Siri, Cortana, Google Now – Are Virtual Assistants Killing SEO?

There’s been quite a noise over the last couple of years with regard to the kinds of virtual assistants that are slowly but surely taking over. If you’re one of hundreds of millions of iPhone users, you’ll know yours as Siri. If you’re part of the Google crowd, it’s Google Now. And if you’re one of the comparatively few folks with a Windows Phone, you’ll know her as Cortana – often considered one of the very best.

As you probably know by now, it’s all become a case of controlling much of what your device can do or find out for you by voice. Commands like ‘remind me to pick up some flowers’ and questions like ‘will I need to take a coat with me to London on Saturday’ are answered in an instant. The virtual assistant digs into the web using the brand’s respective search engine technology and boom – there’s your answer.

But at the same time, businesses of all shapes and sizes have been wondering what on Earth this all means for their SEO efforts. After all, it’s one thing to optimise a site for single words, short keyword phrases and the odd long-tail expression, but a search term like ‘can you let me know if there’s a cheap Italian restaurant on Baker Street open tomorrow’ isn’t the kind of phrase that’s organically going to fit in anywhere.

So does this mean that when it comes to virtual assistants, SEO is dead in the water? All efforts are laid to waste? Mercifully, the answer is no – nothing of the sort.

New Take, Same System

Basically, what happens when one of these voice searches is made is that the system chosen breaks it down, dissects it, analyses it and makes sense of its key components. In the above example, it technically looks for ‘Baker Street Italian restaurants’ first, meaning that if your business was currently ranking for these keywords, you’d do well with the voice search too.

The only difference in this instance being that rather than taking your keywords and searching for them literally, the systems in question try to interpret the meaning of the whole sentence. As such, SEO becomes more a part of guessing and interpreting the interpretation of voice searches, rather than relying on actual keywords and keyword phrases.

It sounds rather complicated and indeed it can be, but at the same time can be hugely beneficial. If you score well with ‘Nottingham orthodontist’ for example, you’ll do well anytime anyone in the region says ‘can you find a local dentist for me’ or words to that effect. The device checks where the person is, sees it’s Nottingham and points them to you.

As such, the single most important rule of all when it comes to succeeding with voice search is to give local SEO efforts as much time and attention as possible, with the majority of these kinds of searches having some kinds of local connotations – billions of them, every day.

It’s effectively the same SEO systems we’ve known and loved/despised for some time, only with a different way of accessing the information. No big changes may therefore be necessary – unless your current local SEO strategy isn’t what you’d honestly call robust.

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