Artificial Intelligence, or AI as it is most commonly referred to, seems to be the buzzword of 2018. Businesses are clamoring to explore ways machines can make their businesses more productive while reducing costs and it seems like a new AI startup is featured every day on the morning news.
But what if your business hasn’t embraced AI yet? What if you’re not ready to invest your limited resources into a technology that seems to be just emerging from its infancy?
I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but AI has a HUGE impact on your business even if – no, ESPECIALLY if – you haven’t given it any consideration.
Let me explain.
Everyone has heard of Google and probably uses it on a daily basis in one form or another. However, what many people don’t realize is that Google is one of the most advanced examples of artificial intelligence in widespread use today. Google is able to leverage deep learning and natural language processing to provide users with the best possible answer to their query.
When Google first launched, its bots or spiders crawled the web at a depressingly slow rate compared to today’s standards. I remember making changes on websites and telling clients that Google would probably be around to re-crawl their site within 28 days.
Fast-forward to today and Google can detect new information within minutes! (Think news stories or trending topics on Twitter – both of which show up in search engine results pages).
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “What does this have to do with how AI affects MY business?”
Well, I don’t know of one business that doesn’t rely at least partially on the internet for a portion of their monetary gain. Whether you have a perfectly optimized website, business profiles, guest posts, etc. or you rely solely on a Yelp listing that you don’t really manage, your customers and clients are researching you online. They are looking for reviews, samples of your work, discount codes, directions, your phone number, the list goes on and on.
But here are a few AI related statistics that should give every business pause.
Reduction in Clicks
Google has reduced the number of organic click-throughs to websites by 37% in just one year and that trend is expected to continue.
By 2020, just over 15 months from the time of writing this post, 50% of searches will be done with voice on a combination of mobile devices and assistants like Alexa or Google Home.
Let’s break these down to the impact this has on businesses.
Google Reduces Organic CTR to Websites
In a recent presentation at Brighton SEO Conference in London, marketing expert Rand Fishkin presented very compelling evidence that Google is attempting to provide users with the information that they seek right on the SERP (search engine result page) so that the user does NEED to click through to the website.
Think about it from a user’s perspective: why click on a website result that may take forever to load and use even more of your data if you can get the phone number, address, game time, flight information, restaurant menu, business hours, answer to your question, etc. right away? Here’s an example of what I mean:
Don’t Forget About Voice Search…
And consider this: what if there is no screen? Amazon’s Alexa is now in many cars as a voice-enabled assistant, and although she operates from Bing, the concept is the same: the first answer is the “best” answer. This means that your business now has ONE shot to be the answer that Alexa, Cortana, Siri, or Google assistant provides.
Here’s an example: Say I tweaked my back camping over the weekend and I’m traveling to a conference tomorrow. I want to schedule an appointment with a Chiropractor before the conference starts. So I whip out my smartphone and say, “Ok Google, find me a chiropractor that opens by 9 am in Orlando.” She gives me a list of businesses that match my query, but I’m driving, so I ask her to please call the first one on the list, or read me the reviews of the first one on the list if I want to vet the business further. I can do all of this without looking at a screen or even typing anything in!
As the statistics above illustrate, voice search, and especially voice search on mobile, are skyrocketing in use by consumers. However, businesses are taking longer to implement these changes because of one of a handful of reasons:
- Lack of awareness of how customers find their business
- Lack of awareness of how to implement changes to optimize for these types of searches
- Trust that search engines are smart enough to figure out how to display their business properly
- Denial that new technologies affect THEIR business
- The perception that they lack the funds to optimize for this type of search
Steps to Embrace the AI & Voice Revolution in Your Business
These statistics aren’t meant to stress you out, but to bring awareness to the reality of digitally marketing your business for TODAY’S consumer.
Here are a few steps you can take to enhance your position with search engines and voice assistants alike:
Clean Up the Assets You Already Have
You have a business website, correct? Start by making sure that your website meets these criteria:
- It is designed with mobile users in mind. Not only does this mean that your font size is legible on small screens and your buttons are large enough for fat fingers to press, but that you also compress your images, make your navigation clear and easy to use, provide a clear path for the user to find the information they need.
- Your website load time is less than 3 seconds. Yes, that’s right, 3 seconds. Why? Because according to recent research by Backlinko, website results that appear in voice searches load 4 times faster than your average website. If you want that top spot, you have to work for it. A blog post on decreasing load time is forthcoming, so please stay tuned for more information on this line item.
- Create content that answers your customers’ questions & refine your keyword research to target more conversational terms. In my riveting example about searching for a chiropractor, I didn’t say, “Ok, Google, chiropractor in Orlando.” I asked a question with specifics as though I were speaking to a sentient being (a.k.a. human). Natural Language Processing (NLP) has increased to about 95% accuracy which is roughly the same as a human. In turn, you need to add properly optimized content for those conversational terms to your website. How do you find conversational terms? Leverage the data within your Search Console account, in Google’s People Also Ask boxes, in the suggested search boxes, and the people also searched for answers at the bottom of pages. AnswerthePublic.com is also a great place for ideas.
Verify & Complete Your Local Listings
- Google My Business – This is a non-negotiable for local businesses. You need to claim and add as much correct information as possible to your Google My Business profile. Period. Google Assistant, which is installed on over 440 Million devices, pulls local business data from these listings. This is essential.
- Yelp – Also non-negotiable. No matter how you feel personally about Yelp’s shady business practices, you must claim your profile and fill out the information as thoroughly as possible. Siri uses Yelp reviews in her local results answers and if your business isn’t listed there, forget about coming up on any Apple operating systems powered by her.
These are just a few of the many ways that your business can increase its chances of appearing in search results powered by Artificial Intelligence. These are the basics to be addressed first and quickly.
Consumers already expect a seamless experience on mobile devices and with voice search. If your business isn’t there, you miss out. That’s the bottom line.
If you need assistance in implementing these changes, please do reach out!