local search with siri

The Evolution of Local Search Beyond Traditional Interfaces


Remember when finding a local business used to mean pulling out those big yellow books? Yeah, me neither – it’s been ages since any of us have cracked open a physical phone directory. Nowadays, we just whip out our smartphones and let our favorite digital assistants handle it with a quick “Hey Siri, find me the closest pizza place.”

While the concept of local search has been around for decades, the way we actually discover and engage with nearby businesses has changed dramatically, transcending traditional search engine interfaces. Local search has infiltrated every corner of our digitally-connected lives through voice assistants, automotive systems, smart home devices, and more.

So let’s take a stroll through this brave new world of local search. You might be surprised where it’s popping up these days!

The Rise of Voice Search and Digital Assistants

“Okay Google, where’s the nearest gas station?”

If you find yourself chatting up your smartphone’s digital assistant like an old friend, you’re hardly alone. As natural language processing has become more sophisticated, voice search through AI assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant has exploded in popularity.

And a huge proportion of these voice queries have clear local intent – we’re not just asking Alexa about history facts, but for nearby business recommendations. Think about it, how many times have you asked out loud for ideas on where to grab lunch, which hardware store is closest, or what the best happy hour spots are downtown?

For businesses, showing up in these voice search results is becoming mission-critical. Optimizing for voice queries by incorporating conversational keywords and providing direct answers is the new frontier of local SEO. After all, when Siri reads you the top three nearby coffee shops, you’re likely picking one of those, right?

Local Search in the Car (and on Wearables)

Our desire for on-the-go local business info doesn’t stop when we’re in the car either. In fact, that’s where many of us crave quick access to nearby gas, food, parking, and everything else even more!

In-car GPS and automotive assistants have stepped up in a big way here. Whether using Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, or native automotive systems like Ford SYNC, we can easily say “Hey Mercedes, find me a Thai restaurant” and see convenient local listings appear right on the dash.

Local search has also found its way onto our literal wearable tech. There may only be a few million Apple Watch users actively relying on its Maps app and business search to scout locations nearby. But for early adopters of augmented reality glasses and other wearable gadgets, hands-free local discovery could eventually become second nature while out and about.

The Smarthome Local Search Experience

“Alexa, buy more paper towels from the grocery store nearby.”

While many of us have been using smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo to pull up local business info and recommendations, smarthome voice assistants are inching closer to becoming full-fledged local shopping concierges too.

Today, Alexa can do things like add an item to your pickup order from the nearest Whole Foods store with a simple voice request. Meanwhile, Google is working on integrating its Nest speakers with services like Google Maps to have a seamless experience for finding and engaging with nearby businesses without ever pulling out your phone.

Heck, for all we know, in a few years our fridges might be able to automatically reorder groceries for us from local stores by tracking inventory levels. Talk about living in the future!

Apps and Ultra-Personalized Local Search

But of course, we’d be remiss to leave out those little smartphone apps we’ve all become so dependent on for finding nearby places and services. While search engines were the first stop for local business queries, apps and ultra-personalized search portals are taking over.

Apps like Yelp, Foursquare, DoorDash, Uber and countless others are doubling as local business finders based on your real-time location and preferences. Many of us don’t even bother with a traditional web search – we just open up the Yelp app to find the top-rated restaurants around us.

And with things like Google’s personalized maps, suggestions actually change based on Your previous search behavior, check-ins, and other personal data. So nearby Thai places might rank higher for you if Google knows that’s your jam.

Heck, even dating apps like Tinder and Bumble incorporate location data to show you prospective matches in your area. I guess you could call that a…different kind of local search (insert wink emoji).

So What Does This All Mean for Local Businesses?

As local search sprawls across all these new interfaces – automotive assistants, smart speakers, apps and more – one thing is clear: businesses can no longer just focus on optimizing their website and a Google Business Profile listing. Your local marketing efforts need to go way beyond that.

For one, making your business appear in all these new voice assistant systems and apps requires a broader approach to citations, local listings management, review generation and so on. You need to make sure your business data is getting syndicated to all the major data providers powering these new local search methods.

It also means adapting your strategies to be voice search-friendly, from conversational keyword optimization to directly answering common questions people might ask about your services or operations via voice.

You’ll also want to consider visual optimization for things like smart glasses – making sure you have geotags, up-to-date photos and potentially even augmented reality wayfinding setup. User experience will be key for winning in these future interfaces.

Ultimately, the core principles of local search optimization still apply: showing up, being prominent and relevant anytime someone needs something in your area. But the front doors are changing rapidly. Businesses have to be ready promote their nearby offerings through an ever-expanding array of new and novel local discovery methods.

So next time you ask Alexa for a Thai place recommendation and your business pops up, you’ll know all the hard work of getting local was worth it! The future of finding places has officially gone way beyond the search box.



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