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Why the future is all about PASO — personal assistant search optimization
Have you started considering voice search in your SEO strategy? Columnist John Lincoln explains why this should be top of mind for forward-thinking search marketers.
Personal assistants (PAs) aren’t just digital assistants that can be used to perform routine tasks. They’re also the future of SEO.
Consider two of the most popular PAs: Siri and Google Assistant. People often use those assistants to retrieve information.
And where do you think those PAs get that information from? Somewhere on the web.
Here’s what you need to know about how PAs will shape the future of SEO, and why I’m calling this a new category, personal assistant search optimization (PASO).
They’re on smartphones
Personal digital assistants are great because they’re portable. The reason they’re portable is that they’re on smartphones (though they can also be in home devices, computers and any device connected to the “Internet of Things”).
Siri, of course, has been part of the iOS smartphone platform for several years now. Likewise, Google Assistant is available on the Allo app, Google Pixel and other Android phones and Android Wear.
Portable PAs give people the ability to use their assistants, hands-free, to get the information they need. That’s going to offer an irresistible level of convenience as we head into the third decade of the 21st century.
Results are tailored to users
Another reason that digital personal assistants represent the future of SEO is that search results are tailored to the needs of their users. That’s for two reasons.
First, as we’ve seen, people often use PAs on a smartphone. That means results can be (and often will be) location-specific.
Second, PAs are equipped with a bit of artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure that responses are in line with the expectations of their users. You can expect to see the quality of AI in digital personal assistants improve in the coming years.
Fewer results on a PA search
How many times have you Googled a phrase only to find out that there are something like 38 million results? Even people who have a lot of free time on their hands will find it difficult to sort through all of that information.
By contrast, PAs typically return one to four results. That makes it easier for users to find the answers they’re looking for without scrolling through page after page after page in the search results.
Here is an example from my own phone. I asked it, “Where to go skiing?”
I get one result, as well as options to click “Search results,” “Aspen Colorado skiing” or “Send feedback.”
As you can imagine, US News & World Report is going to get a ton of traffic from that listing.
If you click the “search results” button, you get the normal Google search results page.
If you click “Aspen Colorado skiing,” you get local results:
This is why PASO is so important — with fewer results being presented to the searcher, the returns will be massive for those who are able to secure one of these limited spots.
Personal assistant results likely have high click-through rates
Here, we see an example of a personal assistant result for my company’s website, Ignite Visibility. The query here is, “How do I translate a YouTube video into a new language?” Just as in the example above, only one result is shown.
Though there isn’t data on this currently, I suspect that in most cases, more users will click on the single search result provided by their digital personal assistant than on the other options at the bottom, especially as Google becomes better and better at honing their search results to provide the best answer to a user’s query.
In addition, for queries with longer or more complex answers like this one shown above, the snippet returned does not always answer the entire question, and the user only has one place in front of them where they can learn more.
According to our Google Search Console data, this page has a very high click-through rate (CTR) — in fact, it’s 187 percent above the CTR average for the website.
It is worth noting here that this page also “ranks zero” — in other words, it has a featured snippet in regular Google results that displays above the first organic listing.
It’s possible that the higher CTR reflects this featured snippet placement rather than digital PA result placement, but I suspect it’s a little of both. It will be interesting to see what develops as marketers research this further and obtain more data.
Digital marketers should know where PAs get their information
If you accept the premise that the future of SEO is all about PAs and personal assistant search optimization, then you should be asking yourself the following question: “Where do PAs get all their information?”
It not only depends on the type of question that’s asked, but it also depends on the PA itself. Different PAs use different resources for information.
Take Siri, for example. If you ask her a question that involves some kind of business transaction, you can expect that she might get her information from one of the following sources:
- Yahoo! Local
Of course, you would expect Siri to use OpenTable only if you’re interested in making a reservation at a restaurant. On the other hand, Siri would use ReserveTravel if you’re preparing for a trip.
If you want to buy tickets to an upcoming event (such as a concert), Siri may use one of the following resources:
If you’re looking for information about movies, Siri may get information from the following sites:
- Rotten Tomatoes
If you’re just asking Siri a question in an effort to get some information, she might use one or more of the following resources:
- Bing Answers
- Wolfram Alpha
It’s important to know where PAs get their information from, because that’s where you want your information to be located if you’re a digital marketer.
For example, if you’re running a local business, and you want Siri to include your business name in an answer, be sure that your business is listed in Yelp. Likewise, look for other resources that PAs use, and be sure that your information is listed appropriately.
That is why our company has invested so many hours in researching all the top data aggregators that personal assistants use. With this information, we can make sure clients are listed. As you can see, this has changed SEO altogether. It’s really a new form of optimization that many people are missing or ignoring.
SEOs need to understand PASO
There isn’t a whole lot written about PASO right now. Google either the acronym or the full phrase, personal assistant search optimization, and you won’t see too many relevant results.
But that’s good news!
Why? Because it means you can gain a competitive advantage as an early adopter of PASO. You’ll be one of the early websites optimizing your site for a search phrase before SEO has really caught on.
For now, make sure that any site you’re optimizing appears in the portfolio of resources PAs use to get answers. Once you’ve done that, you’re well on your way to getting ahead of the competition.
Good luck with this new chapter of online optimization. I’m excited about it. I think the returns will be big!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.