Wednesday, 15 March 2017 06:25

How Alexa, Siri And Cortana Could Shape The Future Of Organic Search


This article is by Aaron Agius, cofounder and managing director of Louder.Online, a digital marketing agency.

As far back as 2014, we knew, thanks to data gathered by Google and Northstar Research, that more than 50% of teens and 41% of adults surveyed used voice search—the kind used by Google, Alexa, Siri and Cortana—on a daily basis.

There’s nothing to suggest that these adoption rates have slowed down, especially in light of the successful January 2016 launch of Amazon’s voice-only platform Alexa, which grew seven-fold in its first six months.

This rapid adoption has led some to say that voice search will be the end of organic SEO as we know it. I’m not so certain. While it’s certainly an evolution of organic search, it reminds me too much of another “sky is falling” scenario to suggest that CMOs and other high-level marketing execs should be worried.

The Historical Precedent Of Google’s Knowledge Graph

Back in 2012, Google launched Knowledge Graph, which many industry leaders feared for similar reasons. And certainly, businesses that profited by siphoning Google traffic to answer simple questions were threatened by the change.

That said, it’s important to look at the types of queries affected by the Knowledge Graph launch. The searches affected weren’t queries indicative of a desire for deep knowledge; they were quick answers to quick questions (for example, “How tall is George Clooney?” or “What is the capital of France?”).

I’d argue that, at least until we have a fully semantic web, voice search will have a similar impact. Siri can’t walk you through fixing your kitchen plumbing; Cortana can’t give you a detailed tutorial on building a WordPress website. You may use voice search services to locate these resources, but you’ll still be returned search results to browse further—just as you were following the launch of Knowledge Graph.

Rand Fishkin of Moz describes the difference between queries the engines can answer quickly and searches requiring more in-depth content as the “safety dance vs. danger zone.”

Recipes, to his mind, are safe—no voice search technology can currently sum up the ingredients of a recipe, steps, images, comments and ratings. Cooking conversions, he claims, are in the danger zone, simply because it’s more efficient for voice search to give the answer than it is to redirect searchers to another resource.

The Future Of Voice Search

My estimate of the impact of voice search in the near-term is minimal, but that doesn’t mean its impact won’t be felt further down the line. Here’s how your teams should begin to prepare:

1. Ecommerce sellers will be hit harder.

By some estimates, we aren’t far from a future where voice search programs will be able to take action, like placing orders, for us.

Aleh Barysevich, writing for Search Engine Journal, shares research indicating Google is already working on conversational shopping and envisions the impact on queries like “Show me blue jeans / Show me size 12 / Order me the pair from American Eagle.”

This makes proactive optimization critical for ecommerce enterprises who want to be included in these results.

2. Schema context matters.

To ensure your company’s web pages are presented to users in current and future voice search iterations, schema markup will become increasingly important in helping the engines understand your site and how it should be ranked.

The tutorial here can get your developers started.

3. Quality content will continue to dominate organic search.

Think long and hard about the value the content your team offers. Are you sharing quick answers to simple problems? If so, it’s time to shift your company's focus to higher-quality content that will remain relevant as voice search grows in popularity.

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