Rise of the Virtual Assistants

Artificial intelligence and virtual assistants are currently taking over the news, but hopefully not the world.  For a while it seemed like Amazon’s offering, the Echo, was the most popular home assistant device on the market, but recent partnership announcements from Google means the race for Virtual Assistance global domination is about to hot up.

With the amount of advertising and publicity that’s gone into the in-home assistant market recently, it’s unlikely you’ve escaped all mentions of the key players.  But as a recap, here’s the run-down:

Google Home (looks like a cross between an air freshener and Belgium beer) - powered by Google Assistant.  They recently announced partnerships with Walmart for shopping, Conde Nast for Vogue behind the scenes intel and home appliances like LG washing machines. All of which will now respond to you asking questions into your Google Home.

Amazon Echo & Dot - powered by Alexa and can be used to phone people with another Amazon Echo/Dot and other compatible Amazon products. 

Amazon and Google Home are physical devices that you can set-up at your house or office.  You might be more familiar with the following assistants who are likely already installed on your phone or tablet.  Cortana – Windows’ offering, Siri the classic Apple assistant which has been around on iPhone for years, Bixby (Samsung’s voice assistant) who no-one seems to use.  A late entry to the game but on its way soon we’re told, is Facebook’s currently unnamed assistant.

With so many assistants already available and baked into your staple technology, and new ones just around the corner, one thing is for certain - voice search will be on the rise. 

So what does this mean for SEO?

1. Essentially, Bing cannot be ignored – Bing powers Cortana, Siri and Alexa searches by default, only Google powers Google. 

2. The use of voice assistants also re-enforces the need to look at how you are optimising your on-site content ensuring you are ranking for conversational and long tail keywords.

3. Ranking for featured snippets becomes even more important as Google Assistant pulls a lot of its answers from the featured snippet.

4. Understanding the differences in search types dependent on user intent becomes crucial. Users are less likely to be at their desk at work shouting at their computer, and more likely to be driving in their car looking for the nearest restaurant, or yelling from the sofa to order takeaway.

Google says they are already recording around 20% of searches coming through voice and it’s likely to be at 50% by 2020.  Voice search isn’t going away and it’s not just teenagers using it, so it’s best to get ahead of the game because the technology race is on and things are going to move quickly

Google Local Listings

Google has been making more changes to the functionality of its map listings and over the past couple of months we’ve seen:

  • Q&As added, parking intel (and save your parking details), changes to the way hotels are represented, changes to Local Guide programs to get more people participating, Google My Business posts, extra URLs to link through to different pages on your website like booking reservations or requesting a menu.

  • Video uploads have just been added, so people can video your establishment and upload this without the approval of the listing owner.

So what does this mean for SEO?

All of this just shows how much work Google is putting into making sure local business listings are providing a wealth of information and it’s more important than ever that you are controlling your listing.  Reviews, customer videos and questions asked about your organisation are all a great source of advertising for you, but if handled poorly or left unchecked, you might find people are saying things about your organisation that you rather they weren’t.


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