As Voice-Activated Personal Assistant Use Rises, So Will Their Influence On Local Search

Siri, Alexa, and Cortana — no, they're not pop stars, but voice-controlled personal assistants from Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Android, and others will increasingly impact how users find 'micro-moments.'

The role of voice-directed digital personal assistants on smartphones and in the connected home aren’t a regular feature that consumers use at this point. But as eMarketer contends, that’s going to change rapidly as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and the various ones offered on Google’s Android become “smarter,” they’ll also become more prominent in how consumers interact with their devices.

And that could have bigger implications for local businesses who rely on responding to “near me” searches that consumers seek to satisfy those “micro-moments.”

Citing a June 2015 survey from 451 Research, just 13 percent of U.S. smartphone access their voice-controlled personal assistant on a daily basis, while 14 percent average weekly use, as 10 percent employ that feature monthly. In aggregate, that’s 37 percent of mobile phone owners who regularly use a personal digital assistant — sizable, but hardly decisive.

Part of the reason for the relatively low amount of voice-controlled personal assistant use is that — hard as it may be to believe by professionals immersed in the latest mobile tech — is that not everyone has a smartphone. Yet.

“eMarketer estimates that in 2016 there will be 177.8 million mobile phone search users in the US,” the report says. “At the end of the forecasting period, there will be 221.0 million. And as mobile devices become more sophisticated, and offer options like voice-controlled personal assistants, more of those searchers may be inclined to try them out.”

As those users do try out those features, the need for local businesses to ensure that they are “known” by personal assistants will be come an important part of their SEO strategies. Last month, in a presentation at SMX West, Christi Olson, Microsoft Bing Ads Evangelist, noted that roughly half of all mobile voice searches are related to finding local places.

“We’re seeing that there’s a significant local component to [voice searches], Olson told GeoMarketing. “Of individuals searching through voice on the mobile web, roughly 40 percent had a local element to what they were trying to get to. They’re trying to find something place-based: ‘Get me to this location. Where do I find this? How do I get there? What is a local restaurant in this area?’

“Local search is at a huge inflection point right now, in terms of where mobile and voice helping drive mobile search so it’s really important for advertisers to understand that,” Olson added. “Making sure that they’re aware so that you can target that.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.