In light of the E-Commerce One to One event held in Monaco at the end of March, Guillaume Bacuvier (Vice-President Advertising Solutions at Google EMEA) announced the “death of search engines” and introduced the “age of assistance” meant to revolutionize search. What does it mean for SEO and how can you prepare for it to be ahead of the game?

The age of assistance, summarised in 3 points:

–        Mobile search domination: according to official Google statements, nearly 50% of all searches now happen on mobile

–        Web semantic: Google has become smart enough to answer questions directly, and is also capable of anticipating questions with an adaptive system that learns from search habits

–        Vocal search: 20% of queries on Google are vocal. This number is expected to rise to 50% by 2020. A study by Google also showed that 55% of teens and 41% of adults were already using voice search daily in 2014!

 

Technology, AI, virtual reality

Google is rapidly adopting new technologies and is shifting focus to be a personal and individual assistant which is much more action orientated (voice queries are 30x more likely to be action-oriented than typed queries). This assistance takes multiple forms – with text, image, video and voice recognition delivering personalised answers for each individual. A presentation of Google Home from Mountain View showcases how Google can slot into our life:

Potential SEO implications of Voice Search

–        Another death of keywords: Classic use of (short tail) keywords and keyword optimisation has slowly been side-lined when Google introduced Panda in 2011, but even this will be the case in the era of assistance.

–        Behaviours less predictable: When users had to type keywords in the search box it was easy to predict the terms they were using but with the ease of voice search, users are searching more and in a less predictable way.

–        Less screen interaction: SEO is all about ranking in the SERP. Today a higher ranking still provides great results, but now users are searching for answers they can get without looking at the screen at all.

–       Rankings lose impact: Vocal and direct answers are becoming more and more popular and could reduce CTR, especially if those answers are given by voice instead of text on screen. If the trend continues, rankings could lose impact.

 

Staying ahead

There will likely be changes and potential disruptions in the SEO world and how we optimise websites. For 20 years we’ve been relying on text queries and focusing on rankings, and Google is going to kill it. A few things to consider that will help you stay ahead of the game in the era of assistance:

–        Focus on long-tail keywords: Use longer keywords and more conversational phrases to imitate the types of queries that might be used in voice search. It’s also worth carrying out keyword research on conversational queries.

–        Answer the users: Create unique pages (on a blog) that deal with common questions that your typical user might have (who, what, where, why, how?), such as a FAQ page to appeal to voice search. Use these and you will be more relevant as these queries are on the rise.

–        Provide fast results: Users are becoming more and more impatient, and expect instant answers (53% bounce rate if pages take more than 3 seconds to load on mobile).

–        Use structured data with schema.org: This gives Google the answers to the questions users might have, which will directly impact visibility.

–        Optimise your local business for voice search: Voice search is three times more likely to be local in nature. Many people use voice search to get information about local businesses, so it’s crucial to keep profiles up to date and optimise for keywords like “near me” and “nearby”.

–        Incorporate voice search strategy as part of your wider SEO and content strategy.

We’ve been hearing about voice search for only a few years but we can no longer ignore the fact that voice search is now becoming a major trend, similar to when mobile search growth a few years ago (today, they go hand in hand). We can go as far as saying that voice search is the future of search. That’s why it’s critical to start thinking about it sooner rather than later to stay ahead of the competition.

Further reading

–        I, Search: How AI Will Transform the Landscape of SEO

–        Type No More: How Voice Search is Going to Impact the SEO Landscape

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Jean-Yves Scauri

Jean-Yves is a SEO manager at iProspect Sydney working for a wide range of clients and focused on growing their online SEO visibility by implementing customer centric and data-led content marketing strategies with an holistic approach.