Geotargeting is when you serve a user content, based on their location. There are several ways to determine where a user is located, for example by checking IP-address, device ID or even using GPS. It can be beneficial to present your user content that’s customized for their locale, for instance using familiar imagery.

Still, it pays off to give some thought to the implications for your site’s SEO if you start using geotargeting. And of course, make sure you don’t go through all this trouble, without properly implementing everything!

Rufino emailed us his question on the subject:

“We’re considering using a geotargeting tool on our WordPress site, in which images and content on the landing page will change based on the city the person viewing is located. How will doing this impact SEO?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Changing content based on the location of your visitors

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“Well, to be honest, even if a lot of this stuff on the page changes, Google always comes from Mountain View, California. That’s what it will report. So, that’s the only version that will be in the search results if all those changes are being shown everywhere.

If content really changes then I would suggest changing the URL and doing an hreflang implementation. If it’s just images, you don’t need to worry as much. But if it’s really content that’s changing, then you should probably look at our Multilingual SEO Course and look at how Hreflang works and what you can do about that. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Perhaps we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: hreflang: the ultimate guide »

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Hooking up your site to services like Google Analytics provides you with a wealth of knowledge and data about visitors on your site. But it can be hard to know how to interpret all this data. And of course, you should also think about what your goals are. What’s most important for you may differ, based on the purpose of your site.

For example, you can have a site with a low bounce rate, but also with a low amount of traffic. Is that a good or a bad thing? The truth is, it probably depends on several things. Like what? Let’s get into that in this Ask Yoast!

John Brown emailed us his question on interpreting analytics data:

From an SEO point of view which is better to have: a lower bounce rate and lower traffic to the site or a higher bounce rate and higher traffic to the site?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Which is better: low or high bounce rate and traffic?

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“That’s a tough question to answer in a generic form, but usually, I would say that if you’re relevant to all the traffic, then having more traffic is probably better because then you can optimize for people not to bounce away.

But if you’re not relevant for a lot of that traffic, then having less traffic is probably better because that means you get more targeted traffic, which actually wants to see you and that usually means that you’ll stick around longer in the long run. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Perhaps we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: ‘Understanding bounce rate in Google Analytics’ »

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Affiliate marketing is a means to monetize your blog or website. You can recommend products on your site with a trackable link from your affiliate partner, or put that link in an ad. If someone clicks on the link and buys a product through your site, you’ll get a commission.

Especially if your site has many visitors and high credibility, you’ll have a good chance that your audience is willing to follow your recommendations. Still, it’s definitely a good idea to give some thought to how you implement affiliate marketing on your site. For instance, do you write blog posts to promote affiliate products, or create seperate pages? And if you choose the latter option, what’s the best way to do that? Let’s discuss in today’s Ask Yoast!

Davide Roccato emailed his question on the subject:

I want to create a number of landing pages on my news blog, targeted for affiliate marketing. What’s the best way to do this from an SEO point of view? Should I create them as pages or should I create a new custom segment so these are parallel to my blog post and pages?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

The best way to create landing pages for affiliate marketing

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“Honestly, from an SEO point of view it doesn’t really matter. What works best for you in the backend it’s probably what works best. The only advantage that a custom post would give you is that you’d have a separate section in Yoast SEO to set the titles, a separate XML sitemap so you can see their indexation in Google search console a lot better, so you’d get slightly better handling on the SEO side. But I don’t think that it has to be a problem so just choose what works best for you. Good luck.”

 

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Perhaps we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: ‘How to cloak your affiliate links’ »

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A few years ago, Google announced the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, and it’s becoming increasingly important for all kinds of websites. AMP is a technology to make webpages faster on mobile devices, improving loading times by stripping some of the design.

Initially, AMP was mainly relevant for static content, like blogposts or news articles, that didn’t need interaction from the user. But these days, it’s also useful for dynamic types of pages that site owners of (small) businesses might want to use. Implementing AMP on your site can be a bit daunting if you’re new to technical SEO. But if you manage to get it right, you may even end up preferring the clean, focused look of your AMP pages.

That was definitely the case for William Anderson, who emailed us on the subject:

I’m thinking of redirecting all my responsive pages to my AMP pages because I prefer their look. The AMP pages click through rate is astounding but I’m wondering what the SEO implications will be.

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Redirecting responsive pages to AMP pages

“Well, to be honest, what do you call a responsive page? If you have separate mobile pages that you can redirect to your AMP pages: perfectly fine, go for it. If you have a responsive version of your website, then doing that is actually technically very hard and not something I’d recommend.

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Google is pushing the idea of what they call canonical AMP, so the idea that AMP is the only version of your page. If that fits your business, by all means go for it. Because I think it’s a very good idea for your click-through rate and a lot of other things in terms of rankings. I hope that helps. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Perhaps we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: ‘Setting up WordPress for AMP’ »

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Finding the right structure for your site can be difficult, but it’s an important thing to figure out for your SEO. It’ll not only guide your visitors to the content they’re looking for, but also help the search engines understand what content on your site is most important.

Dividing your content into groups, using categories and tags, is a great way to structure your content. Naming these categories and tags is where it can get difficult, especially if you have several different taxonomies on your site. You’re probably aware that you shouldn’t have a category and a tag with the same name. But what about tags and categories that are in a different taxonomy?

Andrew emailed us his question on site structure and taxonomies:

“I know it’s bad to use a tag that you also use as a category. However is it okay to use the name of a category from one taxonomy as a tag in a different taxonomy?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Is it OK to reuse a category name as a tag in another taxonomy?

“Well, the problem is that the name is also the search term, and if someone searches for that term, which page on your site should they land on? Which is the most important one? How do you tell that to Google?

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If you have both, then you have to find a way to link from one to the other and deem one more important and that’s actually hard to do. So if you can avoid it, avoid it. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Perhaps we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com, and your question may be featured in one of our weekly Ask Yoast vlogs.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: ‘What is the difference between tags and categories?’ »

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If you know a specialist or influencer in your niche, interviewing them and writing an article about it for your site can be a great idea. It’ll give your readers a different perspective, and it offers a nice change from regular blog posts. At Yoast, we have a tag for interviews, and we enjoy the chance to share with you what all kinds of experts from the world of SEO have to say!

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After going through the trouble of interviewing someone, you’ll want the resulting article to rank, whether it’s the first or the hundredth interview you’ve published. Depending on your niche, interview-based articles can even make up a significant part of the content. If that’s the case, you should still keep the rules for creating quality content in mind. But, are there any specific tips for optimizing interview-based content?

Ben emailed us this question on optimizing interview-based content:

“If we publish an interview-based article, is it a good thing or a bad thing SEO-wise to use header tags as the interview questions? If it’s a good thing would you recommend a particular header tag? At the moment we are using <h2>.

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Which heading tag should you use for interview questions?

“You know what I think, Ben? That you should think less. This is honestly overthinking SEO. The h2 tag you’re using now is perfectly fine.

Think about the quality of your content more than about the tags that you’re using on that page. If the quality of that content goes up, that does a whole lot more for your SEO than thinking about the specific tags. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Maybe we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: ‘How to use headings on your site’ »

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In our major Yoast SEO 7.0 update, there was a bug concerning attachment URL’s. We quickly resolved the bug, but some people have suffered anyhow (because they updated before our patch). This post serves both as a warning and an apology. We want to ask all of you to check whether your settings for the redirect of the attachment URL’s are correct. And, for those of you who suffered from a decrease in rankings because of incorrect settings, we offer a solution that Google has OKed as well.

Is redirect attachment URLs set to “Yes”?

You need to check this manually: unless you have a very specific reason to allow attachment URLs to exist (more on that below), the setting should be set to “Yes” . If the setting says “Yes”, you’re all set. You can find this setting in Search Appearance, in the tab Media.

media attachment urls setting in Yoast SEO

Is your attachment URL set to “No”?

If your attachment URL is set to “no”, there are two different scenario’s which could apply to you. You could intentionally have set this setting to “no”, but the setting  could also be turned to “no” without your intent.

Intentionally set to “No”

If you intentionally put the setting of the attachment URL to “No”, you’ll probably be aware of that fact. In that case, your attachment URL’s are an important aspect of your site. You’re linking actively to these pages and these pages have real content on them (more than just a photo). This could for instance apply to a photography site. If you want this setting to say “No”, you’ll probably have put a lot of thought in this. In this case, you can leave your setting to “no”. You’re all set!

Unintentionally set to “No”

It is also possible that you notice that the setting is set to “No” and this was not intentionally. You’ve suffered from our bug. We’re so very sorry. You should switch your toggle to “Yes” and save the changes. Perhaps you need to do a little bit more, though. There are (again) two scenario’s:

Traffic and ranking is normal

Ask yourself the following question: have you noticed any dramatic differences in your rankings and traffic in the last three months (since our 7.0 update of march 6th)? If the answer to this question is no, than you should just turn the redirect setting of the attachment URL to “Yes” and leave it at that. You did not suffer from any harm in rankings, probably because you’re not using attachment URL’s all that much anyway. This will be the case for most sites. After switching your toggle to “Yes” and saving the changes, you’re good to go!

Traffic and ranking have decreased

In the second scenario, you notice that the redirect attachment URL setting is set to “No” and you did indeed suffer from a dramatic decrease in traffic and ranking. We’re so very sorry about that. Make sure to switch the setting of the attachment URL to “Yes” immediately.  In order to help you solve your ranking problem, we have built a search index purge plugin. Download and install this plugin here. More on the working of this separate plugin below.

What to do if you’re not sure

If you’re not sure whether you’ve been affected by this, and your Google Search Console is inconclusive: don’t do anything other than setting the setting to “Yes”. See “What did Google say” below for the rationale.

What do attachment URL’s do anyway?

When you upload an image in WordPress, WordPress does not only store the image, it also creates a separate so-called attachment URL for every image. These attachment URLs are very “thin”: they have little to no content outside of the image. Because of that fact, they’re bad for SEO: they inflate the number of pages on your site while not increasing the amount of quality content. This is something that WordPress does, which our plugin takes care off (if the setting is correctly turned to “Yes”).

Historically, we had had a (default off) setting that would redirect the attachment URL for an image to the post the image was attached to. So if I uploaded an image to this post, the attachment URL for that image would redirect to this post. In the old way of dealing with this, it meant that images added for other reasons (like say, a site icon, or a page header you’d add in the WordPress customizer), would not redirect.  It also meant that if you used an image twice, you could not be certain where it would redirect.

In Yoast SEO 7.0 we introduced a new feature to deal with these pages. Now, we default to redirecting the attachment URL to the image itself. This basically means attachment URLs no longer exist on your site at all. This actually is a significant improvement.

What did the bug do (wrong)?

The bug was simple yet very painful: when you updated from an earlier version of Yoast SEO to Yoast SEO 7.0-7.0.2 (specifically those versions), we would not always correctly convert the setting you had for the old setting into the new one. We accidentally set the setting to ‘no’. Because we overwrote the old settings during the update, we could not revert this bug later on.

The impact of the bug

For some sites our bug might have a truly bad impact. In Twitter and Facebook discussions I’ve had, I’ve been shown sites that had the number of indexed URLs on their site quintupled, without adding any content. Because with that setting being “No” XML sitemaps was enabled for attachments. As a result of that, lots and lots of attachment URLs got into Google’s index. Some of those sites are now suffering from Panda-like problems. The problem will be specifically big if you have a lot of pictures on your website and few high quality content-pages. In these cases,  Google will think you’ve created a lot of ‘thin content’ pages all of a sudden.

The vast majority of the websites running Yoast SEO probably hasn’t suffered at all. Still, we messed up. I myself, am sorry. More so than normal, because I came up with and coded this change myself…

What did Google say?

We have good contacts at Google and talk to them regularly about issues like these. In this case, we discussed it with John Mueller and his first assessment was similar to mine: sites should normally not suffer from this. That’s why we don’t think drastic measures are needed for everyone. Let me quote him:

“Sites generally shouldn’t be negatively affected by something like this. We often index pages like that for normal sites, and they usually don’t show up in search. If they do show up for normal queries, usually that’s a sign that the site has other, bigger problems. Also, over the time you mentioned, there have been various reports on twitter & co about changes in rankings, so if sites are seeing changes, I’d imagine it’s more due to normal search changes than anything like this.”

We’ve also discussed potential solutions with him. The following solution has been OK’d by him as the best and fastest solution.

What does this search index purge plugin do?

The purpose of the search index purge plugin is to purge attachment URLs out of the search results as fast as possible. Just setting the Yoast SEO attachment URL redirect setting to “Yes” isn’t fast enough. When you do that, you no longer have XML sitemaps or anything else that would make Google crawl those pages, and thus it could take months for Google to remove those URLs. That’s why I needed to be creative.

Installing this plugin will do the following two things:

  • Every attachment URL will return a 410 status code.
  • A static XML sitemap, containing all the attachment URLs on a given site will be created. The post modified date for each of those URLs is the activation date and time of the plugin.

The XML sitemap with recent post modified date will make sure that Google spiders all those URLs again. The 410 status code will make sure Google takes them out of its search results in the fastest way possible.

After six months the attachment URLs should be gone from the search results. You should then remove the search index purge plugin, and keep the redirect setting of the attachment URLs set to “Yes”.

Advice: keep informed!

We try to do the very best we can to help you get the best SEO out of your site. We regularly update our configuration wizard and there is no harm whatsoever in running through it again. Please regularly check if your site’s settings are still current for your site. We do make mistakes, and this release in particular has led us to a rigorous post mortem on all the stages of this release’s process.

We regularly write about things that change in Google, so stay up to date by subscribing to our newsletter below. If you want to understand more of the how and why of all this, please do also take our new, free, SEO for Beginners course, which you’ll get access to when you sign up.

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If you own a business in a small town near a big city, you’re probably a bit jealous of your competitors in this big city. The search volume for that city will most likely be significantly larger, and with that, the amount of potential customers as well.

So, is there any way you can still benefit from this proximity of potential customers? Perhaps if you also appear to be located in this city? You could, for example, easily use the name of a city in your URL, even if your business is actually located in the neighboring town. But how does this affect your SEO? And are there perhaps other reasons to avoid doing this? Let’s discuss in today’s Ask Yoast!

Vincent Ramos emailed us his dilemma:

I have a website with a city name in the URL, but my actual location is in the neighboring city, which gets smaller search volume. Our NAP is in the footer of every page with our actual address. Does it hurt my SEO that there’s a different city in the URL?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Adding a different location to your URL than your actual location

“Does it hurt your SEO? No, but it might hurt your visitors when they come and visit your site because they expect you to be in city A and you’re not. So, I’d always tend to go to the side of honesty: just say that you’re in the city that you’re actually in.

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You’ll find that actually being close to the center of the city that you want to be found in is very important in terms of local SEO. It’s very annoying, but that’s how most of the local rankings work. So, don’t lie, put your real location in your website URL if you can. See how that reflects on people and just say on your page, “We’re very close to ‘whatever the name of the city is’…”, because that’s the honest truth that usually lasts longer than any tricks around that. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Maybe we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about the Yoast SEO plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: ‘Ranking your local business’ »

 

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We regularly receive questions about category pages and similar pages. It seems some of you are unsure of how to properly implement these. And sure, it’s good to think about this, as pages like category or tag pages can be thin content, if you do nothing to improve them. But you can also use these pages to your advantage!

It’s a good idea to give your category and tag pages some TLC, so there’s sufficient content on them. For product category pages, that means adding some text about that particular type of product, for example. So, what about food blogs? What should you do with your category and tag pages to help your recipes rank as best they can?

Analida Braeger emailed us her question on the subject:

Is it true that leaving tags, categories and paginated content open on a food blog hurts the ability of existing recipes to rank effectively? Should these be blocked with a ‘noindex, follow’ robots tag?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!

Should you noindex tags and categories on food blogs?

“No, don’t noindex those pages. Category and tag pages are very important pages that you want crawled a lot. As soon as you start noindexing them, Google will crawl them less and less. So you shouldn’t do that.

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What you should do is optimize your category and tag pages for terms that are groups. So, if you have recipes, then you have groups of recipes too, and you should optimize those category and tag pages for those terms.

You should make sure that, for instance, for pasta recipes, your category page for that is good enough for people to land on. So, you should improve on those pages and make them better landing pages to land on from the search results and then they will get traffic for terms that are broader than the average recipe, and they’d be perfect pages. So, don’t noindex follow them, instead improve them. Good luck.”

Read on: ‘Using category and tag pages for SEO’ »

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Perhaps you heard about Google Duplex? You know, the artificial assistant that called a hairdresser to make an appointment? Fascinating technology, but what is it exactly? And does it affect search or SEO? In this post, I’ll explain what Google Duplex is. And, I’ll raise some ethical issues I have with it. Finally, I will go into the consequences of Google Duplex for SEO.

What is Google Duplex?

Google Duplex is an experimental new technology that Google demoed at Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference. This technology allows Google to mimic human conversation. Google is quick to say that at this point, it’s only trained for specific fields.

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Google showed a video in which a robot makes an appointment for a hairdressers appointment by calling that hairdresser and having an actual conversation. If you haven’t seen a demo of it yet, check out this video first.

Is it good?

Last Wednesday at the Google I/O conference, John Hennessy said about Google Duplex: “In the domain of making appointments, it passes the Turing test.” The Turing test is a test that determines whether a human is indistinguishable from a robot. This means that the robot used in Google Duplex is not distinguishable from an actual human being.

John Hennessy is the chairman of the board of Google’s parent company Alphabet. He is also quite a hero in the field of computer science. When he says something like that — even about his own company — it’s worth thinking about.

John Hennessy was pretty quick to point out that it passes in only one specific field: the task of booking appointments. “It doesn’t pass it in general terms, but it passes in that specific domain. And that’s really an indication of what’s coming.” Which gets us to ethics.

The ethics of AI that’s this good

When you have an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can interact with people, as Google Duplex can, you need to think about ethics. Luckily, people have been thinking about precisely these kinds of ethics problems for a long time. The first set of rules you’ll run into when you search around ethics concerning AI are Isaac Asimov’s famous three laws of robotics, introduced in his 1942 (!) short story Runaround:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

While this laid the groundwork for almost all of the science fiction around robots, most of that doesn’t necessarily immediately come into play now. But since then, people have started adding on the three laws of robotics. The most well-known “fourth law of robotics” was added by novelist Lyuben Dilov, in his book Icarus’s Way. This law is as follows:

A robot must establish its identity as a robot in all cases.

Now, go back to the video linked above. Nowhere does that assistant state it’s a bot. In fact, it has mannerisms that make it very human. I think that’s wrong and I think people were rightly calling Google out on that. Google has already stated that they will change that. I’m curious how exactly. Let’s say I am skeptical. Google does not always communicate their intentions clearly. I mean: Google says it discloses which results are ads in its search results and which results aren’t. However, most ‘non-tech’ people don’t know what exactly is an ad and what is an organic result.  We’ll have to wait and see, or maybe, hear.

Security implications

In the wrong hands, this type of technology is incredibly scary. Did you know that it now takes less than 1 minute of recorded audio to reasonably accurately simulate somebody’s voice? Combine that with the inferior systems of security we currently have for phone conversations with, for instance, banks, and you have a potential disaster on your hands.

What will Google Duplex be used for?

The examples we’ve seen so far indicate that Google Duplex can be used to make straightforward phone calls – to plan meetings and make reservations. These examples fit the personal assistant purpose for which Google Assistant is promoted. But if an AI becomes this good at consumer interaction, of course, businesses will want to use it to receive phone calls as well. They could use it for helpdesks and other types of calls that we now task entire call centers with.

Future use of Google Duplex?

It is hard to say when Google Duplex will be used on a large scale. This might not happen next year or even the year after. But it’s definitely going faster than most people outside of the tech bubble realize. If Google Duplex can be trained to make a restaurant booking, it can also be trained to take your new credit card application. And, since it is an AI, it would be much faster and less error-prone than a human would be at performing your credit check.

Look at a Google Duplex-like system for receiving calls as a nice extension to the phone call conversion tracking system Google already has. Google could indeed take your credit card application. Or, without even all that much training, do the other side of the second example call in the video above and take the entire reservation system for a restaurant and automate it. The question then becomes: what if your digital assistant calls into the Duplex powered system on the other side? Will they use human-like conversation to get the job done? Will we end up with human speech as the ultimate computer to computer language?

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How does this impact search and SEO?

Google Duplex might not seem to have a direct impact on search, but consider this: if your Google Assistant can have conversations like this with your hairdresser and your restaurant of choice, will you have these conversations with him/her too? Suddenly you can talk to your phone and sound like you’re talking to your secretary, instead of sounding like the freak who talks to his phone or watch. Search becomes even more conversational and queries get more complicated.

When queries get more complicated, context becomes more important than ever. And now we’re back to what we’ve been writing about for quite a while here at Yoast: you need to write awesome content. I really can’t add much to what Marieke wrote in that post, so read it.

The other side of how this impacts SEO is more technical. For AIs to be efficient, it’s far easier to rely on structured data. If you use a standards-based system like Schema.org for things like reservations, all Google has to do is tie into that. Suddenly, it doesn’t have to retrain its system for a new booking engine; it can just detect that you use Schema.org for that, and poof, it just works.

Next steps

So what’s next? Well, now we wait. We wait until we get to play with this. We’ll have to figure out how good this truly is before we can do anything else.

Read more: ‘Readability ranks!’ »

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