Industry Insights

Going Beyond in Technology with Acquia Labs

Today, innovation labs are springing up everywhere becoming very popular within tech companies. It’s a place where R & D groups can research and apply the newest technologies to help companies boost results today and futureproof their business. Acquia Labs is no exception.

Founded in 2007, Acquia is a software-as-a-service company co-founded by Dries Buytaert and Jay Batson that provides enterprise products, services, and technical support for the open-source web content management platform Drupal. With their constant growth of innovation Acquia Labs was formed in 2016.

Lately we have been hearing a lot about voice search capabilities, and its allure is undeniable – it's fast, smart, hands-free and it also lets you multitask. All major technology providers are investing in development and improvement of these intelligent digital assistants. Google has Google Assistant, Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa and Microsoft has Cortana. These voice-enabled virtual assistants are shaping an increasingly large part of consumers’ everyday lives. With numbers projected to increase rapidly as virtual assistant technology continues to develop and be perfected, this trend has revolutionized the way people search for content.

The rising use of voice search is getting to a point where businesses need to start taking voice seriously and begin to consider where it might fit into their customer experience and SEO strategies. Recently Acquia Labs announced the expanded voice enabled search technology – specifically conversational interface program. Last fall they started working with the State of Georgia. The goal was to improve their accessibility of by including voice search capabilities.

Here are some of their initial results from the Ask GeorgiaGov Alexa skill showed:

  • 79% of voice-enabled searches were completed successfully in the first eight months

  • Vehicle registration, driver’s licenses and state sales tax were among the most popular voice search topics

I was lucky enough to connect with Preston So, Director of Research and Innovation to ask him some questions with regards to the initiative and to see where voice search will head in the future.

Acquia Labs is a fairly new initiative, could you tell our readers a little bit about it and how it came about?

"The web is changing, and digital experiences are moving beyond the browser. In response to this changing world, we launched Acquia Labs. Our research and innovation lab aims to link together the new realities in our market, our customers’ needs in coming years, and the goals of Acquia’s products and open-source efforts in the long term.
The team operates an in-house R&D lab, partnering with some of the largest organizations to architect multichannel experiences and implement novel digital experiences. We’re giving companies new ways to reach customers - exploring areas like conversational computing, digital signage, and virtual and augmented reality."

Could you explain the progression of Acquia voice enabled search technology, and what need or needs in the market it specifically addresses?

"One of Acquia Labs’ first projects was with the State of Georgia to extend the accessibility of its information and services to all residents. Acquia and Digital Services Georgia collaborated to integrate Amazon Echo with the Drupal website. With this capability, citizens can easily ask their state offices questions. For example, Georgia residents can find out how to apply for a fishing license, transfer an out-of-state driver’s license, and register to vote just by consulting Alexa. Conversational interfaces can change civic engagement, and in the future, we’ll see this extend to our interactions with brands.

Acquia Labs recently launched its implementation of voice-enabled search on the website in collaboration with Nestlé Purina North America. Using technologies native to the browser, the Labs team explored how search by voice can improve customer engagement and free us from the device-specific confines of Siri and Alexa by reinventing how we can access content on the browser."

Can you give tips on how marketers should adapt to voice search?

"As AI and voice assistants continue to grow in popularity, brands can ensure their strategy is optimized for this new technology by getting to know their buyers, continuing to offer immersive experiences, and creating realistic goals. Before preparing a voice-assisted search strategy, marketers must look at consumers and determine if they even have a presence on voice-enabled devices. We also suggest marketers begin to experiment with this technology to determine how it performs for them. By using A/B testing, marketers can determine if messages are resonating better via voice, mobile app or browser. Once marketers examine all of their options, they can make an informed decision on how voice-enabled tech will work for their goals."

What role do you think voice will have in commerce, search and marketing strategies moving forward? How significant would you say this technology will be?

"Fifty percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, according to comScore. As consumers get more comfortable using these devices, marketers need to be prepared for how this technology will impact commerce, search and marketing strategies moving forward. The brands and merchants who take the lead in voice-enabled shopping will have an advantage by allowing consumers to explore shopping channels outside of browser and mobile apps. Consumers shop on a plethora of devices already, and this is only going to increase in the years to come."

Tips on How to Optimize for Voice Search

If you are thinking of including this technology here are some tips on how to optimize for voice search:

Mobile friendly site - This is an absolute must as the majority of voice searches start on a mobile device. Designing your website to be mobile friendly will also ensure that your pages perform well on all devices.
Write for humans - Writing for the web is completely different than writing for voice-enabled search, voice assistants pick up on the long-tail keywords you’ll naturally use to describe a product, service, event or fact. Moz reported that voice-enabled searches tend to be longer, containing more long-tail keywords. 

Keep all your resources crawlable - Make sure your mobile site doesn’t block CSS, JavaScript, images, videos, etc.

Write short answers to long questions - Voice assistants are supposed to help save time, so asking a quick question in hope of getting a quick answer is high on the list of consumer wants and needs.  Since many queries begin with Who, What, Where, Why and How. Start with your FAQ page. A study from Search Engine Land found that there’s been a 61 percent year-on-year growth in question phrases for voice-enabled search. Moreover, "Who" phrases were up 134 percent and "How” phrases were up 81 percent.

Avoid flash - Since flash isn’t supported by most mobile browsers. To make sure mobile visitors can access all content on your site, it’s best to avoid the use of Flash on your mobile pages.

Optimize load time - 40% of shoppers will only wait for three seconds before abandoning a site. Ensure you provide a quick mobile user experience.

Local intent - Voice search is becoming a fundamental aspect of local search. The very nature of local search is its local intent i.e. ‘restaurants near me’. You must rank high enough in local search to be selected by the digital assistant.

Ending Notes

While the voice search statistics reveal that the future of traditional search behaviors is changing, along with all the billions that are flowing into the artificial intelligence sector, voice-enabled virtual assistants are becoming a part of normal everyday life.

This trend is only going to increase as search engines, apps and developers respond. If your online business is not making considerations with voice search, your online business is falling behind. Voice search is not the next big thing; instead, it is today’s big thing. Acquia as a company never sits still and with its constant release of products and innovations, it will be very exciting to see what they will tackle next.

Natalie Evans

Natalie Evans

Natalie Evans has over 16-years in the tech industry and currently works as the event coordinator and tech reporter for CMS-Connected, keeping up-to-date on what's happening in and around the Content Management industry.

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