While there was much buzz around Google’s other announcements, such as the Pixel smartphone, WiFi router and Daydream VR headset, the Google Home launch on the 4th November will have many search marketers investing time in their voice search strategies.
What makes Google Home different to other voice enabled technology is that, while smartphones have had the capability for years, Amazon Echo was the first device to offer a virtual assistant without a screen or interface. With Google bringing out a competitor, there is the very real potential for widespread acceptance and use. There are many other SEO and marketing factors to take into consideration, most notably the data that the always-listening devices will collect, but for now we face a very real search dilemma – how do I optimise for voice search?
This subject has been covered in detail recently with the increased use of hands free smartphones, but what Google Home and Amazon Echo are bringing to the fore is voice search without the return of a website on screen. With a home AI assistant, you’re effectively removing the need to search a website as the device will answer your questions without you having to lift a finger.
This is unlikely to impact on the importance of websites in the near or even distant future, but it does raise the importance of relevant, voice search optimised content and data on your website.
Search Engine Roundtable recently published more information on what feeds into Google Home’s results, and it comes as little surprise that it comes down to Featured Snippets. Featured Snippets are the snippet of information published directly in the search engine results page, often as a result of question-based search.
Google Home will use Featured Snippets for answers. Source credited but not like getting a click #MadeByGoogle https://t.co/ZLMqVwHpvc pic.twitter.com/GkE7n3kovb — Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 4, 2016
So it would stand to reason that in order to optimise for Google Home you should optimise for Featured Snippets, yes? Not quite. Firstly, there’s no winning formula for getting your site to rank as a Featured Snippet, in fact, in response to the question “How can I mark my page as a featured snippet?” Google itself says, “You can’t.”
While this may be the case, Search Engine Roundtable also published advice on how to get featured in a Featured Snippet.
So to optimise for Google Home and similar devices, it’s likely that the answer will lie somewhere in the middle of optimising for voice search, Featured Snippets and regular best practice SEO.
The examples used in the Google event featured credible sources, starting each answer with ‘according to’ before relaying the name of the website the Featured Snippet was programmatically taken from.
In order to show as a Featured Snippet, Google has to trust your website is a credible source and it does this by looking at several elements of your site. Google’s famous algorithm updates weren’t just rolled out to strike fear into the hearts of SEOs but were for the greater good of the user, helping Google show results that are genuine and relevant to the user’s query.
We can provide heaps more information on what makes an authoritative website and website design for UX but what will be interesting is the impact assistants will have on search. Factors that make a website rank traditional such as page load speed, image optimisation and being mobile friendly, may not be so important if Home devices take off, as there would be no need to visit the website the information is coming from. It could all be in the data and raw content itself and optimising that content so that it’s in its purest form that’s easiest for Google to digest.
What will become increasingly important is optimising for long tail keywords and search terms that you’re more likely to speak than type. If you think about the way that you search Google on a desktop and the way you might ask Google’s digital assistant a question, they are unlikely to be identical – and you’re no different from your customers.
Typed search is often short, one or two-word queries, anticipating that Google will return related results, whereas spoken search isn’t quite the norm for many of us yet. Instead, we ask full questions, ‘Ok Google, where is the nearest supermarket?’ Granted we’re starting to lose the Britishness out of it and are more direct than perhaps how you might speak to your mother, but there is a clear difference between written and spoken.
So in order to optimise for a personal digital assistant you have to make sure your website answers such questions. As Moz reported early this year, phone voice search queries tend to follow a certain vein with ‘calling someone’ and ‘directions’ being among the top assistant searches. But as home devices increase in usage we may be more likely to see an increase in detail with ‘list present options for Dad for next day delivery to work’ and related searches.
This will not only see assistants keeping track of payment, location and buying habit details but also a change in the way websites are used and therefore built.
Amazon Dash earned a lot of coverage when it launched in the UK earlier this year and while there were some sceptics, for many it appears to be a stepping stone, paving the way for the feature to be embedded in Echo and Home.
Brands and marketeers are having to increasingly think beyond their website and adapt their communications to fit with the multi-channel customer journey. The launch of Echo and Home is further groundwork for the full integration of assistants and AI in every aspect of our lives and, beyond this, home devices also mean that you have to think not just multi-channel but multi-influencer.
Reviews are likely to play a huge part in the home device movement, with search queries asking for the best rated products likely to increase in a space where there’s no need for screens to scroll through your options.
It now means that brands have to think about Actions for Google Assistant and Skills for Amazon’s Alexa digital assistants. These open systems make it possible for brands to essentially build apps for the assistant devices, opening up new ways for customers to interact with your product offering. As Amazon puts it ‘Be ready for customers when they ask for you…no hands required.’
In summary, search is evolving, again.
While this means new challenges, thankfully this is something SEOs are used to and good SEOs thrive on. It also provides the opportunity for businesses and brands to deliver a new, sometimes better customer experience, something we’re always looking to improve and progress.
Want to future proof your website or learn more about voice-based search and its impact on brands? Speak to us.