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Digital Assistants

Is Your Site Ready For Digital Assistants (DA’s)?


The digital world has seen a major insurgency in mobile usage over the last five years. Smartphone and tablet sales are on the rise, and last year Google announced that mobile searches are now out-performing those made on desktop. However, it doesn-t stop there – people are also frequently making use of Digital Assistants such as Siri, Google Now and Cortana to help us find content.

But What Are Digital Assistants (DAs)?

DAs are programs installed on mobile devices, watches, computers and even cars which provide requested information to their users in the style of a relaxed dialogue. They are also made to intuitively predict your next steps. If, for example, you requested information about a restaurant, DAs can follow up by making a booking or visiting the restaurant-s website. They function much like a digital PA, reminding you of important dates and useful data, and they can even take notes when needed.

In this way our devices- DAs help us to stay organised, taking on the small day-to-day tasks so we can increase our productivity and get on with the meatier stuff.

The question is this: as more and more people search for content via their DAs, how can SEOers harness this data to ensure our business or client is the first point of call for search terms such as, for instance, ‘Restaurants in Norwich-. There-s a chance that SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) may not even be the right term to use here – would Digital Assistant Optimisation (or DAO, as we all love an acronym) be more pertinent?

So we know what they are, now how do they work?

According to Google-s I/O 2015 Keynote address, for a voice-based digital assistant to be useful it needs to:

1. Understand the context of what you are saying – when you say “it” the digital assistant knows what you are referring to.
2. Bring you useful answers proactively – when you ask “who is the president?” the digital assistant anticipates that you may next want to know more about the president or another relevant somebody.
3. Help you take action – when you say “buy tickets” the digital assistant may interact with and activate an app that orders the tickets.

Digital Assistants can search your hard drive to answer your query. They also make heavy use of search engines to find the content demanded of them and return it to the user.

So let-s match up the digital assistant to the search engine:

• Windows Cortana relies on a Bing-based online searches
• Google Now relies on Google searches working with the Google Voice feature
• Siri defaults to Bing for its spotlight feature, though Safari defaults to Google

However, the future of digital assistants is likely to involve an evolution away from reliance on the search engines that originated in the golden age of desktop computing. They will be more likely to use their own specialised bots – take, for example, the ‘Applebot’ utilised by Siri which is effectively its own crawler and is prospectively scheduled to begin using its own search engine functions. These searches will use their own algorithm which share similar attributes to the Google algorithm.

Now, let-s dive deep into exploring the crossover between SEO and Digital Assistants.

Semantic Search

Digital Assistants are looking for fast, immediate answers to their queries. As a result, digital assistants prioritize instant results which make use of Knowledge Graphs to display information. So it-s important to use semantic mark-up on your pages so this information is readily available.

Browsing History

There has been a lot in the news about personalised search in the SEO world. Digital Assistants practise the same techniques, factoring for users- search histories and habits as part of their algorithms.

Social Media

Digital Assistants also look through social media for signals of relevance, so it is imperative to keep social media channels up to date and ensure all ‘About Us- information is in place. In August 2015, Facebook announced it was testing a new Siri-like DA called M. Like Siri, M will be able to offer recommendations, e.g. the best places to dine in a city. The difference is that M will also be able to complete more tasks, such as making restaurant reservations or having gifts delivered.


Business Listings

Create an audit of all the business listings that are available for your company, then claim and populate them with all vital data, especially accurate contact details. For example if you are a hotel in Norwich, ensure you are on Google Maps listing pages and also Trip Advisor. This will coincide with your SEO efforts, as your business can acquire more real estate on search engine result pages this way, by pushing competitors down. Another quick tip would be to create a LinkedIn Business page or Wikipedia page where possible, as these always feature highly in the search rankings.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail terms are a big part of SEO. They are longer, more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they-re closer to the point of purchase. Search terms captured via voice command or Digital Assistants tend to follow (and therefore favour) the long tail format. It is therefore important to optimise your content for these terms. For instance if your company sells sofas, ranking highly for the competitive term ‘sofa- may be tricky, but optimising for niche keywords such as ‘brown vintage leather sofa in Norwich- will help you find those consumers looking for that exact product more reliably. In short, using long tail keyword variations means stronger search rankings and more qualified search traffic which is more likely to convert into sales.

If you want to find out more about Digital Assistants then please get in touch and we can work out an optimisation plan for you.