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Alexa: How do I build a brand in the age of voice activated search?

Brands in the age of voice activated search

With millions of voice user interface (VUI) devices being purchased like Amazon Echo and Google Home, what does it mean for SEO and brand building in this new world?

Meet Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Ok Google (yeah, you guessed the odd one out!) soon to be our new best buds. This whole new search world has no screen or a search results (SERP) page. Yet in this ‘hands free’ search environment our best buds will solve our problems in a way that we've been longing for so long, by talking and interacting like humans!

We are witnessing a dawn of new age where brands have the opportunity to create deeper experiences with customers as never before. However this calls for a new understanding of the way consumers will interact with these VUI devices, with brands needing to consider how users will search their online services.

Did some digging around and here’s snippets from a post on Search Engine land by Brian Ussery on Google home and what this means for SEO:

Google Home is powered by the same Google Assistant as voice search, wearables, mobile, auto and other devices. Google Assistant relies on a variety of resources, including Google search data.

Google search data comes from a variety of places, including content from pages that Google “thinks” will satisfy users’ queries. In some cases, Google extracts “quick answers” directly from third-party pages and returns them in the form of “Featured snippets” that are displayed at the top of organic search results pages.

For some questions, Google Home responds with answers similar to “featured snippets” in organic search results. In order to be considered for featured snippet responses to branded product questions like, “What is the difference between [Brand] and Diet [Brand]?” brand sites must provide the content necessary to quickly answer users’ questions.

When you ask Google Home, “Who is Steve Jobs?” Google Home responds with, “Steven Paul ‘Steve’ Jobs was an American businessman, inventor, and industrial designer.” Unfortunately, Google Home doesn’t mention any affiliation with Apple.

This issue appears to be due to “Knowledge Graph” and the fact that Apple is not mentioned in Mr. Jobs’s biographical information from Wikipedia until the second sentence.

Marketers looking to address this type of issue should ensure that Wikipedia entries include key details right away.

Wait, it gets even more interesting! Apparently we need to get our brand an INVOCATION name!

Here’s some nuggets from a post by Ollie Maitland from Inviqa:

The absolute first step in getting started is to get your brand an invocation name. To register invocation names on Google Home or on Alexa you need to actually launch a product. We recommend considering the simplest use case for your business service to cater to – and get building.

The possible components of an invocation command, according to Google:

An invocation name is at the heart of the user journey on VUI devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo. Users say an invocation name to begin interacting with a particular custom ‘skill’ (Amazon’s terminology) or ‘action phrase’ (Google’s terminology). Amazon uses the example of ‘Daily Horoscopes’ as an invocation name, in a scenario where a user says: ‘Alexa, ask Daily Horoscopes for the horoscope for Gemini’.

Your invocation name is the primary way that users trigger your ‘agent’, so it’s important to pick a good one that’s easy to pronounce, that’s recognizable to Google and Amazon (you can test this), and that adheres to the policies set out by Google and Amazon.

Invocation names and agents, this is getting interesting! But let’s see how digital businesses could benefit from integrating with Google Home or Amazon Echo:

  • Companies specializing in service delivery – utilities, telcos, or banking, for example – have a potentially very personable way to engage with customers in the privacy of the home.

  • Publishers and media organisations have new opportunities to reach audiences across the all-important windows of morning, evening, and weekend. The winners will be those who move quickly to structure their content in the most flexible way to serve these new devices.

  • Online retailers have a means to offer customers simplified journeys where products can be sourced and purchased from virtual assistants using voice alone.

  • Software companies have the opportunity to provide online services and tools that enable brands to build deeper relationships with their customers by better understanding the experiences they need to be delivering on VUI devices.

In summary:

As with any new digital product or service, we’ll need to adapt and learn.

Machine learning will be key here in enabling brands to continually improve services in real-time based on user interactions. The main challenge today for us is creating the intelligence within existing online services to expose and integrate it into these new user interfaces (UIs).

So I guess it’s time for all of us to tool up and start learning!

Siri, where is the nearest bar offering happy hours?

About the author

Ashok Miranda is a Business Transformation Architect and founder of Transform and Transcend. He is the author of the book: Culling Culturitis, How To Rid Your Company of this Toxic Disease and Build a Winning Company Culture.

As a speaker, consultant and trainer, he is passionately committed to architecting a better business world by building purpose-driven companies that nurture happy and engaged employees and positively impact peoples lives.

He connects the dots between company culture, branding, marketing and customer experience and works with business leaders, owners, founders and HR professionals to transform their companies for success in the digital age.

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