Rise of the Machines – Conversational A.I. and Position Zero Rankings

Voice Search has been around for quite some time now, growing in popularity and importance from an SEO point of view. We actually took a detailed look at how to make use of Voice Search in a previous article that you can read here.

However, as technology continually changes and improves, it’s important to note that Voice Search isn’t exactly what is taking the Search Engine world by storm. Instead, that would be what is known as Conversational A.I.

Conversational A.I.? What are you talking about?

Okay, so Conversational A.I. refers to the simulated technological intelligence within your chosen Virtual Assistant. For example, when you ask Siri, Alexa or Cortana a question and they understand it enough to return the correct answer, this is their simulated intelligence.

Whilst Search Engines and computers have been able to understand specific keywords for years, there is a huge difference between picking specific keywords out of a sentence and actually understanding the context of that sentence. Here is an example of what I mean;

Imagine you open your preferred assistant and ask the question “how do I cook a Christmas dinner quickly?”

Old methods of Search Term understanding would pick out keywords like “Christmas dinner” and show general recipes for Christmas dinner.

Conversational A.I. would take the entire question as a whole, returning quick-cook recipes rather than standard ones.

The first step towards Conversational A.I. was Google’s Hummingbird update. Since then, our beloved Virtual Assistants have also improved in this manner.

Conversational A.I. versus Touch and Type

What this rise of the machines means is that, slowly but surely, we are seeing a drop in people searching using a keyboard or touchscreen. This makes things somewhat difficult for SEOs and web designers as well. Why?

Well, because we have spent the last few years building websites and optimising content for keywords and search terms that were based upon keyboard and touchscreen search behaviour. So now, as user behaviour is moving over to Voice Search and Conversational A.I, we need to move our targeting reticle to keep the pace.

Now I’m sure you are wondering how we do that, right? Well, that all comes down to Position Zero ranking methods.

Conversational A.I. and Google’s Position Zero

We’ve covered some of the different types of Position Zero rankings in previous articles, such as this one about Google Quick Answers so rather than reinvent the wheel in this post, here’s a quick definition of what Position Zero rankings actually are.

Position Zero rankings refer to gaining placement within Google’s Knowledge Base blocks that appear above Organic results and sometimes above PPC results.

These snippets of information, such as the aforementioned Quick Answers as well as the Recipe List snippets among others, are examples of Google getting a better understanding of what information a website is sharing. From there, it determines the value of that information and, if valuable enough, will show a small amount of the content as well as a link to your website in the Position Zero snippet box.

This is really important to understand, as when someone users Conversation A.I. through their Virtual Assistance, they will typically return the details within the Position Zero snippet box. This means that Position Zero is a huge deal when it comes to Conversational A.I.

Conversational A.I and Keyword Targeting

So now that we know how important Position Zero rankings are for Conversational A.I, we need to look at how we can determine what keywords we need to target through SEO. However, to do that, we need to change the way that we think about keywords.

As mentioned previously, Conversational A.I. takes the entered search query and looks at is as a whole, rather than individual keywords. This means that when it comes to keyword targeting through your content and metadata, you should keep in mind how people actually talk rather than how people have traditionally searched.

Going back to the previous example; the user searches for “how do I cook a Christmas dinner quickly”.

For this search term, rather than just sprinkling the keywords “Christmas dinner” and “quick Christmas dinner” in the content, you need to be more conversational (funnily enough). So you would set the page title as the question itself. Then, within the content, you would answer that question, referring to it as a whole within the content as you normally would have for normal keywords.

Here are two examples of a potential paragraph of content for that search terms. The first is using the old method of keyword targeting whilst the second is better for Conversational A.I.

Example 1 – Old Style Keyword Targeting

If you’re looking for a quick Christmas dinner recipe, then we have the perfect way to cook Christmas dinner for you! With this recipe, you’ll be able to get your Christmas dinner quickly to the table without the hassle of spending hours cooking your Turkey.

Example 2 – Conversational A.I Targeting

These days, everyone has a busy life. Because of that, they are always wondering “how do I cook a Christmas dinner quickly?” It can be really difficult to manage all of the different cooking times when trying to make sure all of the food finishes at the same time. To help you out with that, here’s our step by step guide to Christmas dinner. By following this, you’ll learn how you can cook Christmas dinner quickly.

Did you notice the difference in both of those paragraphs? Technically, they both say the exact same thing, enticing the user to continue reading so that they can see the recipe. However, the second one is far more conversational, flowing as if someone was actually saying it.

On top of this, you may have noticed that I still included a standard keyword; “Christmas dinner” without the question around it. This is because you still need to protect your SEO for type and touchscreen searches whilst also growing your rankings for Conversational A.I.

Time To Get Content Writing

So there you have it! Now you know what Conversational A.I. is and why it is a really powerful tool that you should be doing your best to take advantage of. Considering at least 40% of spoken results from Virtual Assistants feature Position Zero snippets (with some studies suggesting it can be as high as 80%), now is the time to get optimising!

Put together a new content strategy based on the most common questions asked about your services or products. Research these questions for search volume and value. Dive into all of the data you have about conversational search terms so that you can target your strategy correctly. The time is now!

If you need help with sorting out a content marketing strategy, or with targeting Conversational A.I. through SEO, then feel free to get in touch today!

Written by Gareth Torrance

Hello there. I'm Gareth, the Search Engine Marketing Lead at Brave. With almost a decade of experience in PPC and SEO, I've seen everything from Pandas and Penguins to the horrible time that was Mobilegeddon. As a Google Ads Certified Google Specialist, I have lived through almost every major shift in the industry! And that makes me feel old.

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