Smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home have completely changed the way we search.
Nearly one in five U.S. adults today have access to a smart speaker, according to new research out this week from Voicebot.ai. That means adoption of these voice-powered devices has grown to 47.3 million U.S. adults in two years – or 20 percent of U.S. adult population.
And while they’re good, smart speakers/assistants are only getting better. Google recently announced a list of things Google Home can do for you, including the local guide feature, which allows users to search for local stores and information. Amazon’s Alexa has more than 25,000 skills (including searching Yelp and booking a ride with Uber or Lyft).
But, what does all this mean for local search?
We’ve been using voice search (the method people use to communicate with their smart speakers) on our phones for years, but it’s not exactly the same.
On the phone when you perform a voice search, you get a list of search results. With your smart speaker, though, you get a verbal response. This is sure to shake up the local search marketing world since smart speakers tend to choose one correct answer for searches rather than allowing the searcher to choose from a list.
Why Do We Use Smart Speakers?
Let’s take a look at how people are actually using voice commands and smart speakers.
- Music selection
- Making a call
- Online searches
- Texting / Messaging
- Map navigation
- Calendar and lists
- Smart Home Technologies
So, while voice search may not be inherently local, we as users are making it local. We use it to search for businesses and get directions.
This means your local search marketing strategy needs a solid foundation to even begin to be optimized for voice-activated assistants.
So, How Do You Optimize for Voice Searches?
The important thing to know about optimizing for voice search (and local search in general) is that in order for your business to appear in search results, the search engine needs to think your business is a good match for the search query. (Search engines only want to give searchers the best, most relevant results for their queries.)
According to Google’s local search document, Google determines whether your business is a good match for searches by taking into account three things for each search:
Prominence has to do with how well-known your business is. Think number of reviews and star rating as well as inbound links and amount of directory listings.
Your business will have a better chance of ranking high in local searches if you are located near where the searcher is searching.
Never underestimate the power of consistency in your business’s citation information (name, address and phone number). If you want to show up for nearby searches, then you need to complete your local citations (ie ywllowpages.com and others).
And 40 percent of voice searchers are looking for directions, so make sure your name and address are consistent and correct across directories.
If your business is prominent and you are near the searcher, the only thing left to do is be relevant to the search query.
This is where your voice search optimization will come into play. You will need to give search engines the information they need to know so they understand when your business is relevant for certain voice search terms.
TIP #1: LEVERAGE LONG-TAIL KEYWORD RESEARCH
Voice search often involves longer spoken phrases. “Find me a pizza restaurant nearby” rather than just “pizza.”
These longer phrases are called “long-tail keywords.”
In order to optimize for voice search, you will need to research long-tail keywords related to your industry and location. We have a few favorite (free) keyword research tools, including Keyword Tool and Ubersuggest.
Using these tools, you can learn which terms consumers are using to search for businesses like yours.
For instance, if you own a salon in Paso Robles, you might search Ubersuggest for “Pedicure Paso Robles” and find that users are using voice search to ask, “Where can I get a pedicure with fish in Paso Robles?”
Once you know what your long-tail keywords are, you can add them to your website’s content.
But remember that voice search usually uses more natural language than text searches, so the long-tail keywords will also need to be natural on your website.
Another voice search optimization tactic that incorporates long-tail keywords and natural language is to answer questions your customers might pose. When a searcher uses voice to ask a question and your website’s content answers that question, you will be more likely to appear in the search results for their query.
You could answer questions in blog content or a FAQ section on your website so that search engines can find your business when consumers use voice search to ask questions related to your industry.
But, as always, don’t just optimize for search engines. Make sure to tailor your content to the people who are using the search engines to find your business. Don’t forget to use natural language in posts and FAQ sections to be sure humans can understand your content.
Voice search optimization is just another way for businesses to show up in local search results and get more customers.
TIP #2: MANAGE YOUR LOCAL LISTINGs “CITATIONS”
There are different ways for your business to be mentioned online, and there are different types of citations. But before we get into that, let’s talk about what information is typically found in a local citation for a small business.
Structured and Unstructured Citations
In most citations, you will find at least your business’s name and phone number.
If your business is listed in local directories, that is (hopefully) the least amount of information you’ll find about your business. Most structured citations will contain your business’s NAP, though. Your NAP is your business’s name, address and phone number.
When we claim your business pages and send out citation information, we make sure to add a consistent, accurate NAP.
We’ll get into the importance of consistency for this information later, but know that it is of the utmost importance to have a consistent NAP across the web.
Otherwise, you could find duplicate listings for your business, or listings with inaccurate, incomplete or inconsistent information.
This will cause a loss of consumer trust, because the consumer isn’t sure which number to call or which address is correct (or even when your business is open) if they want to visit your local business.
Anyway, back to the types of citations you should know about.
The two main types of citations are structured citations and unstructured citations.
A structured citation is a citation you’d find in a listing directory or a website where you can often change the information in the citation yourself. For instance, when you set up a Yelp page, it will ask you for your business name, address, phone number, hours, etc.
Unstructured citations are, at the very least, mentions of your business’s name.
They could also include your location and/or phone number. Unstructured citations appear on websites that don’t serve as listing directories. For instance, if a blogger or online newspaper article mentions your business, the article probably includes an unstructured citation.
Where can you find or create local SEO citations for your business?
There are different types of citations and different types of websites where those citations can be found.
And, if you’re wanting a list of important websites to get started with citations, the four main data aggregators are a good place to start since they feed information to listing directories and search engines like Google and Bing.
In the US, there are four primary sources of data for all the major search engines are: Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze, and Factual. Other companies like Yellowpages.com, Citysearch, and Superpages.com can also play a role in this cycle, sending “fresh” feeds to the search engines every couple of months. Please note that these aggregators aren’t really citation sources, but they will help you begin sending out citation information.
If your business information is incorrect at any of these major providers, it may override what the major search engines have in their own database. And if you’re not included in the databases of these major providers, your business is not going to rank as well in Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
And don’t forget to claim (or create) and optimize your business’s page on Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, Bing, etc. Bing has a great resource for how to optimize your Bing Places for Business listing. Check it out if you’re just getting started with local search marketing.
How to Build Local SEO Citations
The first thing to do before you begin building new citations is to clean up your existing citations.
To find where your business is listed, search for your business’s name and phone number in quotations, like this: “business name” “(xxx) xxx-xxxx”. Once you find those citations, you’ll need to claim any business pages and edit the information, if possible, to make sure it’s accurate.
And if your business’s phone number has ever changed, or if you have multiple phone numbers, you can also search for just your business’s name (or business name and those old phone numbers) and work your way through those search results to find and clean up your listings.
If you want to see what your citations are saying about your business, Google has a tool to show you how your business shows up in searches.
Another thing to keep in mind with citations is to be careful with your address.
There are many different ways to list a business’s address in local directories. Think 101 Main St. vs. 101 Main Street. You’ll want to make sure the address you use in listings is not only accurate but is consistent across listings.
Search engines and directories are pretty smart, and they can probably tell the difference between “street,” “st.” and “st”. Still, it’s best if you publish the same NAP across listings—just to be safe.
Optimize All Listings Everywhere
We already mentioned claiming pages on sites such as Yelp or Google My Business, but you will also want to optimize your listings. Don’t just add the bare minimum to be found.
Add enough information to give customers a good understanding of what your business does. Add a description and a few photos of your business.
And remember that many of these sites allow users to review your business, so you should be keeping an eye on those reviews too. Respond to negative reviews and try to make things right for the reviewer. If your Yelp business page isn’t optimized with photos and accurate, up-to-date information, you’re potentially losing out on customers.
Don’t just be found. Be present, and make sure your customers are happy. Even if you do show up correctly in local searches, unanswered negative reviews can be extremely damaging for a small business. Make sure to reply to negatives and try to make it right for the reviewer. And don’t forget you need to consistently be getting new reviews.
Our Digital Marketing Strategists also update pages such as Google+ periodically, so that search engines see that your business is active, rather than just listed.
Build New Citations
Now that you’ve claimed business pages and corrected any inaccurate listings you’ve found, it’s time to start building new citations.
For building brand new citations, you can always start with that list of data aggregators we mentioned earlier. Beyond that, you can search for industry-specific or location-specific directories, or even search for your competitors to find out which citation sources list their businesses.
Or here are a couple of resources to find the best citation sources by industry or city.
Here’s the list of citation sources by city.
And the list of citation sources by industry.
But before you go putting your Business’s NAP on every directory out there, remember that some are going to be more valuable than others.
Besides, while you want customers to be able to find you in any directory they’re using to search, you probably don’t have time to create citations for every single directory out there.
And remember to aim for quality, rather than quantity with your citations. Make sure your business is listed on the important websites we’ve mentioned, instead of going for a huge quantity of citations. So stick to the most common sites customers use to find you.
Your Citation Building Checklist
- Find the correct address for your business. Check with USPS to see how, exactly, your address is listed.
- Save this information in a spreadsheet or Word document to minimize errors and make citation building a little easier. Now once you need to update your listings, you can copy/paste the information into the directory.
- Search for your business in Google to find your existing citations.
- Clean up existing citations before you begin creating new citations.
- Start building new citations, but be picky! Don’t just add a citation to every site out there. Go for the important sites and data aggregators we mentioned.
- Optimize your business’s listings. Whenever possible, add photos, business information, and categories. Don’t forget to check for and respond to reviews, and keep listings updated.
- Keep track of your citations. You can’t just build citations once, because one new NAP mistake somewhere could mean incorrect information in your listings. And you don’t want consumers to find incorrect information about your business.
And remember, citation building is just a small piece of the local search marketing puzzle, but it’s an important piece.
People aren’t just finding your site through voice search, so you’ll need to strike a balance between showing up in voice searches and having helpful content for people who visit your site on computers or smartphones.
If you want your business to be found online, ready your digital info and optimize well!
Or, you can give us a call and we’ll do all this for your business as search marketing is our specialty. Who has the time to clean up citations, anyway?