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Voice Search: Thinking Beyond Google

What would you say if I said, voice search in 2019 isn’t a single-search-engine game? There are four dominant voice assistants on the market and only one – Google Assistant – uses Google’s search engine and Google applications. Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, owned by Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, respectively, are in hundreds of millions of voice-enabled devices and don’t rely on Google.

Why you shouldn’t only optimize voice search for Google

Voice search queries aren’t generally said directly to a search engine. Sure, users can open up Google or Bing and conduct a voice search that way but the majority pose queries to a voice assistant. This means results will be returned to the user in whatever built-in search engine the assistant uses. Makes sense, right? Microsoft and Amazon have a deal to use Bing for Alexa voice assistants. Together with Microsoft’s Cortana, those two voice assistants account for over 500 million devices. Apple did switch Siri’s search engine from Bing to Google a few years back but image results continue to be sourced from Bing.

An important consideration for voice is local search. A 2018 study by BrightLocal found that 46% of voice search users search for a local business every day. And again, Google isn’t the only player. The 500 million Siri-powered devices use Apple Maps for local search. Cortana and Alexa use Bing Places for Businesses and Bing Maps.

So marketers, don’t assume that you should be optimizing just for Google. Voice assistants outside of Google’s account for a significant portion of devices!

“OK, Google Siri/Cortana/Alexa. How do I optimize for voice search?”

Here are a few top strategies to optimize for voice search, beyond Google:

Whether or not half of all web searchers will be made with voice by 2020, marketers should be preparing for it. That means a mobile site is a must, review and directory websites are important, and stuffing your web pages with keywords isn’t necessary any more.

Keep your Bing Places for Business profile up-to-date! We talk a lot about Google My Business in SEO but, if you’re concerned about optimizing for voice and local search, having a presence on Bing Places for Business is important too. Setting up a listing is free and isn’t any harder to maintain. Claim your listing, complete your profile, verify the listing, and voila. Your company will also then have a presence on Bing Maps.

Check out Bing’s SEO tools! Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines gives a lot of insights into how it approaches search. You might also want to sign up to Bing Webmaster Tools, for access to SEO reports and tools that are useful for seeing if your websites are Bing-friendly.

Voice search queries mimic how people talk, more than any keyboard search. This means people are conducting long-form searches with more conversational words. Voice searches are also more likely to be phrased as questions and involve connecting words such as “and,” “to,” or “or.”

Consider how local search, and “near me” searches, is driving voice. Your landing pages need to be designed to incorporate long-tail keywords and keywords that describe your neighborhood and location. Add “near me” in title tags, internal links, and meta descriptions.

As a SEO marketer, you need to think about how your audience is speaking about your business or industry. These are just a few ideas to keep top of mind as you make changes to your website! Don’t forget: local search, conversational queries, and useful content.

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The way people search for information has changed. As people increasingly use voice search on their smartphones, tablets, or voice assistants, is your company ready? If you need help making sure your site is optimized for local search, with the right long-tail keywords, feel free to contact us!

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