What started with Siri in 2010 has quickly transformed into a growing industry that involves all the big tech players, including Apple, Google, and Amazon. Voice search has not only grown over the last three years, but it has exploded. In one year, voice search went from zero percent of searches to 10 percent, and as of June 2016, it now accounts for 20 percent of searches. That is huge growth in a short amount of time, and that percentage can be expected to continue to grow.
Consumers are using voice search in a few ways, which Hound, a voice query app, has divided into the following four categories:
- Personal Assistant — creating events, shopping lists, reminders, making calls, or sending texts
- Fun and Entertainment — listening to music, social media, searching video, or playing games
- General Information — web searches, news, recipes, or banking and finance.
- Local Information — finding restaurants, shopping, directions, home services weather, or traffic
Voice-controlled Personal Assistant and the General Information searches are the majority of voice queries.
With this change in how consumers are searching, businesses are going to have to employ new strategies in order to keep up. Since certain voice searches are bypassing the opportunities for competitors to try and attract your attention with high organic listings and paid advertisements, new strategies need to be developed to ensure that small businesses don’t get left behind in the new voice search era. Some things to consider include online reputation, search result rankings on search engines other than Google, and long-tail keywords.
Amazon Echo relies on “Skills,” which is Echo’s version of apps, to provide data for its searches. This can leave small businesses at a competitive disadvantage due to lack of capital to create a comprehensive application like big brands and franchises are able to do. This means the best way to compete is to optimize your presence on vertical sites that have applications, like Yelp, for example. Yelp is especially important since it is also the skill that Echo accesses when looking up local businesses such as restaurants or retail shops.
Being on the first page of Google is great, but what if a user is searching via Bing, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo? Where does your site rank on the non-majority search engines?
Amazon Echo is the leading personal assistant at the moment and its default search engine is Bing. It’s important to make sure you have good standing across all of the top search engines, not just the majority leader — Google.
Queries, when using voice search, tend to be more conversational, longer, more nuanced, and actually reveal a greater intent than basic searches. For example, a user who is typing may search for “ac repair near me,” whereas a user using a voice assistant may say, “There is a burning smell coming from my Trane ac unit.” Or instead of searching for a pizza restaurant near you, you will ask your personal assistant to order you a specific pizza from that app on your device. This is also the case with local service providers. Instead of searching for an electrician in your area, you will request your personal assistant to book an appointment with the highest-rated local electrician who is available during a certain time. This last instance can circle back around to our first objective: online reputation.
Since this is relatively new technology, competition, issues, and updates will undoubtedly arise, making it difficult to anticipate what strategies will work. However, if small businesses stay on top of the technology and actively participate as it grows, it lessens the chance of being left behind as this industry changes.