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Should Your Business Prepare for Voice Search?

Should Your Business Prepare for Voice Search?

One of the biggest challenges in online marketing comes from following the trends. Things change a lot. The latest trend is voice search. Is this something you should focus on, or is it just a fad?

The Search Engines are Focusing on Voice Search

The major search engines are investing heavily into voice search as a technology. This is as true for Bing as it is for Google. Here’s why you should consider this the future of search, and not just a fad.

Hardware is Promoting Voice Search

Google has been putting a lot of marketing dollars into their voice assistant, Google Home. This is in response to the 70% market share Amazon’s Echo devices have. While Google Home devices use Google search (obviously), Amazon devices use Bing search.

This isn’t the beginning of this. This has been going on for a while. A few years ago, you could call an 800 number and get Google results for a query. I’m sure Google used this data to prepare for voice search from desktop machines (ever notice the microphone icon in a search box?). Now Google has a dedicated device for voice searches. It’s not ending there, though. Now Google is integrating voice search into their smart phone apps.

Voice Search Works Great on Mobile

That brings up another point. If you’ve been following Google over the last couple years, you have also seen their focus on mobile. A couple years ago was mobile-geddon. Now they have a mobile-first algorithm. This means Google ranks your website based its mobile experience, rather than desktop version.

The next-step is voice search. Think about it: when was the last time you typed a text message? I bet you use your microphone to “type” your texts. Voice is a much easier way to interact with your mobile device. If Google is focusing on mobile, they also have to consider voice too.

Featured Snippets are on Both Bing and Google

Whether you’re using Google or Bing, each search engine has started providing featured snippets. This is where a search engine answers your question within their search results. Why are the search engines moving to this feature?

Featured snippets provide the answers to a voice query. That’s where your Google Home and Amazon Echo devices get answers to your questions.

Clearly voice search is not a fad. It’s the future.

But What About Your Business?

As a business owner, you can’t follow every single trend. You have limited time and resources and you have to put them into the most impactful results. It might be that the search engines are focusing on voice search- but should you? Let me ask you a couple questions about your business, to help you decide whether voice search is right for you.

Does Your Business Provide a Service?

If you’ve got an Alexa-enabled device at home, you might think voice searches are only to sell products. While Amazon developed their Echo devices to sell more products, that’s not its only value.

I have to admit my voice assistant is training me. If you were to watch me throughout the day, you’d see me randomly yelling questions to Alexa. Sometimes I even ask her the time, rather than hold up my arm to look at my smart watch! The convenience of asking her questions is training me to ask her more questions. Pretty soon I’ll be asking her for other questions, too.

Where will voice assistants get these answers? Featured snippets. With each featured snippet, a voice assistant will tell the user where the answer came from. From here, if your business website provides the answer, the assistant will announce your site’s name. Now, when you want to find a service to help with that problem, users are more likely to look for your website.

Now I’ll admit that Google Home devices are better at this than Amazon devices. Give it time. Amazon will have to adapt or lose its dominance in the market.

In short: voice search isn’t just for businesses that sell products. If you provide a service, you need to prepare for voice searches. To do that, rank for featured snippets. These are the answers to questions that voice searches will receive. If you can rank for a featured snippet, your customers can find your business through a voice search.

Does Your Business Have a Local Presence?

As I’ve been looking at search data, over the last couple years, I’ve noticed a trend. More and more searches are modified with the phrase “near me.” To confirm I’m not crazy, I went to Google Trends and saw that more users are adding “near me” to their queries.

Why are people doing this? They want a locally-based business to help them. Traditionally this meant you needed to focus on local SEO, to “rank” for these kinds of searches. Your goal: to end up in the featured “local pack” for area businesses.

Now that customers are using their voice-enabled devices more, they will be asking them the same question. How do voice assistants answer these questions? By providing local-pack results- just like in a browser-search.

If you have a local presence you need to prepare for voice search. Pretty soon people will ask their voice assistants for businesses “near me”. If you want voice searching customers to find you, you need to focus on your local SEO efforts. This will put you in one of the three answers for a voice query and help customers find you.

Does Your Business Rely on Organic Search Traffic for Leads?

Here’s the good news: if you do what it takes to “rank” for voice search, you’re also improving your SEO efforts. Why is this good news? Because, even if you don’t need voice search your business’ website will benefit from focusing on it. I love marketing efforts where one thing has many benefits.

This means that all businesses should focus on voice search. You might not have a brick-and-mortar office. You might not provide services. Voice search will still help- if you’re wanting search engine traffic in any form.

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by David Zimmerman // David Zimmerman is an internet marketing consultant with Reliable Acorn LLC. When he's not in front of a screen, you might find him kayaking the Catawba River in South Carolina.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.