Last year we wrote about how Google Voice Search is already affecting SEO practices. We predicted that websites will soon (or even now!) need to start adapting new SEO strategies due to the increasing popularity of voice search platforms. SEO specialists should therefore start thinking about shifting their focus from single keywords to using conversational tones when creating content.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is expected by Gartner to manage 85 percent of customer relations by 2020, and Google Voice Search is just one of the ways in which AI is shaping the future of the way we behave online and, due to that, the future of SEO.
In this post, we will have a look at chatbots, which are an offspring of AI-based computer programs. They can be used as digital marketing tools in order to enhance the digital presence of your business, while improving its Google ranking if used correctly.
What are chatbots?
Chatbots are considered by some as the newest tech fad. The concept of a computer program able to chat with people is not new, however it was only when Facebook launched its Facebook Messenger in 2016 that some techies consider to be the start of the chatbot trend.
Chatbots are increasingly popular as a marketing tool – in a survey published on Business Insider, 80 percent of senior marketers in the UK, the Netherlands, France and South Africa said they are either already using or planning to use chatbots as a part of their marketing strategy by 2020.
What’s more, 60 percent of chatbot users are 13 to 19 years old – younger generations will most likely use them increasingly, and so not only can chatbots be a thing to consider due to their growing digital native user base, but also if your business is targeting younger generations as its main customer group.
There are two main ways of using chatbots: as a part of a website, or even more commonly, as a part of a messaging app. The latter is particularly significant as in 2015, for the first time ever, the number of people using messaging apps overtook the number of people using social networking apps.
What’s more, a lot of chatbot activity will be likely to happen on messenger apps, as people are oversaturated with mobile apps in general – in 2016, 50 percent of US adults didn’t download a single mobile app.
Examples of chatbot use in messaging apps are showcased particularly well by ecommerce sites. eBay launched its ShopBot using Facebook Messenger in late 2016, and is often put as an example of a great use of a chatbot. The company first started experimenting with chatbots to send auction bidders notifications, with its ShopBot now evolved into a “deal-finding friend”.
For an ecommerce site with such a wide product range, allowing customers to narrow their search and find what they’re looking for without having to apply filters on a website or an app is definitely a clever way to enhance customer engagement.
While there is no official data in terms of the results ShopBot has had, eBay’s VP of Engingeering, Japjit Tulsi, speaks very highly of investing in chatbots and AI-driven platforms, predicting they are the future of ecommerce.
There are three main ways of getting a chatbot based in a messaging app such as Facebook Messenger:
- Using a self-service platform such as Chatfuel to build one;
- Using ready chatbots provided by messaging apps, like in Kik Bot Shop;
- Developing one from a scratch.
Other than utilising messaging apps, some businesses use chatbots for SEO purposes on their website. Thanks to platforms such as LiveChat, incorporating chatbots into websites is now relatively easy, and therefore has the potential to be increasingly common. Think about how many times you saw a chat box open up on a website you visited – yes, these were all chatbots!
In fact, if you read the article by RubyGarage mentioned above, you probably noticed their very own chatbot:
RubyGarage has not published statistics in terms of its chatbot conversion rates (or we couldn’t find them 😉 ), however we are guessing that if a web developer company is using a chatbot, that most probably means it is delivering desirable results.
Chatbots – can they improve SEO?
Using a chatbot can improve your SEO ranking, but only if it enhances customer experience on your site. For example, if customers coming to your website often have questions about a particular product or service, having a chatbot could be a good idea as it could save time for both you and your customers – your customers won’t have to look for answers and/or try to contact you, and you will save time on not having to answer those reoccuring questions. In this scenario, having a chatbot not only saves you time, but also potentially money otherwise spent on customer service. And what’s more, chatbots have the added advantage of being available 24/7.
Chatbots for SEO purposes also have the potential to engage users and increase the time your customers spend on your site, which is one of the variables Google takes into account when deciding on page rankings. Increasingly, commercial brands seem to be looking to chatbots as a way to enhance customer relations without high ongoing costs. Sephora, a beauty giant, is cleverly using chatbots as a part of its marketing strategy – its chatbot Sephora Virtual Artist was used by 4 million users within the first 6 months of its launch.
But, as Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, says, using chatbots as a part of your marketing strategy doesn’t actually make your Google ranking better by itself.
This is because chatbots need to suit your business strategy and have a clear role in benefiting your business, while providing value to your customers. Otherwise they are unnecessary – having a chatbot no one uses is a waste of time and money.
How can you use chatbots to improve your SEO?
If you decide that having a chatbot would benefit your business, there are a three key things to consider in order to maximise its benefits to your SEO:
- Your chatbot should add value to your services and provide value to your customers – an example of that is Sephora which allows users try its make up without having to leave their house thanks to its chatbot.
- Your chatbot should provide customer assistance you otherwise wouldn’t be able to provide – an example of that is a chatbot answering customer enquiries 24/7, which could work especially well for businesses with international customer base due to time zone differences.
- Your chatbot should be as personal as it can be and able to learn – business owners need to be careful as chatbots are often accused of lacking empathy, and therefore can create negative customer experience. This issue could potentially be solved if the chatbot is being used to serve one clear purpose, for example providing information about service pricing, while not pretending to make a great conversation partner.
Making sure you tick all of the boxes above should set you on the way of having a chatbot that will add to your business, and therefore, your Google ranking. Chatbots can improve SEO, but only if used well.