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A new survey shows just how prominent voice search is becoming in the journey from shopping to purchase.

According to the latest survey from Chatmeter, approximately 90% of smartphone owners say they use their device’s virtual assistant. More importantly, a large group of those are specifically using voice search to look for local business information.

Approximately 40% of smartphone users specifically say they “use voice search to ask for directions, an address, or business hours for a nearby location.” Additionally, more than a quarter of consumers say their “number one use for their voice device is to find a local restaurant, show, or business.”

This reinforces recent statements from prominent figures in the world of search, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who said: “local mobile searches are growing faster than just mobile searches overall, and have increased by almost 50% in the last year.”

One of the biggest uses for virtual assistants is also making in-person purchases or to visit new businesses, with almost 90% of users saying they turn to virtual assistants for driving directions.

While the rise of voice search will likely have huge ramifications for how we understand and optimize for online searching, these findings actually reinforce the importance of optimizing local listings on both desktop and mobile devices.

For example, a business’s Google My Business listing is responsible for providing all of these types of information, including giving directions, facilitating phone calls, and providing business hours.

Google My Business is already an essential part of establishing your business within your local industry and finding new customers nearby. Now, it is also becoming a necessity for helping voice search users find your business when they are ready to take action.

voice-search

Is voice search the next big thing? While more and more people are becoming accustomed to talking into their smartphones, tablets, and smart watches to take notes, get answers, and send messages, most people consider voice search a novelty. However, Bing’s “Search Evangelist” says voice search could become ubiquitous with online searching sooner than you may think, as AdWeek reports.

Speaking at Advertising Week on Thursday, Christi Olson said she expects voice search to go mainstream within the next five years.

This might seem like a big claim, considering voice search capabilities have become common on all smartphones and computers in recent years and yet voice search queries only make up between 5 and 10 percent of all searches made on Bing every month. But, Olson says companies should start planning for it to soon explode in popularity instead of playing catch-up when voice search goes from a trend to the primary way we interact with the internet.

“When you look at paid search and organic search, businesses tend to lag behind with these new technologies,” Olson said. “And so when you look at when the search engines come up with something new, we can give guidelines and guidance to think about how to adjust your content.”

Older users tend to be more skeptical of voice search, but Olson and others suggest that might change as teens and younger people adapt.

“I never was comfortable speaking into my phone,” Geoffrey Colon, product marketing manager for Bing Ads, said. “But my girls? That’s all they know how to do, because they don’t know how to type yet—they’re 4 and 6—but they can talk. So I think many of these things the adoption will actually take off because of the next generation.”

Colon then added to this by citing Snapchat as an example of a new technology initially aimed at kids that has become widespread in use. Quoting writer Alvin Toffler, Colon went on to say “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

When it all boils down, it is hard to deny that voice search is only going to rise in the coming years. Data shows the movement is already gaining ground, and more people are steadily investing in home devices like Amazon Echos that utilize voice search to control home functions and order products.

As smartphone internet use has exploded in the past few years, mobile-friendly pages and search engine optimization have become the standard, but new statistics from Bing suggests the future of SEO may be all about voice search.

During the Search Insider Summit last week, Bing representatives told the crowd that a quarter of all searches performed on Bing are voice searches and the trend looks keep increasing for the foreseeable future.

Additionally, as users get more accustomed to voice search, it is changing how they are performing searches entirely. Voice searches are notably longer, tending to fall between six and 10 words, compared to just one to three words for text searches.

Part of this notable rise of voice search on Bing is likely because the company powers three of the leading voice assistants in the world. Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa are all reliant on Bing to answer voice search queries. However, that shouldn’t discount these findings entirely.

While Google hasn’t released any statistics on voice searches performed on their platform, the company has taken clear steps to invest in voice search for future growth – such as using Google’s AI to recognize conversational speech in voice searches by having it read romance novels.

Clearly, the two largest search engines recognize that voice search will only become more prominent in the future. Likewise, marketers, SEOs, and businesses should start preparing now by investing in long-tail keywords and voice search optimization.