How the rise of AEO will change your marketing strategy – for the better


You may have been investing heavily into your SEO strategy for many years – but have you considered your company’s approach towards AEO yet?

AEO stands for answer engine optimisation. An answer engine is in many ways similar to a search engine in that it presents a user with a response to a query, but it doesn’t give you the opportunity to compare results. It uses its own complex algorithm, plus the information that’s readily available about any given entity, to deliver one highly targeted reply that – in theory – should be the only answer you need.

AEO certainly isn’t a new idea. What’s bringing it further into focus, however, is the fact that technology is now evolving to support the concept.

Voice search is fuelling the move towards AEO

Conversational search – and more specifically, voice search – is fuelling new online behaviours.

As Jason Barnard noted in his SEMRush article back in February, “search evolves with the devices we use”. The significant shift in recent years from desktop to mobile has had a “major impact on search behaviour”, and the way in which we search is changing even more thanks to the advent of voice-controlled apps and voice-driven assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana.

Just 4 years ago, only 25% of Brits were using voice search daily. That figure has since risen to 42%. Consumers are increasingly taking advance of the speed and convenience of voice search, and adoption shows no signs of slowing down.

What does this mean for marketers?

Position #0 is the new Position #1

Traditionally, a search engine will display a mixture of organic and paid ads in the list format we’ve all come to know and love. The user typically compares, then chooses, the most suitable answer to their query by scrolling through the first page or two of results.

Now, however, we increasingly expect the search engines to know exactly which answer is the best fit for the question, and be able to present it to us straightaway.

When it comes to AEO, you’re no longer looking to rank alongside the competition on the first page of results; you’re hoping to be the only result for a specific search query. So as a marketer, you need to make sure that you provide enough information (structured in the right way) to meet the demands of any user, regardless of the nature of their enquiry.

You need to live in the micro-moment

A micro-moment occurs when a person reflexively turns to a device such as a smartphone to take a certain action. For example, they may want to learn something, research something, do something or buy something. In this instance, their search is driven by intent, and the results presented during the micro-moment are instrumental in supporting the individual’s preferences and decisions.

Your job now, as a marketer, is to appeal to the micro-moment. The only way you can do this is by supplying as much information about your business as possible to the search index. As Jason says in a recent webinar for Trustpilot, you need to appeal to the search engine’s capacity to categorise, and trust that the technology will organise and present your data effectively.

Adjust your keyword strategy

Keyword targeting will play a new role in your AEO strategy, because voice users search using different semantics.

Regular search queries – ie, those typed into a desktop browser – tend to be:

  • Short
  • Specific
  • Standalone statements that often don’t make sense out of context

There are higher search volumes on these key terms, but low to medium intent from the user.

On the other hand, voice search queries are:

  • Longer
  • Phrased as questions instead of statements
  • Often tied to a location with the mention of a town, city or region, or the use of phrases such as ‘local’ and ‘near me’

There are lower search volumes on these key phrases, but much higher intent from the user, because the query is more specific.

Appeal to the lowly-searched phrases, and you may limit your exposure – but you will appear more relevant for niche searches, and will therefore be more likely to hit Position #0!

Take active steps to increase your chances of being found in an answer engine

An answer engine needs to perceive your brand as credible if it is going to consider your business as a viable option for the user. It also needs to understand your location in order to ‘match’ you with people who are conducting regional searches (either knowingly within their key phrase, or unknowingly based on the information that the device collects about their location and browser history).

To enhance your credibility, you, as a marketer, need to:

  1. Give the index as much accurate information about your brand as you possibly can
  2. Make sure the answer engine can understand, then correctly categorise, this information

There are two tools available to you that can greatly increase your chances of being listed in Position #0 by an answer engine:

Schema markup, the search engine’s ‘native’ language, outlines key pieces of information in a format that Google, Bing et al can understand. By using schema, you can effectively tell the search engines what all of your information means, and put it in into context for the user.

Semantic HTML5 is used to indicate the role that each part of the site’s content plays on the page. It uses explicit tags to point the answer engine in the direction of the information that’s going to be the most helpful to the user. You can learn more about semantic HTML5 here.

Implement these tools correctly, and not only will you boost your AEO, you’ll also have a higher chance of appearing in the rich snippets, knowledge panels and answer boxes that have become regular features in standard search engine formats.

Third party reviews are key

Links and positive mentions are still important for search engine optimisation purposes – but third-party reviews are becoming even more vital for both SEO and AEO. And, perhaps surprisingly, the amount of reviews that have been submitted will affect your credibility just as much as high ratings.

The more feedback you can collect from your customers, the better – even if the overall satisfaction score is lower than some of your competitors’.

Is it time to revisit your AEO strategy?

Successful AEO involves communicating, protecting and promoting your brand at all costs.

If you’re struggling to adapt to new search trends, or simply don’t have time to implement an AEO strategy alongside your regular marketing efforts, you may want to enlist the help of a search specialist.

Talk to Splash Creative London today to discover how you can achieve better exposure for your business by meeting the demands of voice-driven technology.

Author: Seena Shah

Seena Shah is the Founder and Director of Splash Creative London. Seena is listed as one of the top 50 women under 30 in digital by The Drum and has built an impressive career in social media marketing and digital strategy.

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