Voice interactions and voice search are becoming increasingly important. Find out in this article how to make the most of this recent development.
In the Webmaster Hangout on August 24, John Mueller stated that voice interactions are an important trend. In this article, we delve into this topic in more detail.
Towards the end of the German webmaster hangout on August 24, John Mueller (Google) recommended to viewers that they should inform themselves about voice recognition. Voice recognition is becoming increasingly important, and you should think about how you can make your own website or your customer's website relevant for voice interactions with regard to Voice Search and Voice Assistants such as Alexa and Google Home. With services such as api.ai, you can experiment with the different possibilities of Voice Interactions.
In this article, we discuss the different possibilities of using Voice Interactions, and how you can profit from them.
Currently, there are the following three possibilities:
Many website operators already optimize their website content for Voice Search, although not necessarily with this specific goal in mind. Optimizing for Voice Search overlaps with one of the most important SEO goals: to be shown in a featured snippet.
Figure 1: An article from Mayo Clinic ranks in a featured snippet
You can only indirectly influence whether or not your website is displayed in a featured snippet by search engines. In a detailed blog article, Moz explains that 2 basic conditions have to be fulfilled. Firstly, the page that should appear in a featured snippet has to rank on the first page of the Google SERPs. Secondly, the content of the website must answer the question in the search query perfectly.
For optimizing in response to questions, it’s important to consider which questions could be asked, and how these questions can be answered. Question Generator tools can help with this; such tools supply possible questions to terms, for example, “What is …?” or “How do I do …?” If your content answers the question in the search query better than all other results for the requested keyword, the chances are high that your content will be displayed in a featured snippet.
Figure 2: An article from Yoast is shown in a featured snippet, although it only ranks second
If a URL is presented by Google in a featured snippet, it is ranked above all search results and is emphasized. That’s why this type of Snippet is also described as Position 0. The impact of having a particularly high click rate in the classic internet search is even greater in the context of Voice Search: voice assistants read the content of the featured snippet aloud.
You don’t necessarily achieve an increase in your website’s traffic, but this reader function can be used as an effective branding tool. In contrast to web search, the featured snippet with voice search isn’t only the first, but also the only result. As voice assistants often begin with “According to.. (domain)”, a featured snippet for Voice Search will give you the opportunity to position yourselves as experts for relevant search queries, thereby achieving an important branding effect.
There are no disadvantages of having your website displayed in a featured snippet. However, when optimizing your content for featured snippets, it’s important that you don’t accidentally change the terms for which your website originally ranked highly for, as you might then lose important rankings and traffic. Before adapting your content, you should document the terms for which your website ranks and for which position, and then check these terms afterwards.
The fact that Google’s Voice Assistant is the only big player that the Google Search uses is more of an inconvenience than a disadvantage. Alexa, Cortana and Siri use the Bing search. You should also therefore think about the Microsoft search engine when optimizing for Voice Search.
By expanding your website for voice interactions, you can make your site accessible for voice so that users don’t have to type in their search term, but can say it aloud. This can be implemented very easily with HTML5. The language software Duolingo for example uses Voice interactions within language courses (see figure 3).
Figure 3: Voice Interactions on duolingo.com
Having your own speech recognition software or a corresponding API is pre-requisite for the implementation of voice interactions on a website. Google offers the opportunity to create and implement speech based applications with api.ai. For example, for an online shop, a speech-based chatbot could be created which would then answer default questions, such as questions regarding delivery times or prices, thus saving valuable time and resources. It would also be possible to offer a FAQ-chatbot. Of course, the only requirement for this is that they actually do have to be frequently asked questions.
Voice interactions on websites offer two potential advantages: the simplification and enhancement of the usability, thus improving the user experience. The simplification of usability can include, for example, filling out forms or using voice input for the website search. Duolingo provides a good example for using voice interactions to enhance usability; as voice interactions can be used to practice the pronunciation of vocabulary and sentences. This can also positively impact brand awareness.
Both options ideally lead to a better usability and therefore to a better user experience. This can have positive consequences for brand awareness, recommendation rate, and general satisfaction with the provider. However, it is important that the implementation of voice interactions on a website actually simplifies the service. If the user is quicker with the classic use of a mouse and keyboard, it wouldn’t be worth implementing voice interactions.
As with optimizing for featured snippets, the implementation of voice interactions doesn’t actually have any disadvantages. However, you should be careful that you are enhancing existing functions, and not replacing them. Website users are generally used to using websites and chats with mouse and keyboard. If this option is replaced by an unusual type of service like voice control, you can assume that many visitors will use the website less. The user should always be your focus; factors like the potential to save resources should come second.
Skills are the abilities that are taught to voice assistants. Providers of voice assistants make APIs accessible with which new skills can be developed and implemented. Voice assistants can thus be taught how to interact with your services. An e-commerce shop could, for example, develop a skill for voice assistants which makes it possible for them to interact with the shop. Users could therefore purchase items in the online shop with their voice assistant. This is already implemented for example by Domino’s, Kayak and of course Amazon.
The voice assistant doesn’t call up a website, click through the pages and then on the order button in the same way a person does. Instead, with skills, the voice assistant learns what the user might ask and how they should react to it. Using the queries of the users, the voice assistant can create a GET-query which the server connected to the skill can interpret, edit and answer. In this way, the user’s questions can be answered, or tasks such as ordering pizza can be carried out.
Figure 4: The User Interaction Flow with Alexa-Skills (Source: Amazon)
Voice assistants aren’t a new trend; they have been in use for some time now. However, the significance of voice search is increasing constantly. This is due to two main factors: firstly, the speech recognition of voice assistants is continuously improving. Recently, Microsoft announced that the Microsoft voice recognition system has an error rate of just 5.1% for recognizing voice input; Microsoft’s system understands spoken language just as well as a person does. Secondly, the distribution of voice assistants is rising, for example with Alexa from Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Microsoft’s Voice Assistant, Cortana. Through this increased distribution of Voice Assistants and the resulting high rates of use, there is now considerably more reach via this channel. That’s why it makes sense to react to this trend as Domino’s, Amazon and Kayak have already done.
Correctly implemented, skills can simplify the customer journey. It is much easier to say to Alexa “Order me a pepperoni pizza with Dominos” than to order a pizza with a smartphone-app or a browser.
The biggest disadvantage of skills is that the user has to knowingly activate the skill. Therefore, as well as investing time and effort into its development, you also have to market it appropriately. Furthermore, the skills have to offer the users an added value. Otherwise, the user is unlikely to regularly use the skill, and the effort of developing and marketing the skill wouldn’t have been worth it.
Skills which simplify daily tasks have the best potential. If a user regularly orders with a food delivery service, it would be appropriate for this user to activate a corresponding skill for their voice assistant. Tasks which are carried out less often or involve large sums or money, for example booking flights or buying furniture, wouldn’t be as suitable as a skill.
There are many possibilities of utilizing the growing trend of voice interactions, whether it’s the optimization of a website for voice search, expansion of a website to include speech recognition, or developing voice assistant skills. Through the increased distribution of systems such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, and the corresponding increase in use of voice assistants, it would definitely be worth thinking about how you can profit from this trend. However, you should carefully consider whether an idea really has potential; otherwise, you will quickly waste time and money.
Practice makes perfect!
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Published on 09/20/2017 by Kate Aspinwall.
Kate worked at Ryte from 2018 to 2021. She previously worked as a Brand Strategist at a Boston-based creative agency. She is passionate about branding, international marketing, and finding the best vegetarian restaurant in Munich.