How Voice Assistants Impact SEO, Machine Learning


If you think search engine optimization is waning, you'd better watch what you say. It's not going away. In fact, search engine optimization, or SEO, is evolving to include voice-enabled search and bringing deep learning aspects of machine learning with it.

The voice search trend fits the benefits originally planned from search engine optimization. SEO was meant to link queries from search engines to online content based on how that content was described through programming code. Be it in PHP or HTML, that content is described by web developers as the presentation layer.

But these days you are as likely to speak a keyword as much as you would type it.

Voice-enabled search has been with consumers for a while, thanks to mobile. Mobile devices with microphones allow people to speak their queries. They have lead search engine providers to develop algorithms to recognize voice patterns to increase understanding of the relevancy of what is being said and what the search engine "hears."

As more devices join the network, consumers have expanded their queries to new kinds of screens and devices. The most prevalent now are virtual assistants, a category that includes Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Now, and Microsoft Cortana. Their rise has led to the following developments:

  1. Amazon has begun to expand the capabilities of its Echo device so it can perform queries on a wider scale, introducing more factors for search as a result. Take the Echo Show, a new device that is a variation of the original Echo device. The Echo Show queries videos on YouTube alongside standard Alexa results, and the device includes a display so that consumers can view those videos. Given that YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google, the voice activation in Echo can now be a factor in query results.
  2. Voice search is attracting industry attention. Marketing research firm eMarketer noted that voice search, the segment of search that includes Amazon Echo, is expected to grow 130% in 2017.

You may have noticed Amazon's prominent position. Amazon's position represents the growing comfort people have towards virtual assistants, and how marketers must take notice in planning search.

So now here's where I mention Google and its renown dominance in search. Google is not losing ground to Amazon, at least not anytime soon. Experts agree that search volume has not diminished as a valuable indicator of consumer interest.

(Image: Amazon)

(Image: Amazon)

But Amazon has made headway for gaining consumer mindshare for search in a critical location -- the home. Bloomberg reported last fall that more than half of shoppers turn to Amazon for product search. And that is just from website activity. Virtual assistants -- the category that includes devices such as Amazon Echo -- are becoming more widely used as a starting point for search as well. eMarketer expects consumer usage of virtual assistants "will grow 23.1% in 2017." That trend is why Google augmented its search leadership by introducing an Echo competitor, Google Home.

What we should get from Amazon's rise and Google's evolution is how machine learning influences your choice for optimization. Machine learning, because it can assess queries, is linked to the demand for virtual assistance. That link is now a key essential in a business strategy.

Thus voice search optimization requires marketers and developers to consider device users' potential questions and the responses that virtual assistants can give. When a user speaks with a Google Home or Amazon Echo, he or she interacts with a voice user interface, and those interactions have links to digital media through the machine learning algorithms behind the assistance.

At an Alexa Developer Day here in Chicago, I learned how developers should map those conversations and links. Marketers map the question, response, and the range of results when they are a certain distance away from the device. Developers can also consider the timing in which the device will re-prompt the user to provide more information.

Machine learning addresses the frequency of those questions. Repeated usage creates permutations that require machine learning models to learn user preferences and how to tailor responses. Those responses are key to establishing personalization, which in turn leads to branding and sales.

Machine learning is essential when collecting data from disparate sources, especially as IoT consumer devices that offer web access. That collection creates a different set of context considerations, from device competing against smartphone or tablet access to having to reimaging partnerships based on how they manage and share data.

Thus responses mapped out can vary. A query of groceries at a refrigerator should have a different initial set of potential responses than those that can come up from an Amazon Echo or Google Home. Understanding the differences can help marketers identify challenges to maintaining a coherent customer experience across devices.

Marketers can expect a lot of work to make this response better, particularly with open source ideas to improve voice search algorithms and improve the voice query experience. Mozilla, the creator of the Firefox browser, started Project Common Voice, a project where people can donate a voice to help build an open-source voice recognition engine that developers can use.

But any work with establishing a SEO strategy for the future will have to include voice queries. Machine learning is adding a significant boost to the convenience virtual assistants achieve for consumers. As long as that convenience attracts users, marketers and analysts must attract customers through the right technical tactics and creative content that speaks to the customers' immediate needs.

Pierre DeBois, Founder, Zimana

Pierre DeBois is the founder of Zimana, a small business analytics consultancy that reviews data from Web analytics and social media dashboard solutions, then provides recommendations and Web development action that improves marketing strategy and business profitability. He has conducted analysis for various small businesses and has also provided his business and engineering acumen at various corporations such as Ford Motor Co. He writes analytics articles for AllBusiness.com and Pitney Bowes Smart Essentials and contributes business book reviews for Small Business Trends. Pierre looks forward to providing All Analytics readers tips and insights tailored to small businesses as well as new insights from Web analytics practitioners around the world.

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Re: Verbal Algorithms Unlock Potential of Robotics
  • 8/29/2017 4:34:30 PM
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Lyndon, I hear you and completely understand I have a remote keyboard for my kindle because that on screen tiny key board could never work for real writing. Hopefully, even if tech evolves to more voice keyboard will still be an option or the autocorrect alone may push me to the deep end!

Re: Verbal Algorithms Unlock Potential of Robotics
  • 8/18/2017 3:55:33 PM
NO RATINGS

..

Maryam writes

Lyndon I was referring to the keyboard function on phones which is very annoying unless you are a gifted thumb typer. I too love writing on my keyboard, not through voice dictation but I would use it for texts or other items that require me to tap away on the tiny keyboard. As we have all gotten more mobile the little keyboards have invaded our lives, I would give mine up for a voice that is accurate unless I needed to text in an area where I couldn't speak.

Yeah, I know Maryam was mainly referring to the small-to-tiny keyboards on phones. I was referring to these also but did expand my topic a bit at the end to include keyboards in general, which some top techies have actually been predicting will disappear, replaced by voice recognition. There is also speculation that eventually voice will be replaced by direct brain-computer interface. (Once we have that, would there be a reason to have writing anymore?)

Back to present reality ... I think Maryam's last sentence provides a reason for at least keeping keyboards, and I mean in this case keeping them on phones, for that time when you do want to tap out some communication quietly and privately. Then there is good voice-recognition capability on some phones (I've seen a friend of mine use this on occasion) when for some reason you want to send a text or Email faster than the thumb-tapping method.

The point is ... there's a use for various methods. I just hope the high priests of tech development don't decree that a feature like the keyboard is no longer in vogue and can be jettisoned. This has happened with other useful features and products in the crazed market-obsessed world of the tech industry ...

..

Re: Verbal Algorithms Unlock Potential of Robotics
  • 8/18/2017 2:47:14 PM
NO RATINGS

Lyndon I was referring to the keyboard function on phones which is very annoying unless you are a gifted thumb typer. I too love writing on my keyboard, not through voice dictation but I would use it for texts or other items that require me to tap away on the tiny keyboard. As we have all gotten more mobile the little keyboards have invaded our lives, I would give mine up for a voice that is accurate unless I needed to text in an area where I couldn't speak.

Re: Verbal Algorithms Unlock Potential of Robotics
  • 8/17/2017 6:24:16 PM
NO RATINGS

..

Maryam writes

Pierre, I was just reading an article about how keyboarding/typing is going to decline rapidly over the next five years as voice begins domination driven by these assistants and our need for connectivity. They referenced an experiment in India where smart phone users in lower income areas were given a phone and almost completely preferred voice over typing. They didn't want to set up email just wanted to communicate with simple information. Every time I drive my car I wish that the entire system was like my echo at home navigation, find a gas station, etc. I agree that in a few years we may see voice truly dominate and phones may no longer need a keyboard function! I can say goodbye to my fat finger typing since I never evolved to use my thumbs as well as the  Millennials Ii see tapping away on the train!

I guess I am really missing something here. Phones already have voice capability, right? Or they wouldn't be "phones", right?

So all these Millennials and teens and tweens have the ability to communicate by voice right there in their hands, right? Nevertheless, I'm often dumbfounded over how so many prefer to text everybody with their thumbs (or whatevers) rather than just speak into their phones. 

So maybe it's because you can type silently, and more or less privately? Maybe they don't want others around them overhearing the stuff they're talking about? Or for the rest of us, we don't want to disturb others in a meeting or the library or wherever we are?

I will also say that I do have Dragon and a nifty digital recorder. But when it comes to composing writing (like, an article or report), nothing beats either a keyboard, or, often even better, plain old handwriting. I then use Dragon to dictate it into the computer. Inefficient, cumbersome, yes, but it works in my case. Much better than just trying to dictate my thoughts. 

If they "disappear" keyboards, I can only hope somebody will reinvent them.

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Re: Verbal Algorithms Unlock Potential of Robotics
  • 8/16/2017 9:38:02 PM
NO RATINGS

@kq4ym do you ever watch a video and leave the captions on and then wonder at the huge disparity between what is actually being said and what appears in the text? When I see that, I think that it indicates there must still be quite a gap in voice recognition; otherwise, it would be simple to just have software write out captions for everything accurately.

Re: Verbal Algorithms Unlock Potential of Robotics
  • 8/16/2017 9:36:08 PM
NO RATINGS

@impactnow I haven't tried them out. What makes Cortana less helpful than Alexa?

Re: Verbal Algorithms Unlock Potential of Robotics
  • 8/16/2017 4:11:28 PM
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Now think of something like Alexa, but who understands you like a person. That is our future.

Re: Verbal Algorithms Unlock Potential of Robotics
  • 8/16/2017 3:25:49 PM
NO RATINGS

Tomsg probably too late for me! I still type with my fingers! Voice may be the only thing that saves me, I also don't use Cortana (sorry she is not that helpful) but I do use Alexa!

Re: Verbal Algorithms Unlock Potential of Robotics
  • 8/16/2017 7:54:54 AM
NO RATINGS

It is peculiar how voice searching on a laptop is not all that conventient yet. I find very few times I'll even bother to use it. But it does make me wonder if AI will make better use of the data so advertisers will know from my searching whether I've already bought an item and discontinue the ads for that product. Or maybe we'll have to say "I've already bought that!"

Re: Verbal Algorithms Unlock Potential of Robotics
  • 8/14/2017 8:59:48 PM
NO RATINGS

I have found voice technology to be very convenient when I'm walking down the street or in a situation where I'm using my other hand for something. 

My current phone isn't so great, but my previous phone was very responsive and it made things a lot easier. 

Mostly I find it advantatios when I'm using a mobile phone or tablet rather than a computer. 

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