It’s no secret that we are at a turning point brought on by technology and machine learning. In our everyday lives, AI is already well established through devices such as smart speakers, our phones, and as a layer that decides what we see in our search results.
With AI being integrated in new ways every day, how do you step forward and claim your space?
You may have already taken some of these steps. The search engines have been talking up the value of structured data for a number of years, and a lot of businesses have either begun implementing structured data on their websites, or have a plan to do so.
It’s a similar situation with mobile-friendly website design. Let’s take a look at the areas you want to focus on to prepare your business for the intelligent future.
Focus on Your Site Design and Structure
To be successful in the world of intelligent services, you need to have a clear focus on your website design, set up, architecture, and technical structure. Here are the main areas to pay attention to:
- Get serious about Digital Knowledge Management. Identify all your digital assets and align internal data systems so that you can easily access each element. This may be things as simple as your name, address, and phone number, but may also include items such as videos, images, whitepapers, employee biographies, and published works.
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Google looks at everything online through the lens of mobile as the first point of interaction. If your website performs well in a mobile environment, you’re on the right track. If it’s slow to load—obviously not mobile-friendly—Google will likely choose other websites to show searchers.
- Structure your data. For this step, your best starting point is www.schema.org, a site jointly maintained by Google and Bing that outlines all the elements you can apply structured data markup to. This markup will be used to identify each element you identified as a “digital asset” (business name, phone number, address, and so on). Each digital asset will have a corresponding code that can mark up that element. While this takes work to implement, it sets you up to participate in those rich results the major search engines—and their intelligent services and assistants—favor today. In fact, Google is now calling forward some content items that are marked up directly into Google Actions (more on these in a bit).
- Make your site secure. HTTPS is what the search engines want, so it’s important to align here. If your site isn’t secure, you could be losing traffic, as consumers who see that warning will likely think twice before continuing on to your site.
With the more technical aspects covered, you should next look at your content and its context. These are the main areas to focus on here:
- Build content correctly. Be factual, be conversational, be accurate, and be appropriate. There is a lot of nuance and subtlety here, but this document from Google explains how their Quality Raters are trained to evaluate voice answers, for example. If you want insights into normal organic results, this Google training document helps.
- Adopt a long tail, conversational-phrase approach to content. Regular keyword research is a starting point, but you’ll want to expand into understanding the broader context of conversations people are having. Typing in a search engine is vastly different than speaking to a voice assistant, for example. Ensure your content is written to be useful in a conversational situation.
- Build out detailed answers to common (and even uncommon) questions. As you approach content creation, think in terms of questions and answers. Searchers ask questions of their voice assistants similar to talking to a person. Your content should resemble an answer to a question. You could even list the question at the beginning to ensure clarity and relevance.
- Analyze your customer’s journey. Think about your customer’s journey. If they asked for X, might Y be the next logical question? Taking this approach will help you fill in the blanks with relevant content, making you more relevant overall. Don’t worry if you don’t fit every step of the journey, just work on aligning with the spots that naturally and logically overlap.
The path ahead is exciting and new. Consumers are driving change, companies are feeding that change with new ways to access information, and you should formulate a clear plan to succeed in the intelligent future.
Duane Forrester is VP of Industry Insights at Yext, a company pioneering a new category called Digital Knowledge Management, which gives businesses control of all of the public facts that they want consumers to know across the intelligent ecosystem.