How Will Voice Search Impact Calls to Your Business?
If you paid any attention to the festive sales period, you probably noticed a lot of smart speakers on offer. Whether or not you personally bought one, plenty of others did; some 25 million of these devices were sold in the U.S. last year, with almost 11 million of those in the final two months of the year. What does all this have to do with getting more calls for your business? Every one of these devices has the ability to process voice searches, which in turn hold the potential to change the way customers find and contact your business.
Voice Search: The Changing Nature of Search Queries
According to projections from Forrester Research, the number of homes with smart speaker devices will double in the next few years, from around one-quarter of U.S. households this year to more than half by 2021. Factor in the potential for voice-activated assistants on every laptop and smartphone and you have a technology that could quickly become ubiquitous. This widespread use will drive a significant uptick in voice searches. Adoption is such that comScore, a leading source of online media measurement, expects spoken word searches to make up more than half of all queries by 2020. Voice searches are typically longer than typed queries. Whereas text searches tend to be around 1-3 words, spoken searches move closer to 5 words and often involve a direct question. For that reason, they also include more interrogative words like how, what, where, when, and why. Voice searches are also more likely to prompt action-based requests. For example, "where is the nearest pizza place?" is likely to be directly followed by "navigate to XYZ Pizza" or "call XYZ Pizza." Where a text-based search may lead the consumer to compare multiple options, the spoken interaction of voice search and the presentation of a single search result, in many cases, is likely to drive more immediate action. All of this has ramifications for businesses, especially those who rely on local search results for a significant proportion of their traffic. The video below from Web Profits provides an overall summary of where voice search is right now and what we can expect as it evolves.
How Will Voice Search Impact Inbound Calls?
Although there are now millions of devices out there, it's still early days in terms of how consumers will use them. Initially, many owners seem to stick to a handful of core applications, such as listening to music, setting alarms, and answering trivia questions. Increasingly, this will expand to more of the commercial requests described earlier, such as identifying and learning about local businesses. Calling is also likely to come into play, as many smart speakers are already linked to smartphones and the vast archive of contacts that we amass there. This has implications for both site optimization and the clarity of your contact details. On the optimization side, the distinct differences between voice and typed searches will start to influence the kind of content that you create. Questions and answers will be even more important than they are today, which is positive because this type of content is exactly what customers want to see when they visit your site. It should already be a resource for information about your products and services, so answering common questions should not be a huge stretch. Formatting these pieces in a way that is voice-search friendly will be more complex, but understanding the basics of spoken search optimization will help marketers strike the right balance.
In terms of contact details, now is the time to make sure your listings are fully up to date and consistent across the main online directories. (Actually, there has never been a time when this wasn't important, but unless you own a DeLorean there's no point looking back...) As discussed, the results - or perhaps just result, singular - that a voice search presents are likely to be followed by an action, such as call or navigate to. If your number is outdated or your address is incomplete, the searcher isn't going take the time to look you up. They will simply move onto the next result and that's a customer you've probably lost forever. With that in mind, the following actions today will bring a lot more business your way from voice searches in the long run:
- Select the main phone number and individual address that you want customers to call or visit when they find you via a voice search.
- If you operate multiple locations, make sure that each has a distinct number and address that separate one location from another. Again, check listings for each of these locations is correct and consistently formatted.
- Make sure that your site is optimized for mobile search visitors and that your name, number, and location(s) are prominently displayed.
- If your number is a mess of forgettable digits, consider a custom number that potential customers can remember and easily ask Alexa, Siri, or any of the other voice assistants to dial.
- Start creating content that answers common questions about your product or service and your local area in a succinct way.
- Test your results across multiple devices and platforms: is what comes up on Alexa the same as what's suggested by Siri? If not, it's time to figure out where the disparity lies and how you can get your details optimized for any platform that's lacking.
The good news is that you have some time to complete these actions and stay up to date with the evolution of voice search. Customers are just getting used to the functionality of these devices and the voice-activated assistants that inhabit them. While they're on that learning curve, a lot will change and each development gives your business an opportunity to get ahead of your competitors. The growing impact of voice search holds the potential to increase your call volume and even bring more visitors into physical stores and offices if you have them. A little time spent preparing now could yield significant new business as the trend continues its expansion. [search-tag]
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