How Google Home turns voice answers into clickable links
It turns out Google's new hands-free voice-based assistant has a way to let users click to the answers it gets from publishers. That's via the companion app.
Think of the new Google Home assistant as a voice-only search engine. You ask it questions by voice; it gives back answers by voice. If you’re a search marketer, that immediately raises a big concern: How do I get traffic and visitors from this thing, if they can’t click to me? Turns out, they can.
The key is the Google Home companion app for iOS or Android. For certain questions, especially those that are drawn from web-based sources rather than Google’s Knowledge Graph facts database or Wikipedia, Google Home will give a voice answer and send a link to the source of that answer to the companion app.
“Related to your activity” cards
Here’s an example of this in action. I asked Google Home for a mince pie recipe, and it responded with a voice answer:
Someone probably can’t remember everything in a recipe delivered by voice, so Google Home smartly sends a link to the recipe to the Google Home app, for reference:
Clicking on the “Visit Website” words does exactly what you think, takes someone to the source site. Enjoy those mince pies!
It’s easy to scroll through all the links that have been sent by sliding through the cards presented in a carousel format, under the “Related to your activity” heading. Currently, I have 14 cards with links showing, based on recent Google Home searches that I’ve done.
Links from these cards open within your default browser, in my testing.
“Google — My Activity” search history
I’m still testing, but it seems that over time, some of the links may disappear from the carousel. That leads to the second place where they are stored, as part of the “Google — My Activity” area in the app. You reach this by clicking on the clock icon that’s just above the “Related to your activity” heading.
The “My Activity” areas lists every search you’ve sent to Google. If it has come up with an answer from across the web — a featured snippet answer — then a link will also be shown along with the query that was made:
Links from this area, unlike with the activity cards, will load within the Google Home app.
How you can optimize for Google Home
If you like the idea of being an answer in Google Home, the solution is pretty easy. Become a featured snippet for queries you care about. And to do that, have a good read through Eric Enge’s past article here on Search Engine Land, How To Get Featured Snippets For Your Site.
Can you measure your Google Home traffic?
If Google wants, it could certainly report through Google Search Console how often a site is showing up in response to Google Home searches, as well as how often clicks are actually happening. SEOs would be keenly interested in this data.
Right now, that’s not happening. It’s something that Google has said it is discussing about voice search generally.
I certainly hope Google makes a real and fast effort to provide Google Home-related metrics to publishers. The product is very nice. See my review of it today: For answering questions, Google Home bests Amazon Echo & Alexa. But unlike traditional search engines, it upsets the unofficial contract with publishers where Google takes answers in return for traffic.
As it turns out, the links within the Google Home app do promise to deliver some traffic. But Google should be transparent with publishers to know exactly what that is in relation to how often they are showing up, so publishers themselves can assess if they feel they’re getting a fair exchange.