In Q4 2011, Apple sold 37 million iPhones to retake the coveted title of the number one smartphone, according to IDC-Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker. Much of these record sales can be attributed to Apple's iPhone 4S, with its unique voice searching capability, Siri.
In October, I penned "Will Apple's Siri Change the Voice of Local Search?" to begin exploring how this new functionality could be harnessed for local search campaigns. Through the holidays, my team began a series of designed experiments to better understand the data sources that Apple was utilizing and potential techniques to leverage its local search algorithm.
Because mobile searchers are often "on the go," the importance of position for a local listing is greatly increased and can be the difference for one business getting selected over another. Unlike desktop search where position on the first page of the search engine results rage (SERP) is deemed successful, optimization on mobile devices into the top couple of positions is required.
Below is the design and results for one of my team's designed experiments that explored the causality between Yelp reviews and listing position. Our agency's work for our clients is confidential, so I have removed the client's name and category from this discussion.
Searches for "client keyword in Troy, MI" on Google Maps returned client name in the third, fifth, and seventh positions on page one. However, the same voice search on Apple iPhone 4S via Siri (voice search) yielded a business listings set that did not include client. The root cause was the fact that even though voice query search results are often displayed in Google Maps on the Apple iPhone 4S, Apple is utilizing a different listings database than Google, complete with a proprietary algorithm to deliver search results on the device.
Based on observations of my agency's additional client programs and research information we had developed, we hypothesized that Yelp reviews were a primary optimization key for Siri with the root local listing data source being Localeze.
On January 4, 2012, the voice query for "client name in Troy, MI" results displayed three listings for client name with no reviews. A second voice query for "client keyword in Troy, MI" provided a result set with 25 businesses and no appearance of client in the search results. The first position was occupied by a business with one review with no stars.
On January 4, 2012, we inserted a four-star Yelp review for a specific client listing as a means to observe, and prove/disprove two elements:
- Yelp reviews were a primary optimization key for listings in Siri.
- Determine the listings update timing cycle of Yelp reviews into Siri.
Please note - we do not condone creating non-authentic reviews; the review that was inserted was from a customer of the client, used with their permission. If you would like more information for tips on increasing the volume of authentic ratings and reviews for your business/brand, please read "3 Tips To Leverage Ratings and Reviews."
Each morning at 8:00 a.m. EST, we conducted the same two voice queries: "client name in Troy, MI" and "client keyword in Troy, MI."
On January 24, 2012, the voice query for "client name in Troy, MI" resulted in three listings for client with the first inclusion of the review posted in Yelp on January 4, 2012 (21 days). The second voice query for "client keyword in Troy, MI" provided a result set with 25 businesses and client in the first position of search results.
Yelp reviews directly affect position on Apple's iPhone 4S results. In terms of update cycle, it would appear that the Siri database is updated on a 30-day cycle. Additionally, the incremental review citation for the client location improved position ranking on Google Maps from positions third, fifth, and seventh to second, fourth, and sixth.
Based on improved SERP position, we recommended that the client undertake a comprehensive program to authentically increase ratings and reviews with specific emphasis on Yelp. This program encourages recent customers to post content for discrete locations as a tactic to improve SERP position and provide content that displays point-of-difference attributes, which increase selection rates for potential customers of our client.
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