Yes! Google's new Conversational Search really is good, super cool and effective. More than that, it's going to add further influence to how we promote ourselves online.
Last week, at their conference, Google has a demonstration of their conversational search functions – very clever additions to the Google search engine which focus on semantic search and natural language.
First there's the spoken search option. If you use Chrome and have the newest version, you'll see the dinky microphone in the corner of the search box. Click on it and you can speak your search. This will not be new to most of you, especially Android users; Samsung Galaxy users have had this function for a while now. Google released it a couple of years ago. The new feature is really fun though, and adds to the whole natural feel to conversational search. Now Google has a voice too, and will speak to you with the answer to your search query. Try it!
We asked a range of questions, just to try it out; the weather, the time, the date, we asked who Sheldon Cooper is. We told it we wanted to buy a new Audi, and order a pizza. When you speak your query, your search words appear in the search box. Google accesses the Knowledge Graph to give you a direct answer in addition to the most relevant links. We got answers for every query we set, of course, it is Google after all. This latest step in conversational search did not disappoint us. It works beautifully.
Do not you just love and hate Google all at the same time?
There's more to it than groovy speaking search engines though. Now we can actually have a conversation with Google by asking additional questions, eg narrowing our results by adding more search strings. That is impressive.
This is the example we tried: Go to Big Bang Theory. Who is Sheldon Cooper? What is the actor's name? How tall is he? Where does he live?
Now Google is clever enough to know who the 'he' is in the search. Very clever. But still, not that new either. Google started a previous query function around five years ago. Making it part of the whole voice search adds to the natural language feel of the search and it is much quicker and smoother than early attempts. The search engine really understands what you are looking for and what you mean.
So, in terms of SEO, what do all these dazzling bells and whistles mean for us? Will it have any effect on rankings and search results? You bet it will!
Yes, we're back to the topic of content again. The sites which come up in search results, will be the ones which answer the questions people pose.
Think about it – not so long ago, if you wanted to say, order a birthday cake, you'd most likely type in Birthday cake, delivery and your location. In return you'd get a page of the highest ranking bakeries who deliver some of which may or may not have been in your geographical area.
Now, with conversational search you can ask; who can deliver a birthday cake to me? Google knows who you are, and where, so the search engine is going to pick up, not the highest ranked bakery, but the highest ranked bakery which answers your question. This is going to make a whole world of difference in how search engines work and on the results it throws up.
The aspect we need to take note of is the authoring and tagging of our content. Whereas before, the focus was always on the product or service and keywords, now the content should answer our customers' questions.
Content which does more than sell will get noticed; linking yourself to Google Maps, authoring all your content; adding descriptions of what you do which read like the answers to questions. Your content is going to have to say who you are, where you are, and provide details of every aspect a customer may inquire about. The reason why is simple: Google will give the searcher answers based on who they are and where they are and what they are looking for. Get it? Do not miss out on potential sales because Google does not know where you are or what you do!
While at first this may sound fairly simple, if you think about it, for many sites, this may involve a massive amount of content refreshing. However, it would be worth it if it means the difference between popping up as the answer to someone's question, or remaining invisible, somewhere further down the queue.
Conversational search is not perfect, yet. But it is so close! It struggles with accents as we're sure you will all discover. And sometimes it takes some tweaking to get your question and search strings right. But as with everything, Google will keep working on it, and improving it. Still, it works more often than not and that is seriously impressive.