A whole new experience is being built into content space as it concerns users and what is deemed relevant in a given context, place and time.
People are getting to grips with new delivery channels that are not only relevant but also could predict (at least most of the time) what users want to see based on their present conversation, past experience and the queries used.
With the tons of content being published per day, it is becoming increasingly difficult to gain user attention per creation. That even, despite the interest surge on the part of consumers, the rising population can only play a catch-up to the ever-upwardly trending content curve. The rise of virtual assistants could be the much needed answer to a question of what should be considered relevant to a user within a content space.
Actually, visual assistants are nothing new, – Google released Google Now back in 2012, while Microsoft’s Cortana is roundly applauded among its spectrum of users. No questions about people’s connections with these Artificial Intelligence services.
But that as there are not enough data points yet to discern these services for potential benefits that could result from using them at a broader scale, especially for a business concern.
We can only make a prediction based on a set of interactions that exist and how those are being influenced in these intelligent tech services.
Firstly, let’s look at a typical scenario when a user types a query into a search engine. Google compares the query with the billions of web pages it has crawled to determine what is relevant to show in SERP. Unlike dictionary where direct meaning is the major emphasis, Google uses semantics technology to provide context for a query based on similar queries it has appropriately indexed earlier.
This contextual interpretation enables Google to distinguish between when a user searches for Apple, the fruit, or Apple, the American tech giant.
Certain location data are also used to influence results as searches conducted in Google South Africa are location-wise slightly different from those conducted in Google.com. Up to a user’s recent search history and preferences, many factors are taken into consideration to determine what is relevant in SERP.
And most recently, RankBrain, – the machine learning artificial intelligence system that Google uses to sort through queries to determine what to serve to searchers. According to Google, “RankBrain helps us to interpret searches to find pages that do not match the exact words being searched for.”
As search engines are getting smarter and quicker, so are other discovery channels adding elements to their system to get more intuitive in the way they serve content to users.
Facebook recently released its personal assistant for messenger, M, which makes use of both machine learning and human trainers to help complete tasks on behalf of users.
Tasks like AI response options based on an ongoing conversation or a suggestion to buy a product based on the intent shown towards that interest. As noted by Facebook Messenger Chief, David Marcus, in a Facebook post:
“M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments, and way more.”
Adding to that, Facebook started adding the new auto-detect prompts to Messenger back in September, an AI-response system also that reads the context of your message to offer options on the actions you might want to take, for example, an in-stream option to complete a poll in a group conversation. Or, an option to make a payment to someone you owe money to.
On the home front, Amazon Echo is an intelligent assistant that is gaining steams among smart-home owners. With the help of Alexa, a voice control platform, you can have Echo complete a bunch of tasks on your behalf like: making to-do lists, streaming a podcast, providing weather and traffic reports and much more.
With the connected devices, Alexa can also be your home automation hub where you only need to speak the words to: turn on the lights, start a thermostat, switch the channels on TV, increase the volume, etc. and complete other actions. This is triggered by a wake-word you speak before any of these, for example, “Alexa, start the thermostat.” And presto! The device comes on.
Alexa is always listening, which means it can read and understand your preferences over time and tailor your services appropriately based on what it has learned.
Still on the personal assistants, Apple Siri is an AI based service built into iOS devices, it uses a natural language interface to answer a question, make recommendations and perform different actions by delegating requests to a set of web services. As with other intelligent personal assistants, Siri can also study and understand your individual preferences by referencing your past usage to deliver results that are targeted to your need.
Samsung has also taken a step in this regard with their assistant tech called Viv, you can expect the service to gain more momentum as the company begins incorporating it into their newer products (Samsung Galaxy S8), as promised in the product launch.
With this capability being added to their service in an ambitious scale, it is curious to see what the tech companies have up their sleeves with these services in terms of customer experience and the volume of consumption of their products to generate more sales and profits.
This is really good news to end users, because it means much less time will be spent by them to surf the web for a piece of information, saving on their time and resources, and more importantly improving their experiences by creating a context for what they have indicated interest in the past.
But what does this development mean for a business hoping to be found as recommendations and options within these AI services?
Virtual assistant optimization
To best do SEO for these services we need to first understand how they work and what they are set about to achieve. Part of that has been stated already in this article. Take Google’s Google Assistant as an example, you can ask the assistant a question within their Allo messaging app and it will show Google search results relative to that query.
Also, Google understands that mobile searchers want more context, it will also refine the results to match your ongoing conversation within the app, including your past search history and location data. Sure, the location data would carry more weights on certain queries than others, like “where should we go for lunch?” this query will be influenced largely by where the searcher resides in.
But physical proximity hardly plays a role on Facebook where Affinity is a major advantage, – friends’ updates and activities are what Facebook prioritizes to determine what stories to show in its users’ news feeds. To a large extent, these also determine what are considered relevant to show as recommendations and options in their subsequent delivery process. The recent Facebook updates have placed more prominence in this process too.
To bear this on a business in terms of optimizing for an assistant tech, brands need to prioritize engagement with fans, especially those with active and larger networks, to spread their updates to friends of fans and beyond. When you strategically position your cornerstone content (e.g. a product video) within a community, that increases the chance of your business being found as a recommendation to more people.
Supposed you sell a Yoga training and looking to get people signed up in your training session. You can create a video for some of the training instructions in your Yoga business, then spend some money on Facebook ad to promote the video to an interest based audience. users engaging with the post are also increasing its reach within their circles of friends, thereby creating an affinity for the post with more people, and increasing the chance of your business coming up as a recommendation within Facebook’s assistant services.
The winner here is that you have created a product video that is intrinsically relevant to the product you intend to sell.
On Google, general SEO practices will do to get you listed. Then, identifying the user intent behind relevant queries will help to personalize the experience for them. Since Google uses proximity to target results to users based on location of businesses and regarding the assistant requests, you should consider adding a local SEO to the mix to give your business a good standing for some local queries. The impact even gets bigger if you are able to rank your business in the local pack for some of your target keywords.
Twitter’s firehose feeds directly to Google SERP, the more engagement on your tweets and activities around your Twitter page (like followers count), the better SEO signals Google is able to receive to rank your business high in SERP.
With the exchange of signals that comes with the interlinking between your website and Twitter, more contexts are being created in the process about your business as it concerns the user’s individual preferences and the channels they use.
Though the organic reach has tanked broadly on social media, they constitute a major advantage for businesses with strong foothold on these channels to keep pace [ahead of competition] with this new sensation.
Assistant tech has some momentum to leap on, – for instance, the voice search queries are on the rise, Google says more than 20% of mobile queries now come via voice, which is projected to rise to 50% by 2020. Considering this, and that messaging (text messaging) is the most popular form of daily interactions among teens, it is now the best time to start looking at the likelihood of AI changing the course of the user’s discovery process, where conversions are also influenced in the process.
Though the capacity has been fairly low-key for now, it is a good start to see how the momentum builds through 2017 and beyond, and the user adoption in the process. If it is big enough, we might be looking at a new search system capable of unseating the old search system or becoming a good complementary alternative in the future.
Now your turn. What is your experience using these assistant services? What potential advantages do you foresee as a business concern? Please, share your thoughts in the comment box below.