As the internet and how people find and dissect information changes, so must the approach to getting them that information. SEO serves as a way to get relevant information one may have into the spotlight by optimizing their content to rank higher on search engines. However, the very nature of SEO may be changing soon.
At its core, SEO serves the purpose to optimize websites to be more visible on search engines. In Google’s case, where the algorithm is always changing, SEO experts have to be on their toes. Voice search is becoming a more common way to look up information. How Google’s algorithm will adapt to such is something SEO experts will have to figure out.
Beyond voice search, however, the artificial intelligence (AI) behind voice search software and even those that belong to Google are getting smarter. They’re able to handle more complex queries, and are increasingly able to handle complex conversations. This is often called conversational AI, and it may have a dramatic effect on the future of SEO. Let’s take a look at the real differences between voice searches and conversational AI, and what they may mean for SEO.
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Tech Target describes voice search as “a speech recognition technology that allows users to search by saying terms aloud rather than typing them into a search field.” With virtual assistants like iPhone’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, voice searches are becoming extremely common in average American households. Everyone from children to seniors are finding them useful (not to mention fun as well!).
Some believe that voice search is the future of SEO. This belief, and the practices stemming from it, have led to voice search engine optimization — VSEO for short. The idea is that you have to optimize for the results of voice searches, especially due to the popularity of smart home devices. Becoming Human writer Naully Nicolas put it this way:
Voice search is a winner takes all game … When you ask your digital assistant a question, does it provide you with a list of 10 websites to choose from, a couple of ads, and a local 3 pack? No. You get one result, one answer, from one data source. Unlike traditional SEO, being ranked position 2 or 3 isn’t going to drive much, if any, traffic … Voice search is going to make SEO much more competitive as businesses try to ensure they show up first. This is particularly important for local business.
This is why you have to take voice searches seriously, especially considering the popularity of virtual assistants in general. Simple queries will change over time because people speak much faster than they type. We’re still figuring out how to optimize for voice searches, but we have discovered that it’s essential to optimize for Bing as well as Google since several popular voice assistants pull from both. If you’ve never optimized for Bing before (which would make sense, since Google is more commonly used), you can read a short guide here.
Expanding on the aforementioned fact that people talk and type differently, we find ourselves approaching the territory of conversational AI. The idea behind this concept is that as machine learning progresses, technology will be able to talk back to us and create personalized experiences. In simpler terms, you may be able to have an actual chat with Siri soon — the same way you would to a co-worker or friend.
But what does this have to do with SEO? Well, let’s just start with Google. We already know that Google uses machine learning as means to come up with the closest-to-perfect search results they can. Well, machine learning is what’s behind conversational AI.
Regarding voice search technology, think about the way machine learning could evolve it’s closest-to-perfect search results based on actual conversational speaking conducted with humans using it. Conversational AI means search engines and virtual assistants can pick up on lingo and slang, translate through speech impediments, adapt to future search results based on previous conversations, and maybe factor in vocal tones and emotions. Voice search was one thing, but conversational AI is a whole other beast.
Why the Difference Matters
SEOs need to care about the difference between voice search and conversational AI because it may literally determine the future of their jobs. This isn’t to say that SEO jobs will become obsolete. Rather, the most effective methods with which SEO is completed will depend on which one you choose to focus on.
Some believe that a choice between voice search and conversational AI needs to be made. Author Christi Olson from Search Engine Land argues that conversational AI is going to change the SEO game significantly, not voice searches themselves.
When you think about voice search, it’s actually not that revolutionary. The AI-based technology of natural language processing that enables voice search is pretty awesome and amazing; however, voice search is just a mode in which people are engaging with search engines.
On the other hand, voice search is what is becoming popular now. Conversational AI is here, but the general public needs to catch up to voice search first before the latter becomes the new standard. We may not be there quite yet. Still, thinking ahead may be necessary in this case, and keeping abreast of advancements in SEO is necessary.
Where do you see SEO going based on voice search and conversational AI? Let us know in the comments below.