Voice Assisted Search for Local Business - 2020

A comprehensive digital marketing guide for Alexa, Siri, Google, & Cortana.

by Philip Warbasse | CEO Warbasse Design - Los Angeles
February 25, 2020


A brief overview

Voice assistants using voice-control technology such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana have gone from obscure to mainstream in a relatively short time. As this technology continues to weave its way into our everyday lives — the market for voice-assisted devices, including mobile phones, continues to expand. An article from eMarketer.com entitled, "Voice Assistant Use Reaches Critical Mass," estimates that 111.8 million people will use voice assistants regularly this year in the US. That number will rise to 122.7 million by 2021.

Most business owners assume that if Google indexes their business listing with some level of authority — it will be available in searches no matter what voice assistant someone uses. That turns out not the case. Apple, Google, Amazon, and the rest don't just want you to use their products — they want you to use their data too. Voice search results can vary dramatically based on the device. But, there are some steps you can take to make sure users across a spectrum of personal and home assistants will find your business.

Voice Assisted Search for Local Business  2020, provides an overview of the voice device ecosystem and discusses the proliferation of voice search over the past several years. In Section Four, I list the resources and information you'll need for both Off-Page and On-Page SEO to 1.) cite your business in the online directories that matter most, and 2.) optimize your website to be more voice search-friendly. Finally, I offer some advice on how to write "voice search rich" content to benefit from the latest advancements made in this burgeoning industry.

Voice Technology

What is it and how does it work?

A basic overview of speech recognition. Gain insight into voice search and how people are using it. Discover digital marketing benefits for businesses.

Google's Algorithms and AI

Google's impact on voice search

Discover how Google's algorithm Hummingbird and its' machine learning system Rankbrain focus on user intent to facilitate voice search.

Voice Assisted Devices

The voice device ecosystem

Learn about the various voice devices on the market and who is claiming the largest share. Learn where these devices get their information.

Voice Directories & Databases

Creating a digital footprint

Get the Off-Page and On-Page SEO advice and resources you need to claim your business citations and optimize your website for voice search.

Voice Technology

What is it and how does it work?

Voice technology gives people the ability to control electronic devices with speech. The main component of voice technology, known as voice control or speech recognition, is characterized as the capacity of a machine or program to receive and decipher speech or to comprehend and complete verbal commands.

Speech recognition has advanced dramatically with the ascent of artificial intelligence and voice-assisted devices, such as Amazon Alexa, Apple's Siri, Google's Assistant, and Microsoft's Cortana. These and other voice control frameworks enable people to interface with technology using only vocal commands and requests — creating a "hands-free" connection to the internet, mobile apps, and other intelligent device hubs. 

How does voice search differ from speech recognition?
Voice Search harnesses the power of speech recognition specifically to search the internet. Typing is replaced by vocal prompts or commands that enable the user to search for the information they need more quickly and easily.

How are people using voice search?
A recent Microsoft study surveyed the overall virtual assistant market and discovered consumers are using Siri and Google Assistant voice technology equally (36%), followed by Alexa (25%), and Cortana at (19%). Today, people are using voice search to: 

• Find a quick fact - 68%
• Get directions - 65%
• Find a business - 47%
• Research a product or service - 44%
• Make a shopping list - 39%
• Compare products and services - 31%
• Add items to a shopping cart - 26%
• Make a purchase - 25%
• Contact customer service or support - 21%
• Provide feedback about a product or service - 19%

What are the benefits of optimizing for voice search?
Understanding that 50% of all searches will be done by voice in 2020, it's important to consider optimizing your business for voice search now. Some of the main benefits you can expect:

• An increase in mobile web traffic,
• More authentic connections with consumers through natural language,
• An increase in brand awareness and visibility across channels,
• More "brick and mortar" customer traffic from accurate, up-to-date business information,
• Better customer engagement through clear calls-to-action in the form of directions, dialing, and scheduling.

Google's Algorithms and AI

Google's impact on voice search

Combining speech recognition with search technology creates the need to focus not only on what people say but how they say it. Natural language helps us predict user search intent. In 2012, Google set out to better understand and comprehend user search intent expressed via questions. In 2013, Google presented its' updated algorithm, Hummingbird, and added artificial intelligence in the form of RankBrain just a couple of years later. While these two major updates to Google's search technology supplement each other very well — as both of them serve to decipher search intent behind specific search queries — Hummingbird and RankBrain perform very separate functions.


Google's Algorithm

Hummingbird is a significant algorithm update created in 2013 by Google to understand search queries (particularly long, conversational expressions instead of individual keywords) and deliver search results that best correspond with the user's search intent.


Google's Artificial Intelligence

RankBrain is an AI framework of machine learning systems created in addition to Hummingbird. RankBrain helps Google process and answer unfamiliar, unique, and original natural language search queries.

What does natural language mean for digital marketers?
Google's Hummingbird and Rankbrain make interactions between human languages and computers possible. This new search model in which consumers use natural language to search for specific answers to their questions values understanding the intent behind a user's query over just matching keywords. Machine learning processes such as RankBrain help further refine these associations making for a better overall search experience. In 2020, the challenge for digital marketers is to strategize beyond keywords by paying closer attention to the types of questions users are asking to determine user intent.

Voice Assisted Devices

The voice device ecosystem

When most of us think of voice-assisted devices, Amazon Alexa usually comes to mind because assisted devices for the home are popular right now. However, if you consider the entire ecosystem of voice-assisted devices, Apple Siri represents the largest market share by far. In addition to home devices, the voice device market also includes appliances, phones, gaming consoles, tablets, computers, automobiles, smart TVs, and more. Here's a closer look at the major players currently in the voice device ecosystem.

Voice Assistant Market Share

United States 2018

Apple SIRI


Google Assistant


Amazon Alexa


Microsoft Cortana


User preference among voice assistants
In 2019, review.com rated voice assistant devices across a wide variety of metrics, including consumer choice categories for device compatibility, responsiveness, and mobile assistance. Amazon beat Google for compatibility, but Google beat Amazon for responsiveness. Review.com 2019 rankings:

Amazon Alexa — Best for Device Compatibility
Google Assistant — Best at Responding
Apple's Siri — Most Popular Mobile Voice Assistant

Different devices make for different results
There are many databases, directories, and web pages currently driving results for voice search. If you want consumers who conduct voice searches across a plethora of voice-assisted devices to find your business, you need to know where those voice assistants are retrieving their data. For example, to be available to Apple users, your business should be listed on Apple Maps Connect, Google, Bing, and, if possible, the review website Yelp. If you don't establish your business citations in these directories, the chances that your business will appear in a voice search executed by Siri are remote.

Where do voice assistants get their data?
Google and Bing provide Apple's Siri most of its' search data. However, Siri uses Apple Maps Connect exclusively for its business listings. Yelp and other trusted sources, such as TripAdvisor, provide business reviews and photos depending on the nature of the search.

Amazon Alexa relies on Bing and a variety of third-party trusted sources such as reference.com and WebMD for its' search data. It retrieves business listings primarily from Yelp and, in some cases, Yext.

Google Assistant employs its' own search engine and relies on Google My Business for all business listing information, reviews, and photos.

Microsoft Cortana relies on most of the same sources as Apple. Bing provides Cortana's search data. Yelp provides reviews, along with other trusted third-party sources, depending on the nature of the search. Bing provides business listings exclusively.


Siri relies on different and sometimes multiple data aggregators for answers to local search queries.
Search: Google, Bing
Business listings: Apple Maps connect
Reviews: Yelp


Alexa relies on different and sometimes multiple data aggregators for answers to local search queries.
Search: Bing, Wikipedia, WebMD, Reference.com, and more
Business listings: Yelp, Yext
Reviews: Yelp

Google Assistant

Google Assistant uses proprietary databases and indexes for answers to all local search queries.
Search: Google, YouTube
Business listings: Google my Business
Reviews: Google my Business


Cortana uses proprietary databases and indexes for answers to all local search queries except reviews.
Search: Bing
Business listings: Bing
Reviews: Yelp

Third-party business directories for voice search
As voice search continues to explode in popularity and use, voice device assistants will continue to expand their pool of trusted third-party sources. Websites like Wikipedia, Yelp, and Reference.com are all known trusted sources. A name unfamiliar to many is Yext. Known as an online brand management company, Yext is now submitting business listings directly to Amazon Alexa via their latest paid service offering Yext Answers. According to their website, "Yext Answers provides a revolutionary site search experience that understands natural language and delivers clear, concise answers in the form of knowledge cards, maps, and other relevant results." Among its benefits, Yext Answers claims to increase conversion rates, offer new customer insights, and reduce costs related to support.

Increase Conversion Rates

Meet customers at the moment of intent with direct answers and calls-to-action that provide immediate engagement.

Gain New Customer Intelligence

View actual search queries and responses to learn where you might be missing opportunities to connect with customers.

Reduce Support Costs

Dramatically reduce support costs and increase retention by helping consumers find information quickly and easily.

Voice Directories & Databases

Create your digital footprint

Voice assistants use the information found online about your business called citations. Citations come in the form of business listings, reviews, and online references to your business name, address, website, and phone number. Voice assistants rely on trusted sources for their citations to provide accurate data to users searching for local business information. 

How do I cite my business?
Now that you know where voice assistants are pulling their data from, you access those specific websites to claim and optimize your business citations. These are the most important places for you to concern yourself with Off-Page SEO when it comes to optimizing for local business voice search.

1. Claim and Optimize your Citations

Off-page SEO

These data sources are the most important places on the Web to make sure your business is correctly cited and up-to-date. Click on each link to establish or update your current business information. Note: Yext is a paid platform.

2. Get Ranked with Structured Data

On-page SEO

Use Schema to structure your data
Schema is a markup language that provides search engines with data in a more structured way about many things, including your business. Adding Schema markup to your web pages directs search engines to specific descriptive information in a concise, portable format. Schema is useful to describe webpages that contain information related to articles, events, local businesses, faqs, and more. Without Schema, search engines must crawl your web page to find relevant content and lift that content out of whatever format it's currently in to create a search result. With Schema, search engines know exactly where to go and what to look for, making it easy and fast to lift specific information from any website to return a valid, trusted rich result.

Why is Schema important for local businesses?
Schema is important for local businesses because it helps search engines with the task of determining a business website's central message and core offerings. Structured data, in the form of Local Business or Organization Schema, will increase your chances of being included in local voice search results.

What are some other benefits of using Schema?
•Expand your digital footprint,
•Position your website to rank for rich results,
•Increase organic mobile traffic, and voice search traffic,
•Improve overall website rank better.

How do you implement Schema for voice search?
First, generate a Schema code using Merkle's Schema Markup Generator. The graphic user interface on the website enables you to select the schema types that are most relevant to your webpage. Combining natural language with specific Schema structures such as faqs will create rich results for voice search.

Second, place your Schema JSON-LD code before the closing </head> tag of your HTML document unless it's content-specific in which case you place it before the closing </body> tag.

Finally, test your Schema markup with Google's Structured Data Testing Tool, which will check your code for any errors.

3. Produce "voice search rich" content

Consider user intent

These online resources will help you explore the realm of user intent to uncover the types of questions people may ask about your business. Click on each link to help generate keywords and questions.

Embrace natural language
Natural language enables consumers to phrase a search query as if they are talking to an actual person. Natural language compels webmasters to consider more complex phrases and questions that consumers might ask during a voice search. When we address natural language by incorporating questions and phrases into our web pages, it increases our chances of being found and understood.

Find unique keyword opportunities
Keyword research helps you better understand your target market and how they are searching for your content, services, or products. Keyword research tools help you discover other keywords and topics for new content that you otherwise might have missed. Use Google Trends and Keyword Sheeter to expand keyword opportunities that could be ideal for your website.

Work long-tail phrases into long-form content
Use Answer the Public to conduct long-tail keyword research and look for the questions people most often ask about your business. Work those phrases and questions into your content where relevant. Focus on the range of unique phrases and questions consumers might use in a search for your content.

Make use of faqs
Faqs or frequently asked questions pages are very effective for serving voice search queries. Faqs provide a great alternative for anyone having trouble with long-tail optimization. Faqs help you replicate natural conversation without your content appearing bulky or out of context. Here is a sample of faqs written for this article, Use Schema for faqs to create the structured language for your page. Place Schema result before the closing </body> tag.

In 2019, review.com rated voice assistant devices across a wide variety of metrics, including consumer choice categories for device compatibility, responsiveness, and mobile assistance. Amazon beat Google for compatibility, but Google beat Amazon for responsiveness. Review.com 2019 rankings:
Amazon Alexa — Best for Device Compatibility
Google Assistant — Best at Responding
Apple's Siri — Most Popular Mobile Voice Assistant

Amazon Alexa relies on Bing and a variety of third-party trusted sources such as reference.com and WebMD for its' search data. It retrieves business listings primarily from Yelp and, in some cases, Yext.

Amazon Alexa is not a listing service. To be found by Amazon Alexa, you must list your business on Bing, Yelp, and Yext. Then, use On-Page SEO techniques such as Schema, structured content, and natural language to facilitate rich voice search returns.

Voice search optimization is the process of making your web page or website more search friendly for voice-assisted devices such as Amazon Alexa, Apple's Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana. Both On-Page and Off-Page SEO techniques help to optimize for voice search, including Schema and directory citations, respectively.

A few things to keep in mind
As search transforms pages of information down to chunks of information — and as entity-based searches continue to grow — structured data will become more important to the successful optimization of web pages. Remember not to focus so much on voice search techniques that you let your standard SEO practices fall behind. Websites that follow mobile-first guidelines and offer fast page downloads with quality local backlinks will see the best results.

Philip Warbasse is the CEO at Warbasse Design in Los Angeles, California. Building brands since 2000, Philip and his team create digital marketing strategies that help their clients become better known and better understood. Warbasse Design embraces new media in digital marketing and the philosophy that "different is better than better."

Article Sources:
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