robot assistant treat

Do intelligent robot assistants present a threat to search?

19th December 2016 - 8 minutes read  Search
Guy Thornton - Digital Marketing Director

Not long ago intelligent robot assistants were the stuff of science fiction. However, thanks to Siri, Cortana, and Google Home, intelligent robot assistants are now commonplace. They are on all major smartphones and in many homes as well. Amazon’s Echo (integrated with its assistant Alexa) has also recently been rolled out in the UK. Two years after launch in the US, Amazon Echo launched in the UK in September 2016 in at least 1000 homes after spending some time understanding British accents.

As with any new technology, business owners and marketers need to know how it will affect them and how they can take advantage of it – or mitigate any disasters that it might bring.

As with the rise and dominance of mobile searches and traffic, could voice search queries transferred through intelligent robot assistants encroach on keyboard searches? Could it lead to reductions in clicks to our sites, particularly for knowledge-based queries?

Is voice search technology going to change search marketing as we know it, or will it just add something else to the mix? Read on for our predictions.

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 is particularly useful in hands-free environments, useful for setting timers when cooking or calling a friend on the go.

When 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. But Amazon Echo does not just work for you in the home, it also connects to certain services outside the home including Just Eat and Uber. Amazon Echo uses artificial intelligence to continually improve the user experience, so the more you use it, the more it can do for you.

How should search marketers adapt to voice search?

Search marketers have had to adapt to many different advances in technology and voice search is no different. For most businesses, voice search will be another option in the mix of marketing channels available, but for others it could have a negative effect.

As voice search tends to rely on common knowledge answers, such as capital cities, weather, train times or even cooking, websites that rely on this content to drive traffic may see a downward trend in their site visitors. Sites like Wikipedia. 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 lions share.

The fount of knowledge graphs

For some time now, Google has been providing answers to conversational and 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 become 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. For example, “When is the deadline for primary school applications?” rather than “school application deadline.”

In a similar way, search marketers should be looking at 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, addresses, schedules and basic information should all be marked-up and clearly structured. Read more on structured data here.

Will keyboard searches die out?

It is 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 for searching for information, services and products.

Although Amazon are pushing people to use Alexa to order shopping through them, most ecommerce sites will be unaffected as shoppers will still want to see the items and browse through options before buying. Similarly, we predict service providers will not lose custom because of voice search.

Intelligent robot assistants, such as Google Now, provide news headlines and other relevant information to users, but websites that rely on in-depth information and analysis will not see their users going over to voice search, as they will still want to read entire articles.

What does the future hold for search marketing?

Voice search is going to remain a minor part in the overall search mix for quite a while, with keyboard – based searches holding the majority. Voice search will add in another opportunity to the search marketing mix, without causing major disruption to keyboard searches.

As with all new technology, this will change and develop over time. As the technology improves, more people will adopt it for certain types of searches and the demographics of users will grow wider. Some people will see the value in voice search and be frequent users, whereas others will prefer to stick to keyboard searches.

Search marketers should carefully monitor how voice search is developing and start experimenting with its implications. However, at this stage there is no need to invest heavily in voice search, as organic optimisation and paid search adverts are going to bring better quality and higher volume traffic to your website.

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