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What Small Businesses Need to Know (and Do) About Voice Search

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Nowadays, you probably find yourself asking Alexa, Cortana, Google, and Siri questions that plague your everyday life. These intelligent personal assistants can help tell you the weather, read you your calendar, play your favorite song, turn on the lights, make a call—or complete another of the hundreds of commands they can now execute.

Intelligent services that leverage voice are opening up a whole new world for consumers and the way they interact with businesses. In fact, 50% of all searches will be completed via either speech or image search by 2020, and the use of voice-enabled speakers was projected to grow by 130% in 2017. Voice search isn’t a fad—it’s here to stay.

Voice search also differs greatly from traditional search methods: it’s all about the one best answer. Rather than sifting through ten blue links on a search engine results page, consumers are given one direct, intelligent answer to their queries. For small business owners, the pressure has never been greater to get your house in order, to optimize correctly, and to employ every option you can to secure a search engine’s trust so your information shows up first when consumers search using Alexa and Siri.

As a small business, you only have so many resources to put towards ensuring your information is optimized everywhere consumers may search, and this new wave of technology in voice-activated devices presents a complex set of challenges. But there are a few things you can do to get started with artificial intelligence for small business.

1. Gain control over your business’s digital knowledge. 

Before you can expect digital assistants to know the facts about your business, you need to make sure you know them yourself. The foundation of any voice search strategy—or any search strategy for that matter—is organizing and centralizing all the public facts about your people, products, and locations. This is your business’s digital knowledge, and it includes information such as your business’s name, address, and phone number, as well as enhanced content like product/service descriptions, images, and videos.

2. Actively manage your knowledge.

Your business is dynamic, and so are the facts about it. Seasonal changes, special promotions, weather closures—it’s all in flux. That means managing your business’s knowledge isn’t a one-and-done project. And both your customers and intelligent services, like voice search or intelligent assistants, expect rich knowledge about your business (e.g. whether you are LGBTQ-friendly or if you offer WiFi).

3. Publish your knowledge.

As soon as you organize your knowledge, publish it to all the places intelligent systems look to supply answers to voice searches. That means intelligent services themselves, wherever possible, plus your website and apps. Anytime a piece of knowledge changes, publish it again. This is an active process. And it isn't simply about consistency. It's about providing the most accurate, up-to-date information everywhere, all while offering an excellent consumer experience.

4. Refocus your website and digital assets on the conversational long tail.

Search engines don’t work miracles. If you hide your content, or make it difficult to discover, it won’t show up when people search for it. Your website, videos, and other content are key to contextualizing the public facts about your business for intelligent services, but only if those intelligent services can find and understand it.

And make sure your site is mobile-friendly. This matters less when a consumer is using Google Home or Amazon Alexa, but since phones are still the most common device used for voice interactions, having a mobile-friendly website still matters a great deal. Responsive websites with clean code and a proper robots.txt file can result in new voice search answers that highlight your brand.

5. Embrace Schema markup.

Your website and digital assets should leverage Schema.org markup to ensure proper association of your content with categories that the engines understand and elevate in answers and results sought by searchers.

While these are a just a few ways to get started, I break down even more tips and insights in my latest ebook, How Voice Search Changes Everything, which you can download below. 

 Editor’s Note: Yext is a Marketing AI Institute benefactor.

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