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Digital Personal Assistants Will Change Search – Here’s Why #153


Marty’s worried about what he saw in the future, but Doc is more excited that the future is NOW! Why? Because devices like digital personal assistants are radically altering the way we interact with the internet.
In this episode of our Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Perficient Digital’s Eric Enge explains why he thinks Digital Personal Assistants will radically affect search and SEO, and some first steps you can take to prepare for those changes.

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Mark: Eric, you’ve been saying for a while that the rise of digital personal assistants is going to have a significant impact on the world of search. Before we dig into why you think that, define for us quickly what a digital personal assistant or a DPA is?

What is a Digital Personal Assistant?

Eric: A digital personal assistant is essentially a software program in the cloud that a person can easily communicate with to carry out tasks or get information. You might use them to set up a reservation, find out the weather in your travel destination, reset the temperature of your home, virtually anything that internet-connected devices can do. Right now the most visible examples of DPAs are those that you access through Google Home or Amazon or Echo or Microsoft Invoke or Apple Siri.

How do Digital Personal Assistants affect search?

Mark: So, what’s the connection of these devices and DPAs in general with our world of search?
Eric: Well, to understand that you have to be aware of the dramatic rise of voice search, that is, people doing searches by speaking to a device rather than typing in text. Andrew Ng of Baidu predicts that by 2020, more than 50% of all searches will be conducted either via voice command or image search. This was a natural outcome from the popularity of smartphones, for it’s often easier to input by voice rather than text.
Mark: And digital personal assistants are the next step toward the prominence of voice queries?
Eric: Yes, they are. Since DPAs have no keyboard and most have no screen, they’re designed from the ground up for voice interaction. In fact, that’s their appeal. It’s incredibly easy to initiate an interaction with a DPA, as long as you’re within its hearing range. You say the phrase that alerts it such as, “Okay, Google,” and then speak your question or requests.
Mark: And it responds by voice as well.
Eric: Right, and that’s where the big impact on search hits home. These devices typically have just one answer for any given query. So no more deciding which of the 10 or more links on a search results page you should click on. The device kind of decides for you.
Mark: And that means there is only one result, one answer.
Eric: Exactly, so optimizing for that is still an SEO task. SEO isn’t going away but instead of optimizing to get reasonably high in the results, we now have to be optimizing to be the one best answer that a DPA’s algorithm will choose, and actually, we’re already beginning to live in that world as SEOs.
Mark: Really, how so?
Eric: For the past few years, we’ve seen Google and now Bing promoting more and more of what Google calls featured snippets. Featured snippets grab one particular result for a query and promote it to a box that sits above all the other results, and it’s also an expanded result so it often gives the complete answer without requiring a click-through to a website.
Mark: And you think those featured snippets are paving the way for the world of digital personal assistants?
Eric: I really do. Google must realize that the world of search is moving toward this one best answer environment. So it makes sense for them to be testing and learning how to serve up such answers.

How to prepare for a voice search world

Mark: So what should search marketers be doing to prepare for such a world?
Eric: I would begin by learning all you can about how to optimize for featured snippets. What you learn by doing that will probably set you up to learn how to optimize for voice-driven devices.
Another proactive step you can take is to learn how to design apps for digital personal assistants. I’ve already built one, a couple actually, for Google home and Amazon Alexa.

Did you know that you can “Ask Perficient Digital” SEO & digital marketing questions on Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa devices? Here’s how to do it!

Also, you’ll want to check out our Next10X Conference in Boston on May 9th, 2018. Our theme will be “Mastering the Changing Digital Marketing Landscape,” and speakers like Rand Fishkin, Ann Handley, Larry Kim and more will help prepare you for the way digital marketing is changing today and tomorrow.

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Thoughts on “Digital Personal Assistants Will Change Search – Here’s Why #153”

  1. Fascinating to say the least. But where does that leave the other ten (or so) players on “page 1”. Where does this evolve to for companies trying to get in front of potential customers? Will marketers shift their focus away from this type of search engine search? If so, to what?

  2. Marketers will continue to focus on traditional search for many years to come, but there are great opportunities in producing Actions on Google and Alexa Skills that are very much worth chasing. Lots of visibility to be had there!

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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