So maybe your house isn’t quite up to par with Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey:
Home device technology like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home (also known as Google Assist) are in the beginning phases, but becoming more and more intertwined with a home’s functionality. For example, if you have other appliances hooked up to smart devices, like thermostats or the lights, you can tell Alexa to turn the heat up, or the lights on, and program them for certain times. There’s even a video going around of a robot chef that will cook your meals for you!
Something we’ve been wondering about is how do those devices generate search results? Do they take into consideration star ratings? What about online reviews or SEO?
We put two of the more well known home devices to the test: Alexa and Google Home. We asked both of them to find us a plumber and an air conditioning repair company to see what their responses were. One thing is for certain, both devices are considering your business in local searches:
Alexa is Amazon’s home device baby and one of the first that really took to the market. While there are a few other types, like Echo, which is a smaller puck shaped device, Alexa is Amazon’s flagship product in this arena.
It’s most likely linked to the user’s Amazon account, making it seamless for them to order products through Amazon, which are billed to the card on that account, and of course shipped to whatever address is on there.
There are a few features that come standard with factory Alexa like iHeart Radio, other music stations, and Reuters news briefings. Alexa will answer questions like “Why is the sky blue?”, and even tell you jokes if asked. I’m sure there are others, but I haven’t really discovered them yet—I have had one in my house for about a year and we mostly ask her to play us music and tell us jokes or fun facts. Sometimes when she plays a Mahatma Gandhi tribute song instead of the soundtrack from the Disney movie Moana for my daughter we get in fights and go on a break.
Users can get the Alexa app on their phone and download “Skills” so that the user can then ask Alexa to turn them on. In this case, they can connect the device to their smart thermostat, for example (our house isn’t so smart). There are also a lot of games in the downloadable skills.
For example, one skill we tried is called Guard Dog. We can ask Alexa to “turn on Guard Dog” and then “Alexa, arm.” Alexa then barks so it sounds like there’s a vicious dog in the house, hopefully deterring an intruder. However, it just confuses our heeler/Border Collie Chewy who is more of a licking dog than a guarding dog (randomly playing “Who Let the Dogs Out” by Baja Men will also confuse him).
When I asked Alexa to find me a plumber, she directed me to three top rated plumbers in my area, according to the zip code on file, and to look at her skills for more information.
When I asked for AC repair, she gave an actual fix, a certain sized tube that I could purchase from Amazon.com. When I asked for an AC repair in my area, she gave me some results that were a little closer to what I was looking for and they were based off of the top rated businesses in my zip code. If I were to punch in my address, (which is already in the app, but apparently I’m doing something wrong) she could get me more specific answers.
For the most part, she likes to tell me to go to the Alexa App for more details. Here’s the full conversation:
(That sound bite didn’t require much editing, but let me tell you, Alexa was eager to find my recording a plumber and an AC repair.)
And what site does Alexa like to use for her ratings? None other than Yelp! Here’s a couple of pictures of what I see when she suggests I look at the app for more information:
I personally haven’t had as much experience with Google Home, but we had our very own, Anna Blake try out her Google Home to search for a plumber and an AC repair.
Upfront, it seems like Google Home provides a lot more detail. While it doesn’t have the luxury of referencing an online store in the process of world domination like Amazon, it does have about 70% of the internet to pull from—that’s Google’s share of the global search engine market.
So you’ve probably guessed when Anna asks her Google Home for a plumber, the device is using similar algorithms the Google search engine would were she to type in “plumber” or "AC Repair" in the Google search bar on her laptop. We’re talking SEO, Google Map ratings, and Google local services like Google Guarantee, a business certification program rolled out in certain areas across the country. (For more on that, check our story, “Google’s ‘Google Guarantee’”.)
Anna’s Google Home is linked to all of her Google accounts. She also got an email from her device that gave her more information about the plumber and AC repair companies that came in the device’s search (the actual AC repair guy, not the five inch by 28 inch tube Alexa wanted me to buy on Alexa).
This is what Anna said:
This is the "Google assistant" which is native within new Androids and Google devices like the home (it can also be installed as a separate app). It is connected to my Google account, which is connected to my Google maps, and my Gmail, etc. That's how it knows my address and Gmail account. There is also a Google home app for my phone, so that I can give directives to my Google home from my phone.
And here’s the conversation the two of them had in an effort to find the service providers in her area (any blank space is omitted information to keep Anna’s privacy. (Let’s be real though, who’s got privacy anymore! We can try, can’t we?):
And here’s a visual of the details Google Home emailed to Anna:
It appears that Google Home is much more thorough in providing results for a service oriented business. Plus, Anna could have called up any of the businesses on the spot that her device provided. I’m pretty sure that Alexa will only call people on my contact list, she’s not so helpful in this case.
But...when I asked her to play me a song, Alexa did deliver with an original:
Nevertheless, it goes to show that it’s just one more reason to make sure your Business Listings are in order and you are keeping up with your online reviews. Alexa and Google Home are both taking your listing into consideration in their local searches.
Matthew Van Deventer is a content creator for WebPunch. As a dealer of words he dabbles in journalism and loves a good story, whatever the medium. Matthew lives outside of Denver, CO with his wife, daughter, and pup, Chewy.