Voice-powered devices aren’t new. iPhone launched Siri in 2011, while Alexa hit retail stores in 2014. So, why are we talking about voice search optimization for restaurants in 2020? Believe it or not, those novelty technologies that tickled our collective funny bone with awkward or inappropriate responses have transformed into search query Goliaths.
According to Comscore, 2020 will be the year that voice search officially consumes 50% of all searches. And, by 2022, an estimated 55% of U.S. households will own smart speaker devices. While voice search certainly hasn’t been a background player in the search market (there were over one billion voice searches each month in 2018), it’s quickly transforming into a dominant force in restaurant SEO.
In fact, many restaurants live and die by search results. Here’s why: 92% of U.S. adults searched for a restaurant in the past six months. And, those searches led to purchases. Meanwhile, 78% of local searches (which have grown by over 200% in the past two years to a massive 46% of the search market) resulted in a purchase. All in all, 76% of people who search for a local restaurant will visit that restaurant within 24 hours of their search query.
When we put two and two together, we get a clear picture of just how important voice search is in today’s digital ecosystem. Search results drive business, and voice search drives search results. So, how can your restaurant tap into the magical power of voice search?
What is Voice Search?
Very simply, voice search is the act of seeking information on the World Wide Web using verbal commands. Chances are you’ve probably used voice capabilities at one time or another. Perhaps, you’re familiar with asking your smartphone what the weather will be like in the morning. Or, maybe you tell your Echo device to perform daily tasks like turning up the temperature or pumping out your favorite pop tunes. Any time you ask a voice-enabled device an intent-based question (like “where can I go to grab a slice of pizza near me?”), you’ve made a voice search.
Who’s Using Voice Search in 2020?
The real question is: Who doesn’t use voice search?
40% of U.S. adults use voice search at least once per day. That means Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers are all leveraging voice searches to find the information they need. Of course, Generation Z and Millennials top the list in average use. However, the value of voice search cuts across generations. According to a PwC report, 74% of Americans between the ages of 18 – 64 use mobile voice assistants regularly. Only a mere 10% of responders are unaware of voice search.
As the new year unfolds, we want to make one thing clear. Voice search strategies aren’t just for quick-service restaurants and tech disrupters. They’re for every restaurant that wants to remain relevant in today’s evolving dining marketplace.
How Are Diners Using Voice Search?
First, how are diners using voice search to find restaurants? Sure, people use voice search to check everything from the weather to the price of a pound of chicken wings. But, how does it impact your restaurant?
For starters, voice searches are 3x more likely to be local searches. In fact, 53% of people use “near me” to find restaurants while driving. So, voice search is a convenient tool when you’re on the move. And, it can be used in more ways than one. You can leverage it to “read” restaurant reviews, have your complex nutrition questions answered, and learn more about diet trends. Here’s the amazing thing — voice search continues to evolve, even as this post goes to press. According to a survey from The MDR Group, 64% of diners are interested in ordering food via voice-enabled AI.
Currently, the majority of American consumers are sticking with search phrases like “best pizza near me” or “sushi near me.” In the future, however, they may ask questions like “order sushi near me” or “order a McDonald’s McDouble near me.”
And, in November 2019, Google premiered its Duplex AI assistant for Pixel smartphone users. As of today, Google Duplex is operational in at least 43 states. The technology allows Pixel users to make restaurant reservations via Google Assistant. So, what’s the benefit of an AI-enabled voice search such as Duplex? Instead of the user needing to adapt to the system, the system adjusts to the user. Basically, the user can speak naturally (regardless of pronunciation or accent), while the AI uses biometric data (physical and behavioral identifiers) to respond accordingly.
For now, rest easy. Winning with voice search is similar to winning with local searches. It involves following some best-practices, creating some SEO frameworks, and positioning content that delivers value to diners — all with a new twist, of course.
3 Ways Restaurants Can Dominate Voice Search Marketing
Let’s take a look at how you can optimize for voice-based searches on Google. These strategies are equally applicable across all search engines, but our statistics favor Google because that’s where your customers will be.
1. Maximize Your “Near Me” Potential
It’s no secret that search results impact restaurants. From Yelp to the GrubHub dashboard, your restaurant’s “rankings” on apps, review websites, and social media platforms play a huge role in its overall success.
In fact, two magic words can literally destroy a restaurant or lift it from obscurity: “near me.” It’s impossible to overstate the importance of these two words. 82% of smartphone users conduct “near me” searches every day. And, of all the different “x near me” phrases that customers use, there’s one that’s used more often than any other: “restaurants near me.”
6.2 million people initiate “restaurant near me” searches each month. Want to know what other “near me” searches people are making?
- “food near me”
- “pizza near me”
- “delivery near me”
- “breakfast near me”
- “Chinese food near me”
- “places to eat near me”
- “fast food near me”
- “sushi near me”
- “pizza delivery near me”
The list goes on. Over 50% of the top unbranded “near me” searches are food-based — including four of the top five. In other words, diners have found “near me” voice searches to be particularly helpful when it comes to restaurant selection. So, does this mean voice search will guide them to the best restaurants, based on reviews and proximity?
Not quite. When people make voice searches, they won’t see a complete Google search results page. All they’ll see is the local 3-pack or “snack pack.” That’s it. Just three restaurants and a “more” button. For restaurants, making that 3-pack list is the gold standard. Moz research studies suggest that your chance of being seen drops to 8% if you’re ranking in fourth place. In other words, 92% of people won’t be clicking the “more” button after seeing the first three search results (or local 3-pack).
So, how do you make that envied 3-pack list? We dove deep into that issue in our Google My Business blog post, but we’ll quickly touch on the magic formula here: Google My Business + smart linking strategies + website speed + mobile-friendliness + reviews + location = snack pack magic.
2. Use Natural Language
For years, restaurants have been creating blog posts and answering questions using keyword-based content. When Google tries to answer search questions, it finds relevant information based on the language and intent of the searcher. You might type something like “best restaurants NYC” or “Yelp reviews on sushi NYC” when you do an online search. To accommodate the unique language used by these types of computer-enabled searches, keywords have been the de facto king of SEO for years. Until now.
When we speak into our phones, we ask questions differently. Instead of “best restaurants NYC,” we say things like, “What are the best restaurants in New York City?”
Our language is more natural. If you want to win with voice search, your content needs to have a natural language flow, as well. This means shifting your focus from keywords to semantics (interrogative sentences). People naturally communicate by asking questions and receiving answers. It’s a very basic form of human communication. So, when people pick up their phones, they engage with their voice assistant in the same way.
That said, how do you optimize for semantic-based voice searches?
Easy: You answer questions. Don’t just create a blog post using “competitive keywords” to drive traffic to your website. Answer critical consumer concerns with real, in-depth answers. The better you get at doing this, the higher your content will start ranking for voice searches.
3. Reviews Are Still King
You can’t escape the review beast, and there’s no denying that they still dominate the restaurant space. In fact, 92% of customers read them, and 33% would never dream of stepping foot in a restaurant that has earned fewer than four stars. And (get ready for it), reviews heavily influence how Google picks local 3-pack or snack pack winners.
From voice search to local SEO, reviews play a critical part in your restaurant’s success. If you’re worried about poor reviews, read our post for how to bump those stars up.
Master Voice Search Optimization for Restaurants With 9Fold
Are you wondering how our leading-edge online ordering portal can help you win with voice searches in 2020? Check this out: Not only does 9Fold break the shackles of pay-to-win 3rd party delivery apps, but we also give you the ability to quickly respond to customer issues. They say prevention is worth a pound of cure — with 9Fold you get to prevent poor reviews before it even hits the Internet.
Plus, our ordering portal is fast, mobile-ready, and hyper-branded. We may not let customers order their meals with an AI bot (yet), but we can empower your SEO journey by customizing an incredible ordering portal for you. Want to learn more? Contact us today to schedule a free demo of our powerful online ordering system.