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GeoMarketing 101: What Is Voice Search

An estimated 40 percent of searches by U.S. adults today are voice searches — and that has major implications for local marketing.

From geo-targeting to beacons, location-based technology is opening up a world of possibilities for marketers — but it’s also complicated, as new capabilities and use cases seem to emerge every day.

With the goal of breaking down some of the most important “geo” concepts to provide a better understanding of the basics — and a jumping off point for exploring how far the power of location may take us — we introduce the next installment of our GeoMarketing 101 series: understanding voice searches, why they’re trending upward, and what that means for marketers.

The Evolution Of Voice Search

The definition of voice search is simple: The technology allows users to speak to a device like a mobile phone, and then have that device search for the information requested. It’s also quite easy to understand why it’s useful: Thanks to the rise of mobile — and digital assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Home — voice-activated searches and commands have become more mainstream, and it makes an easy alternative to texting when a user is walking or performing other tasks with their hands. In fact, an estimated 40 percent of searches by U.S. adults today are spoken.

And the volume of voice searches is still growing. In this year’s 2016 Internet Trends report, venture capitalist analyst Mary Meeker cited Google Trends statistics that keywords associated with “voice-related commands” have risen 35x since 2008, when Apple and Google first unveiled their respective speech-activated controls, and continue to climb.

But while it may be unsurprising that on-the-go consumers are taking increased advantage of voice-activated controls and digital assistants, the shift also stands to have a substantial impact on local marketing — and as we wrote earlier this year, the battle between Apple, Google, and Amazon for control of the voice search field could have big implications for retailers who have grown to rely on mobile “near me” and “micro-moments” searches for their discovery strategy.

Voice Search And Marketing

We’ve written previously about the importance of location management in SEO strategy — namely, that making sure that business location information is correct across platforms is key to ranking in Google’s “three-pack” of top mapped results, as is using optimal keywords. Addressing the particulars of voice search is important in the same vein, especially considering that 76 percent of “near me” searches result in a business visit within a day.

And voice search, in fact, is uniquely tied to real-time, local searches, typically reflecting immediate needs like finding a quick bite to eat or locating repair services. Christi Olson, Microsoft Bing Ads Evangelist, told GeoMarketing earlier this year that roughly 40 percent of voice searches on mobile web had a local element.

As such, marketers should optimize for the terms that their consumers making voice searches are likely to use, as well as beginning to consider a potential shift that could make location the key to connecting searchers and businesses.

“[Voice search] impacts local because once you’ve made that touch point, then you’re going to be able to connect with that person on the next level,” iProspect’s Steve Beatty told GeoMarketing earlier this month. “[That level] is, ‘Okay you’ve answered my question. Now maybe there’s more a transactional purpose I have with you because you helped me on the informational side.’ That leads into, ‘Okay, well where are local stores near me?’ One of the biggest things that I think you’re going to see in a shift in the marketplace is away from keywords and the new keyword is going to be proximity.”

Read more about voice search trends:

How Voice Search Will Alter The Last Digital Mile’s Purchase Path

What Apple’s Wider Embrace Of Voice Search Means For Local Business

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of GeoMarketing.com. A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.