Voice’s Impact on Local: The Knowledge Graph, SEO, Paid Search

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This post is the latest in our “Beyond the Screen” series. It will be an editorial focus for the month of January, and you can see the rest of the series here

We know voice will play a major role in Local in 2019, as voice recognition software gets more sophisticated, “near me” searches skyrocket, and marketers wise up to where the voice-local opportunity really lies in the near future: smartphones.

In this article, let’s get more specific. Voice will affect the fundamentals of local search: the Knowledge Graph, SEO, and paid search, for example. Drawing from Street Fight lead analyst Mike Boland’s 2018 white paper on voice, I break down those changes below.

The Knowledge Graph

The evolution of the Knowledge Graph over the years actually supports the voice revolution organically. We can see the way audio search results will need to evolve to meet the needs of consumers already in the transition from desktop searches to mobile.

When desktop was the norm, Google’s famous 10 blue links were the standard on the SERPs. Nowadays, the dominant form of information Google organizes for local searchers is the Knowledge Graph: that rectangular box on the right-hand side of the screen that provides crucial info about one entity. 

With voice, the Knowledge Graph, one-major-source style of delivering info to searchers will be not just helpful but indispensable. Voice search doubles down on the needs of conventional mobile search: fast and on-the-go. This means longstanding changes in Google toward providing the one key answer searchers need will dovetail nicely with voice local search.


As stated above, with voice search, there will only be one answer that matters: the top one that the voice mechanism spits out at the searcher. This could endanger the practice of SEO, as it’s harder to rank highly when ranking highly is sort of obsolete, supplanted by the imperative of being number one.

That said, SEO won’t be entirely obsolete anytime soon. First off, a large number of searches will still be performed on desktop and conventionally on mobile devices. Secondly, voice search may not entirely eat up the pie that is currently primarily shared by desktop and mobile: Some voice search, SEO expert Andrew Shotland told Mike Boland, may build incrementally on existing search query volume.

Paid Search

Google will likely implement paid search through the voice medium by allowing for ads when a business willing to pay happens to be surfaced by a voice query. More specifically, Google will look to push searchers up the funnel, sending them to other screens once they’ve been enticed by a voice query and jamming ads into those additional interfaces.

This will look different for other tech giants involved in voice search such as Amazon. The retail giant will has a direct path to monetization through voice search and will depend not on new ad presentations but on consumers’ becoming more and more comfortable with ordering through voice as they once did with one-click ordering and mobile commerce.

Joe Zappa is Street Fight’s managing editor.


Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Joe is an ad/martech veteran who has covered the space since 2015. You can contact him at [email protected]