Google's Voice Search Feature and Your Local Search Marketing

July 12, 2013 Deb Griffith

"The End of Search As We Know It," said Google at the recent I/O conference.  Holy smokes, that sounds ominous. But exactly what's behind the hyperbole?

In a nutshell, the way users will interact with data is going to change dramatically in the near future (think Google Glass), starting with the way we access the internet through voice search.

There isn’t any published data on how many local searches are currently done with voice search, but anecdotally, it’s amazing how few people are using voice search at all. Trust me -- at your next cocktail party, try a little demonstration, I bet you'll have the room riveted.  Unless you live in Mountain View, I imagine.

Voice Search -- What is it?

It is what it sounds like -- talking to an inanimate object and having it deliver information back to you. It works on mobile devices, and also on tablets and desktop computers through the Chrome browser.

And it’s really kind of amazing what kinds of information you can ask for conversationally and have delivered.  Like what you ask?

  • Math and calculations
  • Word definitions
  • Showing a “how-to” video
  • Sports scores, recipes, weather reports, looking up news

And of course, local business information too!

It’s all powered by Google’s formidable Knowledge Graph and tends to outperform Apple’s Siri feature in terms of answer relevance and speed.

But what’s most important for local businesses to know is that depending on the device, the data served up will be different based on the data source.  What does this mean exactly? Optimizing in the different environments, of course.

Using the same vocal command of “what are the golf courses in New Smyrna Beach, Florida” three different devices yielded three different search engine results pages. 

The desktop version features the new Image Carousel to display the Google+ Local listings at the top, now with images, with the organic listings below and Maps to the right. 

The tablet version returns only claimed Google+ Local Page profiles at the top (including a custom map) and with a virtual repeat of the same organic listings.


But when you go to the mobile device, it all changes.  The Map is on the very top, with the Google + Listings below, but the organic listings are nowhere near the same as Google draws on a different Knowledge Graph for mobile and desktop/tablet data.

Essentially, without a mobile optimized website, you are unlikely to show up on a mobile device search – whether its voice or a regular text search.

So How Can You Optimize Your Business for Google’s Voice Search?

You probably thought that since you have a good technical website with unique metadata, claimed some directory listings and have a facebook page, you’re all set.  But there are some additional action items to add to your to-do list when optimizing for Google’s Voice Search -- here are 4 important tips that will help.

Tips for Optimizing Voice Search

  • Completed Google+ Local Page – Google thinks this is the most correct data for a small business as it has been supplied/verified by the business owner. This is also used as the data source for Google Maps.  And as we saw from the examples above, a fully populated Google+ Local page is going to help tremendously in all of your Google Searches
  • Optimized Mobile sites – If Google doesn’t recognize a webproperty optimized for a mobile device, its likely to not return it at all to enhance their user experience.  So make sure your mobile site is actually mobile device (and Google!) friendly.
  • Tagging rich media for keywords – User engagement is much higher when an image is involved – so be sure to use keyword tagged images on your mobile website.
  • For devices that are likely to be used for voice search (like a smart phone), you may want to include long-tailed keywords or keyphrases that are more likely to be spoken than typed.

So what does all this mean for Small Businesses?

With stricter new anti-texting campaigns, the already trending consumer shift will quicken.  Small businesses, especially those with bricks and mortar locations that rely on consumer traffic, should be thinking now about how to optimize for Voice Search. 

After all, why text when you can talk?

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