How to Optimize for Local Voice Search on Alexa, Siri, Google and Cortana

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Local voice search is rapidly growing in popularity … and every local business needs to optimize themselves so customers can find them when using Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana.

Here are the basic steps to optimize a local business for voice search:

Understand the local voice search ecosystem.

People use a wide variety of devices and Google, Apple, Siri and Cortana have relatively equal voice search market share.

Understand the three types of local business voice search.

You can optimize a local business for discovery, brand and knowledge voice search queries.

Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing.

Google My Business powers all local business results in Google Assistant.

Claim and optimize your Apple Maps business listing.

On Apple Siri, local business search results are powered by Apple Maps Connect.

Claim and optimize your Bing Places business listing.

Bing Places powers local search results for Microsoft Cortana.

Claim and optimize your Yelp business listing.

Amazon Alexa gets local search results from Yelp. Yelp also provides photos and reviews for Apple Maps and Bing Places.

Why Optimize for Local Voice Search?

Voice search use continues to grow not only with the proliferation of smart speakers, but on phone, computers and other devices as well. And people use voice assistants not just for general questions and tasks, but also to find local businesses.

A 2018 BrightLocal survey showed some very eye-opening results:

  • 50% of people used voice search to find a local business over the past year.
  • 74% of voice search users looked for a local business weekly.
  • 46% of voice search users looked for a local business daily.

That was nearly two years ago and voice search has continued to grow since then. Bottom line, people are using voice assistants to look for local businesses. Does your business show up for these customers?

Voice Assistant Market Share

There are four major voice assistants: Apple, Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Alexa. There’s also Samsung Bixby and a few others assistants but they have almost no market share.

Most people assume that Amazon Alexa dominates voice search. Indeed, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), Amazon does have a 70% market share of the home speaker market, Google Home has 25% and Apple has 5%. However, this is only for home speakers.

Mobile phones dominate voice search and market share changes considerably when you consider all voice-enabled devices. A 2019 study by Microsoft shows that Google Assistant and Apple Siri both share the greatest market share for voice assistants at 36% each. Amazon Alexa actually is third with 25% and Microsoft Cortana has 19%.

Voice Assistant Market Share
Voice assistant market share

According to the same BrightLocal study, when searching for local businesses, the most popular devices for voice search are smartphones, then desktops / laptops and tablets. Smart speakers are the least used for local business searches.

Popular Devices for Local Voice Search
Most popular devices for local voice search

Three Types of Local Voice Searches

Voices search queries can be broken into three different types:

Discovery Direct Knowledge
“What are the best breweries near me?”

“Find a plumber in Fort Collins”
“Call Hanna, Warner and Associates”

“Make a reservation at Hearth Restaurant”
“Has emerald ash bore been seen in Northern Colorado?”

In a discovery search, people are looking for types of local businesses. Direct searches are when people ask for information about a specific local business. Knowledge searches may not have local business intent, but local business can create information that will answer the question.

While discovery searches are important for finding new customers, direct searches can often be more important because those customers want to interact or do business with you right now. Knowledges searches are a bit more difficult to capture, but can lead to customers reaching out to you for your expertise in a certain subject.

The Voice Search Ecosystem

Local Search Ecosystem

When looking at the local voice search ecosystem, first start with the output devices. Obviously people use voice search on phones and smart speakers. But voice search use is increasing on tablets, laptop and desktop computers and game consoles.

You’re also seeing voice assistants being built directly into other devices such as smart TVs, appliances, watches. Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri are even being incorporated into new cars.

Optimize for Apple Siri

Apple Siri has 36% market share for voice search. It gets its local business data from Apple Maps Connect which powers not only local business data for Siri, but for Apple Maps as well. You can follow our guide to claim and optimize your Apple Maps listing. But the basic process is to go to Apple Maps Connect, sign in with an Apple ID, then claim your business listing and optimize your information.

You’ll notice that Apple Maps Connect has no reviews or photos. That’s because Apple gets reviews and photos primarily from Yelp, but also from a few other places depending on category. So, in order to best optimize your business for Apple Siri … and Apple Maps … it’s important that you also claim and optimize your Yelp business listing.

Optimize for Google Assistant

Google Assistant also has 36% market share for voice. This is the simplest voice search ecosystem because as a Google product, it gets all of its local business data from Google My Business, including reviews and photos.

Optimizing for Google Assistant is no different that optimizing for Google Search or Google Maps. There is too much involved in optimizing a Google My Business listing to go into here, but you can read our Google My Business Optimization Checklist or watch our Office Hours session on Google My Business ranking factors.

Bottom line, if you optimize your business to show up well on a Google search or in Google Maps, you’ll be well optimized to show up in a voice search on Google Assistant.

Optimize for Amazon Alexa

Alexa dominates the smart speaker market with a 70% market share. However, it only has 25% overall market share for voice search when you consider all devices (phones, computers, game console, etc.).

Alexa gets local business data, photos and reviews from two primary sources. Yelp provides most of the local business information, photos and reviews for Alexa local search. And in mid-2018, Yext began submitting business listings directly to Alexa.

If you happen to be a Yext customer already, your business information will be pushed directly to Alexa and there is nothing more you need to do. If you’re not a Yext customer, just make sure that your Yelp business listing is claimed and optimized and Alexa will use that.

Also, be aware … unscrupulous companies are calling local businesses warning that they won’t be found in Alexa unless they buy a special listing. This is a scam trying to sell you a Yext listing under false pretenses. Here was an actual call that we received about this.

We called this company back and eventually found out that they were trying to sell us an annual Yext subscription. They knew we didn’t need it and after a very long discussion, admitted that if we didn’t buy Yext, we would still be found on Alexa thanks to our Yelp listing.

Optimize for Microsoft Cortana

Finally, there’s Microsoft Cortana which surprisingly has close to 20% market share. Because it’s embedded in Microsoft Windows, Xbox and Microsoft Office, one-in-five voice searches are done through Cortana.

Cortana get its general business information from Bing Places. While Bing has virtually no market share on mobile, it still has significant market share for desktop web search. And with 20% market share in voice search, it’s definitely worthwhile to claim and optimize your Bing Places listing.

As with Siri and Alexa, Microsoft Cortana gets most of its local business reviews and photos from Yelp. You will sometimes see reviews and images from TripAdvisor in certain business categories, but most will come from Yelp.

Claim and Optimize Your Yelp Listing

As you’ve seen above … and whether you like Yelp or not … your Yelp listing is critical to local voice search optimization. Yelp syndicates images and reviews to Apple Maps which powers Apple Siri, and Bing Maps which powers Microsoft Cortana. And it syndicates business data, images and reviews to Amazon Alexa.

You want to claim and optimize your Yelp listing as much as possible. Make sure your business information is complete and accurate. Upload a good set of photos for your business.

There is one advertising option within Yelp that you may also want to consider: the “edit slideshow” page upgrade. By default Yelp chooses what the primary photo is for your listing. I have seen a drinking fountain as the primary image for a law office, for example. But the slideshow page upgrade allows you to control the order of your photos including the primary image associated with your business.

It costs $365 / year but it does allow you to specify the primary image which appears not only on Yelp, but in Apple Maps, Bing Maps and in voice assistant results for Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana on phones and devices that aren’t pure audio.

You’re Now Optimized for Local Voice Search

Once you’ve claimed and optimized your Google My Business, Apple Maps Connect, Bing Places and Yelp business listing, you’ll be well-positioned to show up in both discovery and direct / brand local voice search queries.

We still need to talk about optimized for knowledge search queries … e.g. Position 0 … but that will be the subject of a different article.

Do you have any questions, additions or comments about local voice search? Please let me know in the comments section below.