PASO and Alexa: How Voice is Changing the Outlook of SEO
Beginning when Siri first launched with the iPhone 4S way back in 2011, integrated virtual assistants have slowly, but surely wriggled their way into the cultural lexicon, with the 2013 Spike Jonze film Her imagining a future where the difference between human beings and virtual assistants are purely physical. As of now, there are a number of competing services in the world of virtual assistants, with a number of them being christened with personable names such as Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa to further highlight the level of personal engagement these services provide. One of the most commonly used features of these virtual assistants is the voice search capability and as the nature of voice queries is notably different when compared to text queries, it’s a no-brainer for SEO services to adapt their strategies with this change in mind, giving rise to the term Personal Assistant Search Optimization, or PASO for short.
2018: An Alexa Odyssey
In technological terms, a virtual assistant is used to describe a set of software that could perform certain tasks for an individual, the modern definition of this term has mainly been used to describe the rapidly evolving virtual assistants in voice-activated device that have seen a meteoric rise in the past two years due in no small part to Amazon’s Echo, a smart speaker embedded with Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa. Alexa’s popularity pushed Google to develop a smart speaker of its own, the Google Home, featuring an updated Google virtual assistant that is now able to engage in two-way conversations, the Google Assistant. Crucially, this development also applies to Android phones, finally giving users a much-improved mobile voice search experience. While these virtual assistants are quite capable in understanding and interpreting your requests they are still quite far from an actual AI as shown in virtual OS Samantha from the film Her or HAL 9000 of A Space Odyssey fame.
As Google Assistant is a Google product, its search capabilities when you voiced a query is considerably more powerful than its competitors, it’s partly because of this that we’ve seen a notable increase in mobile voice search over the last few years, with voice search queries up more than 35 times since 2008. As with any changes revolving search engines, whether it’s about algorithm or additions like the knowledge graph, mobile voice search has left brands and SEO services to scramble their thoughts and adapt their thinking to this new kid on the block. Voice search queries, given their highly conversational nature, are markedly different than text queries but that’s not the only fork in the road for these two search inputs, some of the differences that you need to consider when optimizing for voice search include:
- Fewer results. Much, much fewer
Compared to a standard Google search that could potentially results in millions of hits depending on the query, a voice search doesn’t work like that. It’s more interested in giving you actual answers rather than telling you where you can find them, if possible. So how do you optimize for results when there is no result page to speak of? It’s tricky but utilizing proper schematic markup and optimizing for a specific set of keywords instead of just one or two generic and highly common keywords will definitely help, which ties into my next point.
- The use of conversational keywords
As voicing a question is considerably easier and faster compared to typing in a search query, voice search queries are marginally more complex than text queries. Think of what phrase people might be using to ask a question. Not search queries, but actual questions and add that to some of your contents. The easiest way to do this is to set up a simple FAQs section detailing some of the most common questions relating to your business while writing how-to contents is another way to take advantage of this.
- Highly contextual and very much on-the-go
The convenience of a voice search means that it’s seeing highly increased use on quick search sessions. As the duration for user interaction grows shorter, there needs to be a balance between making a good impression and giving precise information. Also, the lack of a visual interface for smart-speakers means that the value of visual mediums such as web designs and typical search engine results aren’t as highly valued as they once were.
- Prioritize local SEO
Also ties in with the point above, voice search are being generally used for near me searches, especially mobile ones. If you still haven’t claimed your Google My Business listing, please do so. Local voice search are being used for goods and services that are needed immediately so the conversion rate is pretty high, make sure to take advantage of this particular tidbit.
As you can see, all of these four points can generally be boiled down to one general purpose, be specific. Voice search is the instant ramen of search methods, quick and easy but not as fulfilling as the fine dining that is the traditional text search. Amazon came up with a display-equipped smart-speaker called the Echo Show last year and earlier this year, Lenovo unveiled its Smart Display, a third-party alternative to the Google Home that came with Google Assistant and the addition of a screen but those things still aren’t meant to replicate the deep-dive experience of a conventional search query so text search and voice search isn’t an either/or situation but rather more of a harmonious co-existence with use that are context-dependent.
ComScore predicted that by 2020, half of all search queries will be voiced search and as voice assistants become more and more localized with each language, the market is sure to keep growing. For business owners and those working in SEO services, it might be worth the effort to start figure out how to optimize for voice search. It is still very much a new frontier so there aren’t a lot of materials written about this but given the outlook, PASO is just going to get bigger and bigger for the foreseeable future.