SEO for Voice Search: Digital Assistants

— by Stephen Mahaney                       digi assistants

The buzzing SEO question humming around the topic of voice search is,

will the evolution of digital assistants
eliminate the need for SEO?

The short answer is: Not anytime soon

Why? ...because digital assistants like Google Home, Amazon Echo, Suri, and Cortana, will always be dependent upon a database! And data has to come from somewhere. That "somewhere" is where businesses will and should focus their "optimization" efforts whether or not such optimization is actually called "SEO."

As you may already know, most of the functions performed by digital assistants (DAs) such as Google Home or Amazon Echo have to do wth reporting the status of variable conditions (like weather, traffic) or status updates (flight information, calendar, shopping lists, timers) or controlling electronic devices (like audio/music/TVs, lights, thermostats), or managing information/entertainment content and schedules (podcasts, TV, radio, community, biz, school presentations or performances). And none of these can really be SEO'd.

But there are two categories that CAN be SEO'd. They are...

  1. Local Services and
  2. Facts and Figures (i.e., information).

In other words, you can ask the DA for factual information (how many quarts in a liter? ... how far is 100km in miles?) or you can inquire about local services.

Now, the trick is to identify what, if anything, that a digital assistant might tell a potential customer about your niche, your product, or your service. And the best way to do this is to actually test out the various DAs by asking them (it?) whatever questions you'd typically expect your target audience to be asking about your niche, product, or service. From there it's simply a matter of locating the source from where the DA is pulling that data and then optimizing to rank at the top of that specific source's search result.

For instance, if you own a Greek restaurant in Seattle, you'd easily learn that Google Home is pulling the data from Google My Business . That being the case, your optimization strategies revolve around enhancing your Google My Business listing. When you own that, then you can expect to also do well in the DA search results. So, as you can see, your optimization efforts (at least for now) involve staying the course and focusing your SEO on the search results for local services. That way, if you're successful, then your target customers will find you regardless of which meduim they use – traditional desktop/laptop search, mobile search, or DA voice search.

On the other hand, if your business lends itself to providing facts and figures for customers (like mortgage rates, calculations, translations, unit conversions, nutrition, dictionary), then you might be able to SEO for that coveted featured snippet block at the top of the search results which is where Google Home is currently most likely to pull its DA fact answers from. Remember there is nothing stopping you from adding copy that promotes your business within whatever facts are reported by the featured snippet.

Beyond that, we are really in a wait and watch mode. As with all new technical innovations, the technology itself is waiting to reach critical mass – that magical point in time when the tech becomes so trustworthy and compellingly useful that it becomes ubiquitous like smartphones have over the past 5 years. That time is coming but it isn't here yet.

So, if you're a service business, then yes, you should begin merging it with your current SEO efforts. But that really just means, for now anyway, it's SEO-strategy as usual. In other words, if you are optimizing for the current state of search (especially mobile search) then in all likelihood you are already optimizing for voice search via digital assistant. Nothing needs to change except perhaps upstepping your efforts in order to ensure you have the top spot in whatever featured snippets that are relevant to your niche, product or service.

As the situation progresses, and the various DAs evolve, we'll be here to update you on a need-to-know basis. But, for now, there isn't anything special you need to do except to stay the course. The battle for DA device dominance is just beginning. When the dust clears and there's actionable steps to report, you'll undoubtedly see them here. Stay tuned.