Mobile technology gave consumers the power of information at their fingertips, no matter where they were. Digital assistants, like Google Home and Amazon Echo, are taking it one step further, taking the power out of the finger tips and placing it squarely in the mouth. Digital assistants allow users to search for things and accomplish tasks by simply asking.
This is a positive for consumers--hands-free searching allows them to more quickly and easily find the things they need and want. But is it good for businesses?
Let’s dive into how Google Home works to better understand what it means for businesses and marketers.
Google Home is a small, voice-activated speaker, powered by Google Assistant. Ask it a question and it responds with an answer. Give it a directive, and it springs into action. Neither activity requires a screen or a browser. It’s search without the search engine results page (SERP). It’s a personal assistant without the person. It’s what we’ve all been dreaming of since Star Trek.
Unlike desktop and mobile search, Google Home is only meant to provide one result. Rather than giving hundreds to thousands of options, it’s essentially making decisions for you. Ideally, that one result is all you need to answer your question or take a desired action. If it’s not, you need to ask more questions to dig in or further clarify.
Limited Direct-Purchase Opportunities
Google Home is set up for “need to know” and “need to do” queries, not so much for “need to buy.” The types of results or actions it can take are myriad--find facts and information; provide local guide info; control audio, video, lights and thermostat; calculate numbers or find definitions of words; provide nutritional information; and others. But most of those things are not directly related to a purchase, nor do they direct users to a website.
Connected App Saves Links
The Google Home app saves all voice searches and results, so users can reference them at a later time. This is where the potential for businesses comes in. If a user voice-searches for “where can I buy brown combat boots” and the one result (miraculously) is your website, they can click the link in the Home app to browse and buy.
No Tracking or Measurement
Right now, there is no way to distinguish a voice search from a typed-in search, let alone a voice query on Home versus other digital assistants. Earlier this year, Google said they are considering adding voice query data to Search Console, but there have been no updates since that first hint. What about seeing the Home app as a referral source in Google Analytics? Unfortunately, it sometimes opens links within the Home app, which doesn’t allow for tracking, so you won’t get an accurate view of traffic volume or engagement.
SEO for Google Home
Now that we’ve uncovered a bit more on how it works, let’s discuss what it means from your business. Is it possible to still do SEO in the age of SERP-less search? Until we learn more about how Google Home provides results and how businesses can measure performance, here’s what you can do:
1. Know Your Audience
To understand how consumers might use Google Home to find your business, you need to understand who those consumers are. What are their interests, needs and desires? What triggers drive them to becoming interested in and purchasing your products? What are their homes like and how will Home be used in them? What other sites and devices do they rely on throughout the day?
Knowing your audience tells you what channels to be on, and what content to create to reach your customers, regardless of whether they’re searching with their fingers or their voices.
2. Create a Conversational Tone
Voice search is different than typed search. Someone might type in “healthy tailgate snacks,” but that’s not what they would say. It would more likely be “what are some healthy snacks for tailgate parties” or “what can I bring to a football party that is healthy.” (They probably wouldn’t type or say any of that. Obviously, I’m not a football fan. And equally obvious, I wouldn’t have any fans at a tailgate party.)
My football party popularity aside, voice search is more natural and conversational in nature. Voice queries are typically stated as questions. They include adjectives and pronouns, and are more complex than a traditional typed-in search term. That means content on your website should be written with a more informal and conversational tone.
3. Answer Questions, Quickly
As noted above, voice queries are often stated as questions: “What is the closest pizza place open now?”; “What is the population of Anchorage, Alaska?”; “What are the best cocktails to drink while watching football?” (I really don’t get it, do I?) The responses given by Google Home are typically pulled from the featured snippets. Getting your content into the featured snippet is your best bet to drive traffic, or at least awareness, with Home. Even if you don’t drive traffic with Home, you still have the featured snippet in desktop and mobile.
So, how do get that coveted featured snippet? You need to answer questions, and do it succinctly. Start by identifying common, simple questions about your brand, products and industry. Make sure they are questions your audience is asking. Write brief, clear-cut answers to those questions. Then add the content to your site in such a way that it’s easy for users, as well as search engines, to find (meaning: don’t hide the answers among lots of other text, make sure the pages are crawlable, and submit the page to Google for indexing).
There’s no guarantee your content will become a featured snippet, but these steps will increase the chances.
4. Think About the Long Tail
Because voice queries are more conversational, they are often longer than the keywords you’ve been optimizing for on desktop or mobile search. Again, consider your audience--who are they, where do they live, what are they interested in, what are their emotional triggers? These insights will help you understand the phrases they’re using to search. Then, create content optimized for these longer tail keywords.
5. Optimize Your Local Listings
If you have brick and mortar retail locations, make sure your business listings are accurate and up-to-date in My Business. Google Home uses My Business data to deliver results for Local Guide queries.
6. Update Your Wikipedia Page
When Google Home doesn’t have a good featured snippet result, it often pulls from Wikipedia. Make sure the Wikipedia page for your brand and/or products is accurate and up-to-date. Especially the first line of the entry, which is typically where Google Home starts.
We’re still learning about digital assistants and how they impact the customer journey. For now, the steps you should take as a business aren’t too different than other SEO efforts--know your audience, provide valuable content in an easy to access format, and go beyond your website to optimize all areas of your search landscape.