SEO: typing or speaking? That’s the question! [5 Reading Tips]

Child with laptop
© Sergey – Fotolia

Consumers are regularly turning to their mobile devices to search. Basically, typing keywords in a browser and instantaneously getting a list of results doesn’t differ from the desktop experience. The various search results match pretty well with their questions and let them find, in the majority of cases, the perfect answer. However, the emergence of virtual personal assistants and voice recognition technology like Siri, Google Now, Cortana or Alexa might change the way consumers interact with their devices leading to re-think SEO requirements.

Mobile search growth

The truth is voice interfaces to computers are not a new idea. Programs turning spoken words into text have been available to PC consumers for about 25 years and programs that synthesize the human voice have been around even longer. However, until now the errors in voice recognition and the robotic speech patterns didn’t allow a proper human-like conversation with a computer.

What’s the news? Siri, Google Now, Alexa or Viv became possible thanks to the convergence of enabling technologies that include smaller and more cost efficient processors, greater bandwidth, neural networks, smartphones and cloud computing. Almost every assistance provided relies on a capable search. Taking into account those assistants started on mobile devices an interesting tendency can be perceived: the rise of mobile search.

In the US the mobile phone search penetration continues to grow to the extent that eMarketer estimates that mobile searches will surpass desktop in 2016 and there will be up to 177.8 million mobile phone search users in the US. Both circumstances let consumers talk to their devices, give commands and, ultimately, gain time through convenient results.

From Siri to Viv

The pioneer Siri can answer questions; send messages, place calls, make dinner reservations through OpenTable and more. On the other hand, Alexa, embedded inside Amazon’s Echo can give cooking assistance, let’s you stream music and reorder Amazon items, among other things.

More recently, Viv prototype aims to be integrated in all kind of devices, link all of them without using Google, as the search will be done directly from their directory. The more retailers and services adhere to it, the more results can be found. Similarly, the quality of the results increases the more time a consumer uses the search functionality.

In all cases, however, it is important to be down to earth and understand that this process requires time: especially for users to come on board. According to the survey, 37% of mobile phone owners use regularly a personal digital assistant. But there are still some miles to go, because still one third of respondents said they don’t use them because simply they don’t have the option and 17% do have the option but never tried.

SEO implications

Written language is not the same as spoken language. SEO and marketing content will be redefined as consumers adopt voice recognition apps or virtual personal assistants.

The main differences:

  • Users speak with full questions/conversational speech rather than key phrases.
  • Users expect direct, natural answers.
  • Long-tail keyword optimizations becomes more important than short-tail.
  • Emphasis on sentence-based search rather than keywords.
  • Semantic search and keyword tagging.
  • Use adverb questions: what, why, how, who, when and where.
  • Higher emphasis on optimized videos and images.

Moreover, since digital assistant queries are more conversational, websites that are written in a conversational format will score better in search results. Simplicity, concision, and search ability in site design will also help sites to score better in searches.

Joaquin Phoenix in Her

Far from being fiction, it would not surprise me, if we find ourselves in a world where humans and devices interact by natural and spoken language in the future. What social impacts can be expected?

Will human-to-machine relationships, like in Her (2013), a movie where a man falls in love with an artificial intelligence computer system, personified through a female voice, become something normal?

It still remains to be seen whether virtual personal assistants are profitable or not, as well as which business model will be more suitable. Perhaps, the monetization of the personal assistant apps Shazam and SoundHound is one way.

5 Reading Tips of the Week:

Matt Turck – Internet of Things: Are We There Yet? (The 2016 IoT Landscape)

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Messenger-Bots und SMS-Assistenten: Hört auf mir zu erzählen, Sprache sei die Zukunft des E-Commerce [Kolumne]

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