3 Steps Retailers Can Take to Optimize Voice Search Results
In today’s world, consumers are using voice technology more and more to make purchases and decide which businesses get their consideration. When it comes to local “near me” searches, voice is three times more likely to be used than text. Mobile users are relying on voice search to supply them with on-the-go information, and its hands-free design allows for the ability to search for a location while driving. Optimizing a brand for voice search and incorporating a voice engine optimization (VEO) strategy into overarching marketing plans is vital for businesses.
To shed light on how prepared brands are for this voice search takeover and where they need to focus improvements, Chatmeter’s second annual Local Brand Report reveals how prepared 12 of America’s biggest retail and restaurant brands are for voice search in 2019. The report uses real customer data to determine the biggest areas of opportunity for a brand to increase its visibility in search engines and improve the online-to-offline customer experience.
Utilizing Chatmeter’s dashboard, a wide variety of metrics were used to evaluate each brand, including customer review rating, review response rate, listing accuracy, and local brand visibility (LBV) score. A brand’s LBV score is an aggregate of the most important metrics tied to reputation, social media activity and local SEO. Customer activity levels, listing accuracy, rankings and customer ratings all factor in.
Here's what retailers can learn from the findings:
A Lack of Focus on Customer Reviews, Social Media and Local SEO is Holding Retailers Back From Voice Tech Success
By Chatmeter’s metrics, none of the 12 brands rank as an “industry leader” in voice search preparedness. This is primarily determined by LBV scores, for which a score above 70 is reflective of an industry leader, between 50 and 70 is average, and below 50 is poor. Think of this gradient scale as a digital report card of online health.
The highest LBV score achieved by any brand was Target with 64; the lowest was Starbucks and Jack in the Box, tied with scores of 51. The average LBV score across the 12 companies was a 60.6, a good but not great score.
Specifically, the biggest area brands must improve in is review management. The average review rating for the retail brands was 3.95, and five out of the six retail brands had a review response rate of 0 percent. Best Buy was the one brand that responded to some reviews, yet its response rate was merely 1 percent.
These findings mean that while these brands may be notable consumer favorites, their content and reputation isn't optimized to be found via voice search. With voice projected to account for one in two searches by 2020, this means even the largest brands are potentially walking themselves away from half their customers.
Attention to Local Business Listings is Retailer’s Saving Grace
Listings management was one of the only areas Chatmeter examined that all brands are doing well in. Both consumers and, perhaps more importantly, search engines rely on the accuracy of online listing information. Fifty percent of how Google ranks businesses is dependent on listings signals, and relies on the information to pull responses for each search query, whether desktop, mobile or voice. And consumers need to trust the information is accurate in order for a visit to a nearby location to be considered — and possible.
Across all 12 companies, the average listing accuracy was 90.75 percent. The company with the least accurate listings was Apple (74 percent accuracy). It's clear that companies see the value in listings management solutions.
When it comes to keeping online listings up-to-date, most local SEO experts refer to the acronym NAP, which stands for name, address, and phone number. However, the next step in listings management is expanding from NAP to NAPWCHD accuracy, which stands for name, address, phone number, website, categories, hours of operation, and description.
Unfortunately, listings management isn't the end-all, be-all solution for high local search rankings. Brands need to have optimization in all four areas of a complete local SEO strategy in order to rank for voice searches.
3 VEO Tips for Retailers
1. Respond to reviews.
Responding to reviews is simply good business practice. Taking the time to do so shows future customers that you care, and reaches the 14 percent of customers who are more likely to return to a business that responded to their feedback.
Reviews without responses can negatively affect a brand’s rankings more than one may think. Companies need to be investing in a review management system to help them respond to the thousands of reviews they receive. Those businesses that make this investment will see a return in higher rankings and more consumers going to their brick-and-mortar locations.
2. Post to local social pages.
It's time to transition from national social media campaigns to campaigns conducted on a location-by-location basis. Local social campaigns build trust with customers and show that the business is active and engaged online and nearby, which has become a prerequisite for consumers looking to make a trip to a physical location.
Ninety-two percent of all marketers indicated their social media efforts have generated more online exposure for their businesses, and at a time when 97 percent of customers are researching physical stores online, this local social presence could be the difference between a shopper choosing them or a competitor.
3. Develop an unbranded keyword strategy.
In today’s world, consumers are no longer brand loyal. What used to be a “[brand] near me” search is now “where can I buy [generic product type] near me.” When you send the right local signals and information to all search engines and voice assistants, your brand can rank at the top for the unbranded, voice-driven searches consumers are using now.
In order to reach new customers, bring more visitors to a business, and rank higher in more searches, brands need to be optimizing for unbranded keywords and strategically employing VEO.
Collin Holmes is the founder and CEO of Chatmeter, a local brand management platform.
Related story: The 2018-2019 Retail Technology Report