Memo to the Modern Marketer: Are You Ready for a Voice and Chatbot Lifestyle?

“Who was the actor in the Titanic?”; “What’s the weather like outside?”;How many cups are in a quarter pound of flour?” Welcome to the age of instant answers driven by titanic algorithm changes, the increasing use of mobile voice search and the rise of smart speakers. In this week’s Memo to the Modern Marketer, we’ll provide some tips to help the savvy marketer ride this wave with ease. 

Voice search and Local Digital Marketing: 3 Fast Strategies 

We are entering what Google calls ‘The Age of Assistance’  Speech recognition has passed the accuracy threshold, setting the stage for local business opportunities. In 2016, Gartner Predictions found that 30% of web browsing sessions will be so-called chatbot traffic by 2020. These chatbots are designed to simulate human conversation by giving people answers to questions online and via phone in a conversational tone.

With a little prep, adopting these technologies could bring gains to your business. The days when users need a keyboard and mouse to recommend local shops and services are numbered. You want to be the top voice- or IoT-recommended business when a consumer is mobile, and there are ways to optimize for that.  Consumersare more likely to act spontaneously with voice search than when typing on a keyboard or screen.

Voice search terms tend to be long sentences instead of a few keywords. This affects classic PPC and SEO strategies, and brings Answer Engine Optimization (AEO) front and center. Since voice searches are likely to people seeking information about local intent, make sure your website’s business location information is clear, with correct directions and maps. Add your information to Google My Business and Wikidata.

This is important, too, because smart speakers from Google emphasize “position 0” on the search page – so-called Featured Snippets that are direct answers to a user’s question – typically from a company. Last March, Google had to change exact match keywords algorithm in AdWords because voice searches are so different. Exact match became more – ‘sort of exact’ – with a focus on broad matches and close variants.

Since Google made these changes, marketers must improve brand authority to reach the top of voice rankings. 

One way is to use HTML5 structured mark-up to help Google understand your brand and reputation. Google checks your online reputation and other credibility signals like links from trusted sources. Check your local online reviews to make sure your brand is highly rated. Go on review sites and challenge bad feedback, because Google will rank your business in voice search to reflect that information. Get your business verified at Google Local Business.  

Remember that Google is less dominant in voice search. Make sure you optimize for Bing (CORTANA? What about Amazon, Siri?) as well. 

3 Immediate Strategies: 

  1. Have a mobile-friendly website and improve your site’s speed 
  2. Include broad match keywords in your campaign and website 
  3. Optimize your content for a natural conversational language; convert keyword phrases to answer informational questions; include question and answer phrases on your site (who, what, when, where, how, why) 

In local SERPs, business ratings and reputation can affect ranking. These are desktop search results for a veterinarian in suburban Atlanta, Georgia zip code 30060

Check your SEO analytics for search queries that involve natural language phrasing and include those on your website. SEO will see a big transition from keywords and metadata to schema and structured data. You will need more flexible structures working inside your campaigns to stay on the cutting edge. 

Conversational Commerce and User Lifestyle 

Of course, there is a much more at stake here than local voice search. Local voice searches give a glimpse into the new landscape. These queries are fast, hands-free, and integrated with everyday life. With the wearables market projected to double by 2021, the trend will intensify. Lifestyle is central to user interaction with AI and related technologies. 

Brands used to design websites to meet company needs, while users navigated those websites to find products. With voice search, the products come to the user. User intention is baked into conversational interfaces. As a result, user intention determines how a brand’s AI virtual assistant or chatbot will present them with information. In other words, conversational technology puts user needs and lifestyle first. 

Chris Messina, co-founder of Molly.com, coined the term ‘conversational commerce’ in 2015  to refer to chat and natural language interfaces. Users talk to brands in a “bidirectional, asynchronous messaging context” over apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Slack.  

Voice searches are part of a new way of behaving with technology, and it will transform UI and UX. There are incredible opportunities for conversational commerce, if you know how to integrate your voice or chat interface into users’ lives.  

The Future 

The stage is also set for radical change. Fei-Fei Li, chief scientist at Google Cloud AI and ML, says machines will teach us more about ourselves and our values.  

“I … believe that AI is one of the driving forces of the fourth industrial revolution. … It has the potential to transform the way humans live, work, communicate. … [T]here’s no independent machine values. Machine values are human values. … We will build the technology that is for the entirety of humanity, not just a slice of it,”  Li said in a recent talk.

It’s clear that voice search and chatbots are just the first of several technologies to interface more organically with daily life. Li wants that interface to maintain human values. It’s clear that these technological potentials offer a choice: two different ways to integrate a seamless, machine-human relationship. One is more independent, one much less so. 

Larissa Douglass is a contributing writer at Searchmetrics. She loves to discover the latest internet innovations and deliver her analysis on how to stay a step ahead of them - here, on her own blog and other Foreign Policy blogs. After years of study and work in the UK and Europe, she analyzes technology in terms of global impact and worldwide opportunities.
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