Google I/O 2019 Part 1: From Answers to Actions

May 16th, 2019

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Raymie Equi, Director of Search & Analytics  ( Twitter | LinkedIn )
Updated On: May 16, 2019

Voice search, digital assistants, and smart home devices have been all the rage for several years now. The proliferation of these technologies and devices have given users more ways to find the answers to their questions than ever before. In fact, at last week’s Google I/O, the search engine giant doubled down on the importance of its machine learning-powered Google Assistant, and its ability to do much more than merely answer our questions.

Google I/O is the company’s premier developer conference. The event is held annually to debut their latest and greatest innovations and brand new toys for us to play with. From the new Pixel 3a affordable smartphone to a 3D augmented reality shark on the stage in Mountain View, the event did not disappoint.

Google’s primary mission is to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” However, one of the most jarring lines from CEO Sundar Pichai’s keynote took the mission statement to another level: “Moving from a company that finds you answers to a company that helps you get things done.”

This is a big deal. Google no longer wants to solely display search results. They want to provide an immersive, automated experience to help users accomplish everyday tasks such as making reservations at a hair salon or booking a rental car.

Last year at I/O, Google Duplex technology both captivated and confounded the audience by placing an automated call to a hair salon to make a reservation. In an era where robocalling has become such a societal annoyance, it was inevitable that the focus (at least for this year’s demo) shifted away from Google Assistant making phone calls for you to a different type of technology.

“Duplex on the Web” is indeed a new take, but the focus remains the same: Helping you get things done. In this year’s demonstration, asking the Google Assistant to book a rental car for an upcoming trip, the Assistant was then able to navigate through National Car Rental’s online reservation and checkout process to accomplish the task at hand.

The idea here is that certain tasks on the web are complicated and time-consuming. Renting a car on a mobile website is typically about a ten-step (and screen) process. If users leave during the workflow, businesses lose out on potential customers. Google wants to make sure users have the tools to get things done. Consumers win. Businesses win.

While Pichai bragged that Duplex on the Web requires no integration from the business, the reality is slightly more complicated. Just because your business has an eCommerce website, doesn’t mean automated bookings for your brilliant cat massage spa concept will finally start rolling in.

As digital marketers, we must create digital experiences that support Google’s new mission. It is no longer adequate to put the words that will answer searchers questions on your website. To fully embrace this paradigm (and soon-to-be algorithm) shift, your digital presence will need to contain structured markup that Google can clearly and quickly understand.

Based on this, we can create an extremely oversimplified on-page search engine optimization (SEO) framework for 2019:

  1. Your webpage should offer the best solution on the web for the given search query – This hasn’t changed much.
  2. Include actionable schema.org structured data that Google can utilize on its multiple digital properties and devices. Google Assistant’s AI is impressive, but we can help it to help us.

With rich results and featured snippets, search engine results pages have been moving towards Google’s goal of providing solutions as well as answers for some time now. There are more ways than ever to appear at the top of Google, but only for the brands that help their users accomplish something.

Armed with all of the knowledge and announcements from Google I/O 2019, we as digital marketers are more prepared than ever to help businesses jump to the top of Google. Next week, I’ll dive deeper into structured data, and how it could help your company’s digital presence.