What Pet Businesses Need to Know About Voice Search

voice search

Shouting Into The Void: How New Voice-Search Tech Is Changing The Ways Pet Owners Find You

It’s official, computers now talk back. More importantly, with the sudden explosion of voice- search technology like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, Bixby and Cortana, (Did you SEE that amazing Google Home sale for the holidays?!) it’s forever changing how pet owners find your pet business.

Let’s take a look at this new trend, how it impacts local search (local SEO) and some quick things you can do to continue to show up in this brave new search-engine world.

What is voice search technology?

In its simplest form, voice-search technology is the ability to ask a device (like your phone or smart-home controller) a question by speaking aloud and having it answer you back. Originally, the answer came in written as well as spoken form, but more platforms are moving toward spoken results first.

How does voice search give answers?

Depending on the device you’re using, “answers” are pulled from a variety of digital sources, like Google’s search results pages, Yelp, Wikipedia and other “experts”. However, instead of seeing a long list of all possible resources to click through, searchers are given either a single answer or shorter list. In many cases, these lists and rankings have to do with additional directories – like your practice’s Google My Business, Bing or Yelp pages.

For example, if I ask my Google Assistant “who is the best dog groomer on the upper west side?” I get a list of three highly-rated businesses back. I can then further refine that by asking, “what’s their phone number and hours?” Google Assistant will retain the first search and tell me the hours and phone number for the first that’s listed.

Why does voice search matter and what can I do about it?

While the world of search engine marketing evolves daily, few changes have both changed how pet owners are searching and been adopted as quickly as voice-search:

Use of voice search is exploding.

Voice search technology has been significantly enhanced in the last few years and pet owners are taking notice. Google reports that 20% of all mobile searches are already voice-searches. Share of searches by voice-based programs are increasing exponentially with the growing use of smart-home technology, like Alexa and Google Home. In fact, experts believe that 1/3 to 1/2 of all web-based searches will be done without a screen by 2020 – that’s 33-50 billion voice-activated searches every month.

It’s not just millennials who are using it.

A study by Thrive Analytics found that the number of individuals using voice search is up 30% year over year, and not just among the tech-savvy. In fact, nearly 40% of people over 44 years old are using mobile personal assistants. (Versus 71% of 18-29 year olds and 59% of 30-43 year olds.) So whether your pet business targets baby boomers or millennials, voice search is going to impact how your customers find you.

Voice search is changing how pet owners ask for and are returned answers about local services.

“We’ve taught ourselves to think like computers when we use search engines through a keyboard,” notes SEOPressor.com, but this is changing.

Beyond the fact that pet owners no longer have to look at a screen to enter a search or be given results, voice search lends itself to some key differences in how pet owners ask for help finding local businesses in the first place. Break away from the screen and a much more conversational approach to search is adopted. “Consumers aren’t going to be typing in individual keywords; instead, they’ll be asking questions and giving commands,” Jayson DeMers recently wrote for Forbes Magazine.

Petpreneurs who cater to these longer search strings and address the natural way people may ask a question stand a better chance of showing up. For example, websites or blogs that include landmarks as key indicators–or in the listings on sites like Yelp–are more likely to appear when a pet owner asks for the “best veterinarian near Washington Square Park.”

Voice search is changing how pet owners are returned answers about their pet’s care.

While on-screen search engine results pages show a snippet of the answer Google assumes the searcher is looking for, below that the user is able to quickly find other sources to typical pet-care questions. This is not so easy when Alexa or Google home just begin reading aloud the first result. Consider including Q&As on your business website that relate directly to questions pet owners might be asking their devices. Include question terms like “who”, “what,” “where”, “how,” etc. that people would use in normal conversation.

Above all, think local. While your business website may not ever be the number one result for “how can I teach my dog to sit?,” you have a good shot at “what are the best dog parks near me” or “should I worry about skunks in ABC park”?

The main thing to keep in mind.

The world of search is ever-changing and evolving. While voice-search technologies are the most recent and seemingly here to stay, the technology of how search engines help consumers find answers will continue to evolve – and that means your business’s digital media needs to as well. (Sorry, no “set it and forget it” websites anymore.)

The bright side is that these same changes make it easier for you to find an abundance of tools, resources and experts to help you. Don’t worry. You’re not alone – Alexa is listening.

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