SEO and Virtual Assistants: Preparing for Spoken Search

AI Everywhere

2016’s Black Friday’s best-selling $100+ item on was Amazon’s Echo. Amazon was also the #1 selling manufacturer during 2016’s Cyber Monday with the Echo being their most sold item. Google (and most people who have tested both) forecasts they will out-sell their sales competitor by the end of 2016. This multi-million dollar market of in-home virtual assistants is set to be a billion dollar market by 2021.

With commands ranging from currency conversions, alarms, and shopping lists, to fact-finding, translations and search – there is no doubt that people will be using virtual assistants as alternatives to their mobile devices while at home.

Search Without Results

Only an estimated 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates.

But think for a second about how much that changes the way we search – and furthermore the way we optimize our websites for search results. If search results are not shown and chosen manually, how does Google know what to pick?

Spoken Search Optimization

Out of all the functionality commands, these bots can currently handle, there are just two categories that matter to SEOs. Facts & Info and Local Places.

For example:

“Find me a coffee shop” and “What is the speed of sound”

In desktop and mobile view, Google shows a chosen result in “Position 0” above all the search results. This is called a snippet. In spoken search, this is often read verbatim aloud to the searcher and is accredited by Google Home.

“According to ….”


Search queries such as “get me a beer” and some fact-finding questions are not handled well by Google Home currently, but this can be overcome by SEO’s of 2017 optimizing sites for these sort of intent based snippets.

Using Knowledge Cards, Knowledge Graph, Webmaster Tools, and 3rd party tools such as Moz’s keyword tool, you can find these intent-based or “What” and “How” based questions to begin optimizing for. The key is to rank high (position 1-3) for these organically and chances are, your result will be pulled for a card in Position 0.

Do’s and Don’ts

If somebody is searching for an answer, it’s best to just give it to them. Google appreciates that. So it can be hard to get your promotional message in there or talk about your product/service. On the other hand, if you can pull it off – Google Home becomes the latest free commercial platform as she reads your featured content.

According to a whitepaper by – Most featured snippets are high CPC keywords and high search volume (1MM+). Also, most websites that had a featured snippet in a result, have <ol>/<ul> or <table>’s. Most of those had a class=”list”. This could be an important tidbit for SEOs.

Use words like “average”, “salary”, “many”, “years”, “forming” are frequently found in snippet results. These suggest that qualifying keywords may prompt Google to generate a snippet. Many of these relate to financial data.

Cite your sources – we found that the majority of knowledge cards had sources cited or were the primary source of the information provided. Google wants to give it’s users real facts so this could be important for those informational search results.

What not to do? Well, it’s hard to say. Not much more is known about this topic yet and it’s ever-evolving. Key an eye out for new information and feel free to share here!