Posted on 3rd May 2017 by kelvin in SEO

Within the world of SEO we tend to like our jargon. Link bait. Cannibalisation. Canonicals. Anchor text. The list goes on. The next term that will be discussed in the  upcoming years within the industry — and perhaps form a side industry of itself — is voice search optimisation (optimization for those across the pond) — or VSO.


Voice technology is not new. Most marketers and the wider public will have been aware of how devices like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa have been increasing in popularity over the last few years. Some interesting statistics include:

The rise of personal assistants

So it’s clear that voice technology — and, specifically, AI based personal assistants — are on the rise. Tom Anthony of Distilled predicted this in 2015, and as marketers we all need to be prepared for what this world will look like. But how do we do that?


Well, from a voice search perspective it’s very difficult. This is because we must prepare for a future that might not include a search results page.

Moving away from traditional SEO

The traditional model of SEO involves optimising to get as high up the first page as possible, and we’re now seeing ‘position 0’ being coveted because Google’s Knowledge Graph is in many instances taking away the need for users to click through to a result to get the answer they require. Voice search is likely to present similar problems. If you’re not Google’s, Siri’s, et al’s first result, it will be difficult to be found in a world dictated by personal assistants.


Having said that, businesses that have a localised presence in some form have slightly more control than those that don’t. The reason for this is that these personal assistants rely on databases of information to give users.


These databases are often platforms such as Yelp, Zagat or Tripadvisor. Depending on the personal assistant, it will use a different platform. For example, Amazon Alexa uses Yelp and Google Assistant uses data from its search engine cousin. What this means is that listings on these sites must be as accurate and comprehensive as possible, and will likely only increase the importance of reviews on these sites due to the increasing popularity of queries such as ‘who is the best electrician near me?’.


What about those that are not localised, specifically questions that are much earlier on in the buyer’s journey? Well, this is likely to ensure that content marketing carries on for some time. Whilst Google can give answers to questions that are objective — “how many inches are in a foot?”, “how tall is the Burj Khalifa?”, “how far away is my home?” — more subjective answers will more than likely require the user to make some form of choice. This will of course be dictated by how the technologies render the results of these queries over time, but it’s highly likely that some element of choice will be required.


This is where tools like Moz’s Keyword Explorer, KWFinder, and CoverageBook’s will become increasingly important, as they go beyond the historical keyword research approach and progress through to a voice search world that is far more conversational, using natural language to ask questions. Tools like those above give you the ability to input keywords, and they will return what questions people are asking — not just two or three keyword phrases from Google AdWords Keyword Planner.


The final point to note is that teams within organisations will need to become much less siloed.


Gradually, the lines between SEOs, PRs, social media managers, analytics professionals, etc. are becoming increasingly blurred. The growth of voice search and personal assistants will see these lines blur even further — out into the web development teams, mobile/wearable tech applications, IT departments and even in-store teams.


The importance of this should not be underestimated. Ensuring that all these teams are aligned will ensure data and information consistency, meaning that users are more likely to get a tailored, personalised experience due to the user’s personal assistant being synced with an organisation’s mobile application, internal CRM tool, in-store beacons or tracking technologies.


In particular, mobile apps and wearable applications must be optimised for voice search, and the actions that result from these requests. Marketers must advocate collaboration between themselves and development teams to ensure the user journey is smooth from query through to conversion.


A world where customers use personal assistant’s to book a table at a local restaurant is not far off, where a mobile app completes a booking, while their entire order history is presented to the server on arrival. Meanwhile voice search and personal assistants will be integral to marketers’ strategies during this transition.

This article by Kelvin Newman was posted on 3rd May 2017

Kelvin Newman is the Founder of Rough Agenda, a company that arranges specialist digital marketing events including BrightonSEO. In 2014 Kelvin was voted by econsultancy as the most influential individual in digital and in 2013 won the Search Personality award at the UK Search Awards.

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