a question related to your business, your FAQ will already be written in the form of an answer — which will push you higher in the search results and drive more traffic to your site.
Write conversational web content.
Smartphones are the most popular devices used for voice search, representing 56% of voice searches for local businesses (followed by desktops, tablets, and smart speakers, respectively). Having a mobile-friendly website is not just one of Google’s ranking factors; it also impacts the user experience.
Have you ever tried to read a webpage designed for desktop on your phone? It’s not fun. The text is too small; you have to pinch the screen to zoom in and find what you’re looking for; images don’t load properly. This is a huge turnoff for customers, and they’ll likely abandon the site if they encounter this. A mobile-friendly website is essential in today’s mobile-first world. You can see how yours stacks up using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, or learn more about what makes a site mobile-friendly.
Claim and complete your business listings.
Because people commonly use voice search to find local businesses, your business needs to be listed on directories such as Yelp, Apple Maps, Google My Business, and Bing to get the most exposure. This is especially important because different voice assistants use different data aggregators to source information. For instance, Google Assistant is fueled by Google My Business, whereas Microsoft Cortana uses Bing. Go through each of these sites and make sure your business listings are accurate and consistent with the following info: address, phone number, website, office hours, photos, and a short business description.
Don’t forget to ask for online reviews. Businesses with the highest number of reviews and star ratings appear at the top of search results.
Optimizing for voice search will drive traffic to your website and help your business get found in local lookups, but make sure you have a way to capture and convert those leads into customers. Calls to action, contact forms, “subscribe now” buttons, and chatbots are effective ways to engage the client, collect their information, and guide them to the next step in the customer journey.
As technology continues to advance, voice-search technology will keep shaping the way people engage with brands and make buying decisions. Adapting to this shift in consumer behavior not only puts you ahead of the curve, but also sends the message that you understand what your customers want — and that you’re capable of meeting their needs in every stage of the customer lifecycle.
Sources:  eMarketer, US Voice Assistant Users 2019.  BrightLocal, Voice Search for Local Business Study, 2018.  Microsoft, Bing, 2019 Voice Report.  PwC, Consumer Intelligence Series: Prepare for the voice revolution, 2018.  Backlinko, Voice Search SEO Study.  Perficient, Mobile Voice Usage Trends in 2019.