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Last month, a mass of developers gathered in California for ‘Google I/O’, Google’s annual three day developers conference, in order to gain some valuable insight from the Googlers’ themselves. While there was an abundance of updates, useful information and new product releases, one that stood out for us at Adido was the way Google is concentrating its effort on voice related search and how useful it can be for local businesses.
Voice related search brings about a whole new challenge for search engine optimisers as the ‘normal’ on page SEO elements step down to make room for a new way of optimising; with conversational tones and more specific, long tail queries. We all know the difficulties with voice recognition products and their sometimes limited grasp on the human way of conversing (cue Siri), but Google has developed several new products to take voice recognition into the future.
A new product with a sleek design and a bundle of exciting features, the Google Home is Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo and has been crafted with voice recognition and conversational tones in mind (making use of ‘Google assistant’ which we will discuss in more detail later). This voice activated smart device has a variety of functions, including home automation, returning answers to questions you ask it directly from Google Search and managing day to day tasks. Alternatively, it can be used simply to stream your favourite music from the built in speaker.
While the Google Home does seem like quite a nice addition to the home at a potentially affordable price (with estimations of around £200), if you don’t have a ‘Smart Home’ set up for automation, the Google Home seems more like a novelty item. To get the most out of this product, you’ll need Google-Cast compatible speakers for multi-room music streaming, a Google-Cast enabled television for streaming videos and Google Nest hardware, such as smoke alarms and security cameras to control from the device. If your home isn’t already set up with the related products, you’ll probably find the Google Home most useful for music streaming directly through the device and getting the answers to your queries right then and there.
For website owners, this offers a new opportunity to get into your audience’s home and makes voice related searches a key optimisation strategy. It may require a lot of research and talking to your customers to gauge how they verbalise their queries, which will be very different to the way they type queries into Google (think about it, has a customer ever walked up to you and just said “Buy green shoes size 7 Velcro straps’?)
Google’s new voice activated search platform ‘Google assistant’ is an extension of the current ‘Google Now’ and aims to help users get the answers they need in a way that suits them best, using AI and machine learning to get to know the users preferences and lifestyle. Google assistant goes way beyond normal search and allows the user to have a two way dialogue with Google. You can ask it questions followed by other, related questions which Google assistant will recognise as being related to the previous question. For example;
User: OK Google, where is my nearest cinema?
Google assistant: Your nearest cinema is Odeon, Bournemouth.
User: Is there a Burger King nearby?
Google assistant: Yes, there is a Burger King near the cinema, the address is…
This is just a very simple example of what the platform can do and the abilities of Google assistant are much broader as it adds context to the questions you ask it. It isn’t just used for search either, as it gets to know the users lifestyle and can give them reminders, directions, help them plan activities and much more. Google assistant is built into the Google Home, which is how Google Home communicates with the user and it will also be available through many other devices.
Google assistant sounds like a very exciting development, making communication between user and platform much more ‘human’. It gets to know the users lifestyle and understands their world, allowing it to provide personalised results and answers to questions. While it isn’t a completely new concept, it really shows how Google is concentrating their efforts on developing voice related search technology, which in turn indicates the need for digital marketers and website owners alike to take notice of these developments.
One criticism of this platform is that it was not given a ‘human’ name. Other related platforms such as Apple’s ‘Siri’ or Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ seem more human because they have a name that the user identifies with. Without the name, Google assistant seems less human and more robotic. However, it sounds as though a lot of research has gone into developing Google assistant’s contextual understanding of user intent and the platform will be particularly relevant for local businesses as users ask questions such as “Where is the best Chinese take away near me?” and other localised queries.
Allo is Google’s new smart messaging app which makes messaging your friends and family even easier and more efficient. Allo learns the way in which you communicate with your friends and over time will start to offer more relevant suggestions in terms of your responses, for example if someone says ‘Hello’ to you and your usual reply is ‘Hey, how are you?’, Allo will learn this and suggest this response at the click of a button. It will even give you suggested responses to pictures your friends send you!
However, there is much more to Allo than just simplified chatting. The app also features Google assistant, bringing Google directly into your conversation. This means that while you are chatting to your friend, you can ask Google a question within the same conversation and have an answer delivered to both parties. You can also have a separate chat open with Google assistant, just in case you don’t want your friend to know you had to Google the answer ;)
Whilst Allo does look like a useful app for more efficient communication with your family and friends, there are a couple of issues I would like to address. Firstly, communication is becoming less and less personal these days and with the addition of ‘suggested phrases’ conversations are going to become nothing more than a series of one button clicks. This seems like another step further away from actually ‘socialising’ through social media to me.
Secondly, there are definitely some security issues with this app, as Edward Snowden warns users that the app will not include end-to-end encryption by default, meaning that if you don’t use incognito mode, your messages are not private. That being said, Allo yet again offers a real opportunity for local business to get right into the conversation between friends at the best possible time, therefore despite my issues with it, I do think businesses should be optimising for it!
With around 41% of adults and more than 50% of adolescents using voice search every day already, it is clear to see the huge opportunities these new products will hold for the future of search. Targeting long tail keywords, adding the relevant schema mark-up to appropriate pages, creating FAQ pages on your website and using a more natural, conversational tone of voice within your content will all help to optimise for voice search.
The real winners will be the ones who are already capitalising on voice search, but the opportunities for everyone are endless.
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