There’s one factor that will always hold true regarding SEO: it’s invariably ever-changing. Top on the list of the sweeping changes that we’re experiencing currently in area-specific SEO is an increased quality of voice search. Voice search was once a novelty — it has become a necessity, particularly once you’re on the move with your smartphone or tablet.

Why is this important: If you’re a local business it’s important that you pay attention. In this article, we’ll address what steps you can take to optimize your business for this new personal assistant-type search? Here are some tips.

Voice prompted searches are on the rise.

According to Google, twenty percent of searches on its mobile app and Android devices are voice searches. Keep in mind Google has some competition in this market. Amazon has the Echo device, Apple has Siri, and Google also has their Google Home device. So the data we have is a small subset of the actual user base accessing the web via voice-enabled search.

So why are we choosing to share our optimization thoughts regarding voice search today? Not too long ago, the foray into personal assistants and voice-commands was clunky at best. More often than not, the artificial intelligence was more artificial and less intelligent than we expected, resulting in an exercise in frustration. However, things have changed: the KPCB web Trends 2016 report highlights, the accuracy rate of voice search is up to ninety-two percent. That’s a considerable improvement. As voice recognition becomes more accurate, more users accomplish what they need to when activating the utility. With precise results comes a relationship of trust with a device. Additionally, with new laws, such as the one recently passed in Washington State, we will become more and more dependant on voice search and voice-activated commands to find what we’re looking for, whether it’s a contact or a coffee shop. The capabilities of voice search can expand, and customers can reap the advantages as its quality continues to rise.

Graph showing voice search trends

So, why must you consider making any changes to your content because voice-enabled search is on the rise? Here are some examples:

Optimizing your native business for voice search

Many people use voice search to call up information regarding establishments they are traveling around. They might activate search and say a phrase like “what is the best coffee shop in town.” Your content should reflect more spoken-word expressions to fulfill this search request. Adding language to your site’s content can immediately assist you with voice search results.

Another solution for matching up with search requests prompted through voice is by establishing several Q&A sections on your website. Think of questions your potential audience might have about your product or service and phrase them using sentences they will actually say versus type into a search field. Build out these page sections to address many questions your prospects are seeking, and you’ll have answers to a vast array of potential search phrases.

We’ve been talking about the real human audience who’s looking for your business, but you must also account for the search bots that are scouring the web in search of information to serve up to its users. So, be sure and structure your site in a way that’s easily navigated by software and humans alike. One important detail that remains true to this day: submit your sitemap to both Google and Bing to help facilitate crawlers. Also, make sure that you incorporate such tools as rich snippets, schema, and microdata since these are essential methods used to establish authority.

If structured data intimidates you, try utilizing some of the existing webmaster tools provided by Google, such as its Structured knowledge Markup Helper. These tools are an excellent resource for checking your content against what audience patterns exist today.

Users are beginning to add the “near ME” suffix to their search phrase more and more often. This little additional bit of text signals Google to check the user’s current GEO location and find a close proximal match to their position. In this case, your Google My Business listing must be active, up to date and must match the classification of their request. It’s imperative that you give some thought to the top three categories you’ve listed for your business profile.

Lastly, with your Google My Business and Bing Places for Business dialed in, you need to be sure that all of your citation sites (business listings) are consistent. In other words, if you’ve listed your business on YellowPages, Citysearch, and Yelp, all of the addresses need to match. If there’s any discrepancy between the listings, the search engine is going to stumble and move on to the next best match.

Think long term but start today

Because voice search is on the rise, and a user’s style of requesting information is changing, you don’t need to rush into replacing all of the content on your site to account for this subtle difference. But you do need to start making changes today. Start with one section at a time. Focus on your primary revenue drivers first. Chip away at it or hire an expert to support you. The key is, technology changes and as the landscape evolves, you must stay relevant so that your potential lost business turns into new customers.

For starters, try and get into the mind of your customer. What is their intent behind a search request? Mobile devices are primed for long-tail keyword phrases such as route me to the best sushi truck in Friday Harbor. Or, what restaurants are open the latest in Seattle? Build content into your pages that include spoken-word phrases and be specific. Also, make sure that your Google My Business hours are accurate and that your business categories match what your customers want most from your services.

A technique we use when researching the products and services of our clients is to investigate Google’s Search Console reports for what people are searching for when they find their businesses. These search queries provide us with insights about customers and what they’re thinking about when looking for something specific. We can’t tell if the search came from voice or the traditional search field on the web, but eventually, Google will include this metric in the data. Either way, this dashboard is a great way to dive deep into the data and pull out facts about what people are looking for and what they consider the right match.

In conclusion

Almost one hundred percent of voice searches are conducted on mobile devices. It is, therefore, more important than ever to make sure that your website is mobile optimized. If a user requests your product or service then eventually lands on your site, and it’s not optimized for mobile, they’re likely to move on; this is a double strike against you. First you lost the business, and second, you reported to Google that your site is not what they were looking for, further indicating to the logic of Google’s algorithm that they missed the mark with the request match. Over time you’ll appear less and less in this search.