Optimizing for New Types of Search

The Subscription Economy Matures
March 10, 2020
Personal Robots and Robot Butlers
March 10, 2020

Optimizing for New Types of Search

Is our content optimized for voice search? And, looking further into the future, how should we index our content for future forms of interaction?

Key Insight

As voice interfaces proliferate in people’s lives, publishers and other organizations face a new strategic consideration: Is our content optimized for voice search? And, looking further into the future, how should we index our content for future forms of interaction?

Why It Matters

Most people still find the majority of information they consume through search.


A number of companies are racing to index podcasts, radio shows and music, just as Google has done so for traditional, text-based web content. Companies like Trint help publishers transcribe audio to make it more searchable by traditional crawlers, while other startups like Audioburst are trying to use technology to actually “listen” to data previously locked into a waveform and make these units of audio more navigable. Audioburst’s technology ingests and analyzes audio and uses natural language processing to understand its contents, contextualize it and make it all searchable. At the same time, the line between old-fashioned web pages and audio content is blurring.

New markup tools let publishers help machines (like voice assistant A.I.s) “read” written content and translate it into spoken audio. Google recently released a structured data markup called Speakable that publishers can use to optimize their content by marking up sections of news articles and optimize them to be read aloud by Google’s smart assistant. (The specifications are listed on Schema.org.) The ultimate goal is to deliver a seamless experience when a user asks their digital assistant: “Tell me the news.”

For now, a cottage industry of new formats and distributors is growing to bridge the gap between what newsrooms produce today and native programming that fits the syntax of spoken interaction. The startup Spoken Layer and pilot partnerships between Google and select news organizations are taking on this challenge.

What’s Next

Voice Search Optimization (VSO) is the new Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Companies will need to consider how their content is delivered via conversational interfaces. As VSO catches on, we may see marketers and publishers attempt to outsmart voice search algorithms with black hat trickery.

The algorithms will need to adapt accordingly, deterring manipulation of search optimization without docking legitimate content sources (a challenge we’ve seen play out before on the pre-voice web). Spatial computing is in its infancy today, but it will raise similarly complex questions for creators.

In the future, consumers might expect to be served stories that are relevant to what they are looking at through smart glasses. Do today’s content management systems support the kinds of indexing that anticipate that technology?

The Impact

Searches based on conversation or what a user is looking at will be highly contextual, requiring sophisticated algorithms to anticipate the intent of a query and the relevancy of results.


Amazon, Apple, Audioburst, Facebook, Google, Listen Notes, Spoken Layer, Trint, and marketing and news organizations everywhere.