Voice searches have skyrocketed over the past couple of years and are now making up 20% of all searches. This is due to the increase in mobile phone usage that brought a change in behaviour, along with the appearance of home assistants and other smart appliances. However, most of these voice searches are carried on the go (52.8% of users state using voice in their car), driving a greater number of localised searches. This represents a greater opportunity for local businesses to drive in-store traffic.
Why is it Important to Optimise for Local Voice Search Queries?
With the increase of localised voice searches, it is important to understand the opportunities this represents for businesses with brick-and-mortar locations. These are unique due to:
In 2014, it was estimated that 50% of local mobile searches lead to a store visit in a day. This is because “near me” searches have one thing in common: a sense of urgency. People conducting these searches are seeking immediate answers and are more likely to act upon them in the moment.
Being performed on-the-go
When driving, users that are unaware of their surroundings are more likely to conduct a voice search when they need local information.
Users performing voice search want specific, to-the-point answers. This could mean skyrocketing conversion rates if your website is able to satisfy their specific needs.
Due to the unique nature of local voice search, it is important for local businesses to be visible at the time of search. This implies a few optimisation strategies, which we’ll delve into below.
How to Optimise for Local Voice Search?
Optimising your local business for voice search will rely on location management, building contextual relevance, and mobile SEO ranking signals.
1. Location Management
Managing your location is important so that search engines can understand your local business as an entity and its attributes such as address phone number, opening hours and so on. This will help make it relevant to local searches and appear in search results.
Here are a few ways we recommend optimising your location the information that relates to it:
Google My Business Listings
Google My Business is Google’s platform for managing your business’ location on Google products such as Google Maps and the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Make sure you provide the following, and that it is up-to-date:
- Phone Number
- Business Category
- Opening Hours
- Landing Page
Your name, address and phone number must be consistent across your website, your GMB listing and directory citations. The opposite may confuse search engines and put you at the bottom of local search results.
Other GMB Features
Furthermore, make sure you monitor and use the following features on Google My Business:
- Reviews: Encourage your customers to review your location, and reply to negative reviews
- Q&A: Answer questions that users are asking about your business
- Photos: Photo uploads are a real ranking factor, make sure you add plenty of recent photos to your GMB listing.
- Local Inventory Ads: Local inventory ads let you showcase products that are available in brick-and-mortar locations, along with additional information such as opening hours and directions. These ads operate by linking your Google Merchant Centre to your local inventory, helping to show products that users are seeking to buy locally.
2. Building Relevance
Schema.org is a vocabulary of tags added to HTML code in order to specify the nature of certain attributes. For example, in LocalBusiness schema.org markup, the “address” property will specify an address. This helps search engines understand the nature of structured data.
Schema.org can be used for local businesses to specify:
- Phone number
- Opening hours
- Payments accepted
- Price range
- Serviced area
Using Schema.org markup will not only help understand where a business is located, but other bits of information such as, whether the location is open at the moment, whether credit cards are accepted and so on. This makes a business location relevant to more detailed, long-tail voice searches. Therefore, it’s recommended to implement as many Schema properties as possible.
The shift to voice search means that search queries are now longer, more natural and take the form of questions in most cases. Identify what these queries are, build FAQs, and answer questions using structured paragraphs, lists and tables. Read more about content optimisation for voice search here.
3. Mobile SEO Ranking Factors
Ranking in local search also means that your website should be competitive on mobile search engine ranking factors. Pay attention to the following:
Every second counts. Most users expect a site to load in just a few seconds, and in fact, up to 40% will leave your site if it takes more than 3 seconds for the page to load. Take the PageSpeed test and optimise your site for faster delivery.
Is your site mobile friendly? Mobile friendliness is now a strong ranking factor. Take the mobile-friendly test and and take steps to make your site more friendly to mobile users.
With the increase of on-the-go voice searches, there’s an increasing opportunity for local businesses to capture more traffic and visits. I’ve provided a few strategies for local business optimisation, that business owners can action to help turn local voice queries into physical visits.