Will Virtual Assistants Cause a Seismic Shift in SEO Strategy?

If you spent any time around the holidays camped out in front of a TV set, you likely saw commercials for virtual assistants. This new device segment is exploding, thanks in large part to the competition between Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home products. Of course, as products grow in popularity with consumers, they grow in popularity with marketers too.

As Digiday noted in early December, ad agencies are devoting time and resources to help deliver branded content across these new devices. But from a marketer’s perspective, there is perhaps nothing more important than the emerging field of “voice search.” For years, marketers’ focus on digital media has largely centered on new and emerging screens, such as tablets and mobile devices. The Echo and Google Home represent something completely different, because they rely on voice commands rather than typing.

Voice activated search is hardly new, of course – Apple’s Siri has existed for years and Google says that 20% of searches already happen via voice. The increased popularity of these assistants is expected to drive voice search to 50 percent of all searches by 2020.

This is incredibly important for SMBs, many of which rely on search to draw customers to their businesses. Some enlist partners to aid them in the art of search engine optimization (SEO) with the goal of being prominently displayed on the first page of search results. But voice search means thinking differently. As Social Media Today points out, rather than type “restaurants in Boston” into a search field, a consumer will more likely ask their virtual assistant, “Where should we go for dinner?

So rather than search for things that match the descriptions they type in, consumers are asking questions and expecting answers that solve their problems. That changes the approach to SEO, but it still remains to be seen just how different things will be when it comes to Virtual Assistant Optimization (VAO). Social Media Today’s Andrew Hutchinson advises that “the key right now is ensuring your information is up to date and consistent to match with relevant location filters, but also, general SEO best practices should serve you well, at least until the provided results become increasingly personalized.

At AffinityX, we’ll continue to monitor the growth and development of voice search, as well as the emerging field of VAO and share new lessons and suggestions whenever possible. For their part, marketing service providers should continue to use tried and true SEO best practices when helping their SMB clients navigate this new technology.