Are Alexa, Siri and Cortana good for your business?


Date: 3 April 2017

Are Alexa, Siri and Cortana good for your business?Intelligent robot assistants were once the stuff of science fiction, yet thanks to the likes of Siri, Cortana, and Google Home, they're now commonplace. We're used to seeing them on our smartphones and now in our homes too with Amazon's Echo (integrated with its assistant Alexa) most recently being rolled out across the UK.

Exciting stuff. But as with any new technology, business owners need to know how this will impact on them, how they can take advantage of it and how they can deal with any issues that might arise.

Will voice search queries via intelligent robot assistants encroach on keyboard searches? Could they lead to reductions in clicks to our websites, particularly for knowledge-based queries?

In a nutshell, is voice search technology going to change search marketing; or will it add something else to the mix?

What is an intelligent robot assistant?

An intelligent personal assistant is an algorithmic system held on a smartphone or piece of IoT (Internet of Things) hardware. It assists users by understanding voice queries and can output tasks such as finding information from the internet, or organisational tasks such as adding items to a calendar. It's particularly useful in hands-free environments.

If a user asks a pub-quiz type question, the intelligent personal assistant will search the internet for the answer and reply. Common intelligent robot assistants that perform this function are Amazon Echo/Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Google Now.

In addition to this, Amazon Echo can now connect to other enabled devices in your home and perform tasks for you, from switching on lights to setting your cooker timer, all through voice commands. Amazon Echo also connects to some services outside the home including Just Eat and Uber. At the same time, it uses artificial intelligence to continually improve the user experience, so the more you use it, the more it can do for you.

How should we adapt to voice search?

Business owners have had to adapt to constant advances in technology and the rise of internet search has given us a whole spectrum of ways to reach our audiences. Voice search is no different. For most businesses, voice search will be another option in the marketing mix; but for some it could have a negative effect.

As voice search tends to rely on common knowledge answers, such as capital cities, weather or train times, websites that rely on this content (such as Wikipedia) to drive traffic may see a downward trend in their site visitors. These sites, particularly ones that rely on impressions and click revenue, will need to continue adapting their strategy to drive traffic where Google's Knowledge Graph is taking the lion's share.

Knowledge Graph

For some time, Google has been providing answers to common knowledge queries in knowledge graph answer boxes on the search results pages. Many search marketers have been taking advantage of the direct answer boxes and optimising their content to appear for common queries. If you're featured, it can increase your click through rate if you were not already in position one for that term.

The rise in voice search will also continue to encourage "conversational queries". These are search queries that are structured as a sentence, rather than one or two words - such as "When is the self-assessment tax deadline?".

Search marketers should be adapting their content to make it more visible to intelligent robot assistants. Relevant content that voice searches could be looking for, such as opening times and addresses, should be marked-up and clearly structured.

Will keyboard searches die out?

It's unlikely that keyboard searches will die out any time soon, just as mobile has not killed off desktop. For the foreseeable future people will continue to use desktop, tablets and mobiles to search for information.

Although Amazon is pushing people to use Alexa to order shopping, most ecommerce sites will be unaffected as shoppers will still want to see the items and browse through options before buying.

As for knowledge, intelligent robot assistants such as Google Now provide news headlines and other relevant information to users. However, most of us tend to read whole articles so websites that offer in-depth information and analysis will not see their users going over to voice search just yet.

What does the future hold for search marketing?

For now, voice search will simply add another opportunity to the search marketing mix without causing major disruption to keyboard searches.

However, this status quo won't last. As the technology improves, more people will adopt it for certain types of searches and the demographics of users will change. Early adopters will see the value in voice search and be frequent users, whereas others will prefer to stick to keyboard searches.

Marketers, and search marketers in particular, should carefully monitor how voice search is developing and start experimenting with its implications. But don't over-invest just yet. Organic optimisation and paid search adverts will bring better quality and higher volume traffic to your website for a while to come.

Sponsored post. © Guy Thornton is the digital marketing director at Found.

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