Voice search is set to become one of the top ways people find local products and services online. ComScore predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be made using voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. With the majority of voice searches being local queries, there are tons of reasons why voice search is relevant to local SEO.
These are some of the voice search trends in 2018 we’re eager to explore:
- Use of voice search is increasing in all age groups, including seniors.
- The hospitality industry is experimenting with voice-enabled devices in hotel rooms, which is a boon to retailers and restaurants who invest in local SEO.
- Voice-enabled devices are becoming more common in college dorms, giving local businesses another route to the lucrative student market.
- All signs point to pay-by-voice as a major e-commerce force in coming years.
- New schema markup can tell Google that your website’s text is perfect for voice search queries.
Let’s look at why these rising voice search trends are relevant to local SEO and discuss how to prepare for them
1. Voice Search is Not Only for Millennials
Millennials were the first generation to adopt voice assistant tech, and they’re still the biggest age group of voice search users. But voice search is increasingly used by people across age demographics.
In 2017, 10.9% of Americans used a voice-assisted device at least once, a 128.9% increase over the number in 2016.
One of the most surprising aspects of this increase is the number of adults over 65 who are eagerly purchasing and using voice assistant technology. Seniors aren’t usually early adopters of new tech, but voice search is different: it comes onboard familiar devices like thermostats and takes barriers like small text and complicated user interfaces out of the equation.
This trend presents a novel opportunity for businesses to speak to a demographic that has historically been tough to reach online.
2. Amazon Wants Alexa in Hotel Rooms
Until recently, the hospitality industry has struggled to integrate voice assistant devices into the guest experience. Many hotels have existing automation systems that don’t interface with new crop of smart home devices, while others lacked the information infrastructure to support them.
But as voice assistants have become ubiquitous, more brands are testing out voice-enabled tech in hotel rooms. The latest experiment comes from a collaboration between Amazon and Marriot. The companies plan to place Echo devices with specialized Alexa for Hospitality software in hotels, vacation rental spaces, and other hospitality locations.
Why is this exciting for Local SEO? Because tourists spend more than natives in local categories like restaurants and retail, and 33% of local search business comes from tourists.
When visitors land in an unfamiliar place, they turn to the internet for recommendations on where to eat and where to shop. In a future where voice-enabled devices are a hotel room standard, more and more of those valuable local queries are going to arrive via voice search.
3. Voice Assistants Are Becoming a Part of College Life
Today, smart speakers are still primarily used for entertainment purposes: playing music, reading audiobooks, and so on. But there’s a huge marketing push underway to frame voice-enabled smart speakers as a tool for college and university success.
Last year, Amazon partnered with four major universities to provide free Amazon Echo Dots to students, along with funding for schools to develop Alexa-related curriculums. Other schools are experimenting with smart speakers in dorm rooms to help students transition to college life.
Regardless of whether students will actually use their devices to keep track of class schedules and due dates, voice-enabled devices on campus are good news for local businesses.
Off-campus student spending accounts for as much as $17.5 billion in local economic activity. If voice assistants become a part of college life, businesses who invest in local SEO for voice search can reap even more of those benefits.
4. You Will Soon Be Able to Pay By Voice
In 2018, just about every major payment platform is working on enabling transactions through voice commands with voice-enabled devices.
Mastercard is looking to bring its Masterpass online payment platform into Amazon and Google’s voice systems. Google recently enabled peer-to-peer transactions through voice commands to Google Assistant, and Amazon has announced plans to let users make purchases with Amazon Pay directly through Alexa.
Once people can easily pay-by-voice, businesses who claim top local listings for voice search queries could see their conversions soar. It would also make calculating the return on investment for Local SEO easier and more accurate than ever.
5. Google Has Started Looking for ‘Speakable’ Text on Websites
Google recently announced a new form of markup called Speakable, which web publishers can use to indicate bits of text that are ideal for text-to-speech conversion.
To briefly summarize, schema markup is code on a website that speaks directly to search algorithms. It’s designed to provide information that helps search engines deliver better results to searchers. Speakable is a new kind of schema code that is meant to tell the algorithm which parts of a web page (if any) might be good answers to voice searches.
Essentially, Google wants to know which parts of your site are perfect for voice queries. That’s a huge opportunity for local businesses.
Speakable is still brand-new, and Google is currently only using it for news-related searches in the US. But its relevance is likely to expand over time, and it could become an important piece of the local SEO puzzle for businesses who want to rank in voice searches.
Preparing for Voice Search in Local SEO
The rise of voice search presents a world of opportunity for businesses who invest in local SEO.
Voice search optimization is still in its infancy. As voice search trends evolve, so will the tactics for optimizing a site for voice queries. However, there are steps you can take now to prepare for rising voice search trends in 2018 and beyond:
- Optimize your site for mobile. 20% of voice search queries come from mobile devices. Many users will follow up a voice search with a trip to the site that comes up in the answer. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s time to change that.
- Start paying attention to While Google is the leading search engine overall, Bing owns a huge share of the voice search market thanks to Amazon’s Alexa. Make sure your site has a complete and accurate Bing Places page and a strong presence in its rankings.
- Focus on long-tail keywords. The biggest difference between voice and text search is the tone, phrasing and words used in searches. Voice queries use natural language and a more conversational tone. They’re also usually phrased as questions. Keep this in mind when targeting long-tail keywords.
For more on voice search optimization, read our post on the key differences between voice search and text search.