By Sherry Bonelli | Guest Column

Do you find yourself talking to Siri more and more? How about asking Alexa a question? If so, you’re not alone. Voice search is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, 50 percent of all searches could be voice activated by 2020.

But these searches aren’t always questions like, “How old is Harrison Ford?” or “What will the weather be like today?” More and more people are looking for local business information with voice searches.

According to BrightLocal, 58 percent of consumers have used voice search to find local business information in the last 12 months. And with 46 percent of voice search users looking for a local business daily, these forward-thinking consumers are actively looking for local businesses like yours. Are you ready?

Where the info comes from

The various search devices like iPhone, Amazon Echo/Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, etc. all get their data and information from a variety of sources – and those sources can change at any time.

For instance, Amazon Alexa gets most of its local business data from Yelp, Google Home gets data from Google Maps and Cortana pulls its local information from Bing. Our friend Siri pulls mostly from Apple Maps and Yelp whereas Bixby gets local business data from Google Maps.

As a business, this means that your online directory listings/citations, like Google My Business, Yelp, Bing Places for Business, Apple Maps and others need to be in order. Your business name, address and phone number need to be correct and consistent across as many of these citation sites as possible.

Yelp is integrated into more than half the mobile voice assistant market, so make sure your Yelp listing is claimed, filled out completely and includes pictures. Having your information correct, up-to-date and optimized in these all-important directories is crucial to your local voice search optimization strategy.

Online reviews matter

Online reviews are important because not only do consumers look at and trust reviews, but reviews are a local Google ranking factor. When it comes to local voice search, reviews are also typically displayed in the results. So, getting 5-star reviews from your customers is a great way to improve your chances of building credibility, trust, boosting your rankings and improving clicks when you show up in voice search results.

A word of caution, though: do not ask your customers to leave a review on Yelp. Asking for reviews violates Yelp’s terms of service and will get you in big trouble with them.

Get ready for voice now

Voice search is rapidly becoming the search method of choice for many people. It will soon become mainstream for finding information on local businesses. Make sure your business’ information is optimized to be found on voice search now to get ahead of your competition.•

Sherry Bonelli, digital marketer and presenter/speaker, is the owner of early bird digital marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency in Cedar Rapids. Reach her at http://earlybirddigitalmarketing.com.