How to Prepare Your Local Business for Voice Search [Actionable Tips]

In this article, I will try to paint a picture of how voice search is likely to impact local businesses in a decade to come.

I will talk about general concepts and ideas regarding voice search, as well as specific actions and strategies local businesses should employ to prepare for the age of voice.

What does Voice Search mean?

Quite simply, voice search means searching the internet, a website, or an app using voice commands.

Traditionally, we’ve been typing our searches into little boxes since the dawn of the Internet.

Voice search isn’t a new concept, by the way.

It’s decades old.

But only recently have the technological advancements enabled voice to go mainstream.

Modern speech recognition technology and our ability to manufacture electronic devices for cheap paved a road to mass voice search adoption.

There are more and more devices that have voice search enabled by the day.

Not only are you able to perform voice searches on your mobile phone, or your computer, but voice-only devices powered by voice AI assistants are finding their way into our homes as well.

These devices are getting increasingly popular and they’re taking… no… grabbing a larger and larger market share by the second.

Here are some voice search growth statistics to consider:

  • 50% of all browsing sessions will be voice-based by the end of 2020
  • More than a quarter of US households own a smart speaker device like Amazon Echo
  • 77% of the smart speaker devices are kept in the living room or kitchen, and 25% are kept in the bedrooms
  • 55% of teenagers use voice search on a daily basis
  • 40% of adults use mobile voice search once a day or more

Is voice search the future?

It most definitely is.

Some would argue that voice search is the present.

And it probably is, but the market share of voice searches isn’t large enough to start wiping out businesses that aren’t prepared for voice – yet.

But remember, Blockbuster wasn’t prepared for Netflix either and it was still doing fine for a while.

Until it wasn’t.

Here are some voice search projections for the next few years:

  • Voice-based shopping is expected to rise to $40 billion by 2022
  • By the same year, 2022, consumer spending via voice is expected to reach 18% of market share
  • By 2024, projections suggest that global voice-based smart speaker market will be worth $30 billion

What’s the difference between voice search and web search

The biggest difference between voice search and web search is that voice search is more conversational.

For years and years, web search algorithms were very limited in how they understood the nuances of language.

And that’s why users were forced into using rigid keywords or keyword combinations if they wanted to get useful search results.

Search algorithms are much more sophisticated now.

But the habit of boiling down searches into rigid keywords has stuck with us.

So we still enter something like “Boston seafood restaurant” when we want to find out what are our seafood restaurant options in Boston.

Interestingly, people don’t converse in such a rigid way with the AI when they perform voice searches.

They even say things like “please” and “thank you” to the AI.

More importantly, when they perform voice searches, people are much looser.

They ask fully formed questions as if they’re conversing with a friend.

For instance, someone asking Amazon Alexa for a seafood restaurant in Boston would go something like “Alexa, what’s the closest seafood restaurant to me that’s open right now?”

They would rarely ever type something like that into Google, even though Google can answer a question like that with ease too.

For voice search to become viable, there were quite a few hurdles to get over.

For the longest time, the AI just wasn’t able to understand questions like that and give useful answers.

Just to name a couple of the biggest problems, it took years for the AI to even learn what words just came out of your mouth when you spoke to it.

Secondly, the search engines, in general, had to evolve to a level where they understood the nuances of language and correctly interpreted the meaning when it wasn’t explicitly clear.

Voice search is still not perfect, but it’s definitely getting there.

Why is branding more important for voice searches than web searches?

Brand trumps all.

We all have brand preferences and even brand loyalties, which is a crazy concept when you think about it.

But that’s how our brains work.

We don’t just want any shoes, we want Nike shoes.

We don’t just want any car, we want a Ford Mustang.

We don’t just want a TV set, we want a Samsung TV set.

The examples could go on and on…

How will this change with voice search?

It won’t. Not for the established brands mentioned above.

But it definitely will change for the local businesses that fail to establish themselves as brands in their local community.

Here’s a scary stat for you: 85% of the consumers end up selecting the product Amazon suggests when they order something over voice.

What does that mean for Joe’s Pizzeria in Youngstown, Ohio?

Well, if Samantha starts craving some pizza and she says “Alexa, order me a pepperoni pizza, please” guess who’s going to choose where that pizza is going to get ordered from?

I’ll give you a hint, it starts with A and ends with Jeff Bezos’ pockets.

Kidding aside, yes, Amazon is going to decide where this pizza is going to get ordered from.

For Joe’s sake, the words that come out of Samantha’s mouth better be “Alexa, order me a pepperoni pizza from Joe’s Pizzeria, please.”

Samantha will not type “pepperoni pizza Youngstown” into Google and then go through a list of pizzerias, ultimately seeing Joe’s Pizzeria listing and remembering that their pizza was fantastic the last time she was there.

No, she won’t even look at a screen.

She will speak that command into her voice-only device while putting on makeup or browsing Instagram.

Don’t be at the mercy of Amazon when this becomes a reality 5-10 years from now.

Probably even sooner for some demographics and industries catering to them.

Meet the four major voice AI assistants

You’ve probably heard of at least one if not all of these AI assistants.

They’re not exactly new.

In this section, I’m going to list the four major companies and their voice AI assistants, plus their accuracy rates.

Because not all of them are at the exact same level when it comes to answering queries correctly.

On top of that, I’m going to list where they pull their data from when it comes to local businesses.

The four major voice AI assistants and their success rates (according to this study by Perficient Digital ) are:

  • Apple Siri – answers around 70% of the queries correctly
  • Google Assistant – answers an impressive 88% of the queries correctly
  • Amazon Alexa – answers 78% of the queries correctly
  • Microsoft Cortana – answers 52% of the queries correctly, but also attempts to answers more queries than any other AI assistant

Which voice AI assistant is the best?

That’s hard to tell at the moment.

Amazon Alexa is rapidly taking market share, especially in the US, but all of these behemoth companies have vast resources and the development process is far from over.

Microsoft Cortana does seem to be lagging behind in a few areas, but it’s also the assistant that attempts to answer the most questions out of all four.

The next few years are definitely going to be interesting.

How do you get voice AI assistants to know and recommend your local business?

Good news – you’re most likely already set, for the most part.

All these voice AI assistants pull their data from somewhere to be able to answer queries, right?

For them to even know your local business existed, you have to be present on the websites AI assistants pull data from.

This is nothing new.

I’m sure every local business owner that cares about local SEO already knows this and has claimed listings for their business in all the relevant business directories on the internet.

If that’s not you, you’ve got some catching up to do.

Here’s a list of websites voice AI assistants pull data from:

  • Apple Siri – pulls data from Bing, Apple Maps, and Yelp
  • Google Assistant – pulls data from Google properties like Google Maps, Google My Business, Google snippet feature, etc
  • Amazon Alexa – pulls data from Bing, Yext, and Yelp
  • Microsoft Cortana – pulls data from Yelp and has integration with Alexa, which means it uses Alexa’s resources as well

The more people interact with these voice AI assistants, the more they’ll trust them.

And the more they trust them, the more they’ll buy through them.

This is why branding is critical.

How do you brand your local business?

The best approach is to create content that provides value to your customers, as well as connects you with other local business owners in your community.

One of the best avenues to accomplish the latter are podcasts.

Why not start a business podcast for your community where you simply interview your fellow business owners?

You could build a huge network of connections on top of adding to the branding efforts.

How do you optimize written content for voice search?

Both voice SEO and ‘normal’ web SEO are shifting towards long-tail keywords and the use of natural language.

Users conversationally speak full sentences into their devices when they make voice search queries.

You can take advantage of that.

Creating an FAQ page made entirely from questions you think your customers might speak into their devices.

Try to be concise and to the point.

When voice AI assistants read back the web content as answers to queries, they try to look for short, concise paragraphs they deem to be the most useful.

Such a FAQ page could cover a lot of ground for your business.

Especially as users start asking more sophisticated questions than simply for their AI assistant to point them to the nearest pizza place.

Next, make sure your website is optimized for mobile.

Mobile now dominates when it comes to both web and voice searches.

AI assistants, a lot of the time, put relevant information directly on the phone screen and present it to users that way.

If your website is not mobile-friendly, the search engine part of the AI will just go to the one that is.

Furthermore, you have to be there when your customers are ready to make critical buying decisions, you have to offer them useful content, and you have to be quick about it.

These are what Google calls “micro-moments” and emphasizes them to be of the utmost importance when it comes to winning the battle for customers on both mobile and voice.

Where do you find voice-friendly keyword ideas for your content?

Since voice searches are a bit more conversational than traditional web searches, it’s ok to loosen up a bit when it comes to writing titles, for example.

That doesn’t mean you should disregard good practices of SEO and not include keywords in your titles and all that good jazz.

You definitely should pay a great deal of attention to SEO, still.

But the NLP (natural language processing) advancements in Google’s search engine do allow us to think a bit more about being voice-friendly and not get penalized for it in web searches.

I already mentioned people usually use fully formed questions when they perform voice search queries, right?

A great website where you can get A TON of keyword ideas in the form of questions is

Here’s just a fraction of what you can get if you type in “pizza.”

Don’t worry, you can switch to a more traditional looking results page if you want.

Basically, Answerthepublic pulls data directly from Google and Bing and lists all the keyword ideas based on questions, prepositions, comparisons, and “alphabet soup.”

Not all of the suggestions will be useful and relevant, but it definitely speeds up the keyword research side of things.

Another great place you could get question-based keyword ideas is

The tool won’t give you metrics like Search Volume, Trend, or CPC unless you buy the Pro license, but you will get the keywords themselves.

 You are able to choose between traditional keyword suggestions, keywords based on prepositions, and question-based keywords.

Last but not least, Google itself provides you a set of questions related to what you typed in.

This feature is called “People Also Ask” and it’s situated towards the top of search results.

So, for example, if you type something like “best pizza recipe” into Google, you will get:

Every time you click on a question, you get a snippet from a relevant article providing a short answer.

Plus, the entire section expands with more questions similar to the one you clicked on.

And because all this comes from Google, you can be sure you’re getting exactly what people are searching for.

12 Actionable tips to prepare your local business for the voice search era

12 Actionable tips to prepare your local business for the voice search era

1. Optimize for Rich Answers – concise, accurate answers to queries voice assistants can pull from your website and read to users. Typically, 30-40 words in length.

2. Use conversational language in your content – for example, filler words like the, to, for, of the, on the, etc. are OK to use.

3. Create a business FAQ page consisting of questions you think your customers might be using as voice search queries.

4. Optimize for “near me” searches:

  • target local keywords in your content
  • use phrases people use to describe the neighborhood of your business in your content
  • create content around landmarks around your business

5. Optimize your website for mobile and speed: choose a fast WordPress theme, keep the number of plugins to a minimum.

6. Get your local SEO right:

  • for instance, make sure to display NAP (name, address, and phone number) citations on every page of your website
  • make sure your NAPs are identical on your website with the ones in various business directories
  • claim your business profiles in all relevant business directories like Google My Business, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, Yext, Yahoo Local, CitySearch, etc.
  • always fill in every data point you can when claiming local listings for your business
  • get more reviews and reply to them

7. NAP audits – get NAP audits on your website, GMB profile and business directories. It’ll cost you, but you want all your NAP information anywhere on the internet to be 100% correct and consistent.

8. Backlink building – look for local backlink building opportunities such as resource pages, local Chamber of Commerce, local podcasts, etc.

9. Start a local business podcast – be the thought leader in your local business community.

10. Social Media – actively participate in your local social media groups: answer questions, provide value and connect with customers.

11. Embed a Google Map on your About Page or even your Home Page – make it as easy as possible for your customers to find your business

12. Truly become a part of your community – sponsor events and connect with local influencers.


To not prepare your business for the age of voice is to leave it vulnerable.

Voice search and smart speaker systems are becoming a reality.

Sooner or later, your business will have to get through a voice AI assistants first before getting in front of customers.

The best defense against this vulnerability is an all-out offense when it comes to voice search optimization before it’s too late.

Work on branding your business and make your customers seek you out before behemoths like Amazon suggest different options to them.

Having so many opportunities to take advantage of to grow your business in today’s day and age can be both a blessing and a curse.

Which one it’ll be for you depends heavily on your willingness to execute on these opportunities, of course.

If you are willing, the benefits can be profound.

If you are not, that’s fine.

But your competition might be.

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