At I/O 2018, Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated the newest and most futuristic capability of Google Assistant: the ability to make phone calls on your behalf.  An awestruck crowd watched as Pinchai played a conversation between Google Assistant and a hair salon in which the assistant successfully schedules a 10 am appointment for its client.  The AI helper’s voice sounds so natural and the responses are so casually conversational, you would be hard-pressed to know that the assistant wasn’t actually human. (Check it out in the video above if you haven’t already).

The technology behind all of this? “We’ve been working on this technology for many years. It’s called Google Duplex.” Pinchai revealed.  Duplex combines everything Google has been developing in natural language understanding, deep learning, and text-to-speech.

This technology “..done correctly, [will] save time for people and generate a lot of value for businesses.”

Google Duplex is still very much in development and is currently only trained to execute specific tasks like scheduling appointments and booking reservations.  The first Google Duplex rollout forecasted is the ability to use this AI to improve business information on Google listings for users by having its voice assistant call local businesses.

The first iteration Pichai describes solves a common problem for small business owners: Google is well aware users flood the search engine with queries about special holiday hours for local businesses. When those queries don’t find up-to-date information, the floodgates for a high volume of calls to small businesses are opened. Google is hoping to use Duplex to solve this headache by using it to make a single phone call to a business inquiring about hours and use the information gathered to update their business listing for all users.

What Does This Mean for Digital Marketers?

Voice Search May Will Change The Future of Search

Savvy marketers have already been prepping themselves for a shift in the way users search due to smart speakers like the Google Home and Alexa. Google Duplex takes this one further: users are no longer searching for service-related or local keywords, but searching for specific actions and directives. A user no longer is searching for an ‘eye doctor near me’ but a ‘vision exam appointment for tomorrow at 2 pm’. Both search marketers and business owners will need to adapt and optimize for this conversion-specific query.

More Opportunities for All Kinds of Conversions

The #1 goal for the majority of digital marketing efforts is to increase conversions and the overall bottom-line for business owners. Google has already told us that voice searches are 30 times more likely to be action queries than their typed search counterparts. For those who are fully-optimized online, Google Duplex magnifies this and gives businesses a bigger chance to increase their chance of conversions. The basic building blocks of local search like an accurate business listing and continually taking advantage of updates to Google My Business and trends in website optimization may continue to pay out in spades during the age of voice search.

Reliance on SEO Versus a Standard Screen

The most intriguing factor in the AI assistant equation? A user using Google Duplex technology is able to perform functions without the need to navigate a screen. What this means for a traditional website is really yet to be seen, but savvy SEO’s and search marketers have already begun to optimize their websites with structured markups and by changing the way they predict and measure search queries.  We have already seen the way rapid mobile adoption shaped what keywords and phrases users search (i.e. the rise of ‘near me’ queries), now it’s time to apply what we learned through mobile and predict how voice will further change search queries.

Paid Voice Search Advertising?

It’s not here yet- but it’s hard to imagine a future in which Google does not monetize voice search in some way.  Paid advertising via Google Home may be a direct path into the living rooms and lives of your prospects in the future.

How and When to Start?

How many resources marketers and business owners invest in the future of voice search will be contingent on how fast and how strong Google’s user adoption is. If you sell a good or service that people will want to conceivably use a voice assistant for, you may want to get ready today.