Preparing for the Future: Local Business Schema and Voice Search Optimization

During the next decade, voice-enabled devices will become omnipresent. Anything that can be turned on or off, can be moved up or down or can have settings adjusted low to high can be controlled by voice. A report from comScore says that by 2020, 50% of all voice searches will be made using voice; meaning people are going to be talking more and typing less as technology evolves.

We’re already using phones, smart speakers, and other voice-enabled devices in 2019, but we’ve only just stepped into a world that is actually going to be run by voice searches. In a few years, experts expect voice to become the go-to medium of interaction between people and devices in smart cars, smart TVs, and even smart refrigerators. With Gen Z (nearly 74 million in the U.S. contributing to one-fourth of the entire population), which has already started to flex its buying power, voice search is the norm. Nearly 80% of them utilize voice search as their primary search option already.

The adoption of voice search isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In the last few years alone we have seen voice enabled products quadruple and active users have projected to be well above 50% in 2020.  And eventually, at one point, just like how we moved from T9 keyboards to touch screen mobiles, we’re all going to shift over to using voice over text.

Now, what does this mean for you brand? We know that businesses need to optimize to start showing up on voice searches, but how can they successfully do this? As it has always been with SEO, there’s no one right answer, but there are best practices you can follow to get on top of voice search optimization for your brand. And right on top of that list are two things:  optimizing your content for featured snippets and adding local business schema to your website. Let’s take a closer look at how these things can impact your brand.

Optimizing Content for Featured Snippets

Voice-enabled devices fundamentally differ from traditional searches in one major aspect—the way they fetch and serve the results. Traditional searches typically fetch pages and pages of results, and even though most users don’t look beyond the first page (hence the saying, “the best place to hide a dead body is in page 2 of Google”), users still have access to thousands of results to pick from.

However, this is not the case with voice search. If I were driving in my car and I were to ask Alexa to find me the best pizza place in New York City, Alexa would give me a limited number of results, if not just one.

And that’s because of two things:

  1. Giving users more than a few options makes for a bad user experience (imagine if you asked Alexa for suggestions and it just started throwing the names of a hundred businesses one after the other at you)
  2. Alexa knows that the best option to pick from is the top result, or even better, the result that shows up as a featured snippet in “position zero” of search engines

What is Position Zero on Search Engines?

Position zero is essentially the information that search engines like Google display on the very top of their search results. It looks like this:

What is Position Zero?

Position zero will be the most coveted position that all brands want to show up on, going forward; especially since a brand’s chances of showing up on their customers’ voice search results is drastically reduced if they don’t claim position zero for a search term. Brands will lose out on the opportunity to convert a search engine user to a customer as a result of this, which means lost revenue for the brand.

You can read more about improving your chances of showing up on position zero in my post about voice search optimization. Optimizing your content for position zero is critical for brands to survive and to win in this new paradigm.

Adding Local Business Schema to Your Website

Adding schema to your website is one of the most fundamental and effective things that you can do to improve your chances of being found on voice search. Local business schema, as we’ve discussed in this post about how you can add schema to your website, helps search engines and their crawlers find, curate, and assimilate information about a website or a brand.

Having local business schema information present on your brand’s website could turn out to be an integral part of optimizing your business for next-gen devices and searches. Why? Well, two reasons:

  1. Voice search is already the preferred medium of search for Gen Z and on wearable tech, smart TVs, etc. Searches on these devices, however, work off of similar logic to existing search engines, or even better; they will be powered by other popular search engines. For example, we know for a fact that wearable smart devices powered by Android’s Wear OS pull information from Google, and that Apple Watches use Apple Maps, etc. In other words, optimizing for voice search on Google using schema and other best practices will ensure that you get found on smartwatches and other devices powered by Wear OS, and so on.

  2. Optimizing for showing up on searches powered by newer technology, like in Tesla connected cars, for instance, isn’t very different from optimizing for Google My Assistant, Cortana, Siri, Alexa or other search engines and voice-enabled devices. Schema.org was created by all of the world’s leading search engines and it has a framework that already supports the passing of rich information from one source to another, and newer companies know that reinventing the wheel isn’t the smartest way to go about this. Optimizing for schema and utilizing the guidelines from schema.org provides the foundational framework to help ensure that a brand is found via voice search, and brands wouldn’t spend thousands of man hours recreating something that already exists; especially since this neither economically viable nor advantageous.

In other words, generating optimized local business schema for your brand’s website is going to help you stand out on searches and provide a straightforward way for search engines to extract information about your brand.

Generating local business schema for your website is easy both in time and skill. You can use a schema generator tool to create schema and upload it to your website in a matter of minutes.

Do All Brands Today Have Optimized Schema?

Something you might be wondering at this point is whether brands today are schema-ready. Brands like Denny’s already have rich local business schema on their website, while some other brands don’t. Why is that?

The problem stems primarily from awareness. A lot of brands and brand marketers are focusing on driving traffic to their website, but customers are actually finding information about businesses directly from other sources, our study shows. Whether it be your digital profiles on search engines such as google and bing or on other discovery sources such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Facebook, etc. consumers are not finding you via your website.

The other obvious challenge is the rate in consumer behavior is changing. . The way customers used to search for a business a decade ago is nothing like how we search for a business today. And it’s not just the way they are searching, it’s also how they are searching, what they are asking for, what answers they want delivered seamlessly. Ten years down the line, consumer search and purchase behavior will change yet again and be completely different from how it is now. This change is constant, and marketers always seem to be playing catch-up. There are so many different pieces of marketing tech that need to coalesce and form the whole picture, but managing this can drop an unwieldy load on the shoulders of marketers. There used to be a time when the “early adopters” were just the ones with the latest gadgets. Now they are the ones reaping the benefits of change and everyone else is running behind. 

Preparing for the Future

Ten years from now, we’re predicting that 90% of search is going to be made by voice; that’s literally 9 out of every 10 searches that are going to be made. This means that there’s no turning back—you need to have all of your information optimized to be found and disseminated with ease by search engines. As a brand marketer, prioritizing tasks and investing wisely to get your business found on voice search is of prime importance.

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