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Amazon ushered in a new era of voice-first computing in mid-2015 when it launched the first Amazon Echo. Four years later, voice-activated assistants on myriad devices have proliferated widely, but Uberall, a location marketing company, found that few local businesses are ready to take advantage. In fact, only 4% have correct, up-to-date information on all the key platforms, according to Norman Rohr, the company’s SVP of marketing.

“Google, Yelp, and Bing comprise approximately 90% of our voice search readiness score,” he said. “Unfortunately, only 3.82% of business locations analyzed had correct information even on these three major directories.” Rohr’s study analyzed 73,000 business listings for accuracy and completeness, checking for basic data such as address, hours of operation, contact information, and website. The results are not impressive.

Art galleries scored 1.65%. Business attorneys were even worse, at 1.3%, and congressional representatives scored just 0.24%. Across dozens of listings on multiple platforms for each of the 73,000 businesses, Uberall found 978,305 errors in hours of operation, 510,010 errors in location, and multiple other errors.

There were some bright spots, though. Dentists, health food stores, and home improvement businesses — categories that live off direct marketing — scored percentages in the mid to high 90s. And criminal attorneys showed up their business colleagues, coming in at 92%.

The average score, though? Just 44%.

Getting voice right is increasingly important. Smart speaker use almost doubled in 2018, with fast growth continuing to 2020. And of course nearly everyone has a voice-capable device in their pocket or purse.

Still, businesses might have some time to make up ground. According to a recent survey by Uberall of 1,007 consumers, just 10% of us use voice search daily. Another 11% use voice search at least once a month, 57% of those surveyed say they never use voice search. But those numbers are growing, the company says, and that’s particularly true in cars, where using smartphones is generally illegal.

Add in the declining share of desktop search in favor of mobile search, and continued voice search growth seems likely. So where do you need to optimize?

According to the study, 90% of “voice readiness” can be achieved on just three platforms: Google, Yelp, and Bing. Google feeds Apple’s Siri and Apple Maps results, Uberall says, so if you get Google, you get Apple too.

Other platforms include Facebook, Foursquare, Hot Frog, and Judy’s Book, but even with 34 other directories and search platforms, they comprise only 10% of the voice search universe.

“This is one of the most glaring mistakes businesses continue to make,” Rohr said. “When a consumer conducts an online search for a business, whether through voice search or not, they expect and trust that the information provided will be accurate. If the customer then turns up and finds that the business is closed, the immediate result is a loss of trust that will likely discourage them from ever returning to a business location.”

John Koetsier built VB’s research team from 2013 to 2015, after writing for VB for a couple of years. Currently, he’s Singular’s VP of Insights.

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