Smart watches have been on the horizon for years, sometimes seeming like a joke and other times seeming like the next big thing. Now that Apple is on board with the Apple Watch and tech companies at every level are looking to get on board with the technology, it appears inevitable that the age of smart watches will soon be upon us.
At first glance, the change may not seem significant; early prototypes of smart watches appear to function just like smart phones, except attached at the wrist and with a smaller screen. But the age of technology that smart watches are influencing will soon grow to disrupt traditional search marketing strategies, and if you want to avoid getting left behind, you’ll have to start adjusting your campaigns accordingly.
Local search appears to be the area of search most susceptible to changes from the smart watch trend. Since users will start wearing technology on the go, users will demand more efficient, more relevant, and easier-to-interpret results for their local queries.
As you start to refine your strategy, consider these five potential ways that smart watches could revolutionize local search:
Proximity already matters. When a user logs onto a laptop and starts a search, Google will recognize the general location of the user and generate results accordingly. For example, the search engine may detect that a user searching for “great burgers” is in Dallas, and populate some of the most well-reviewed burger restaurants in the city.
Smart watch users will demand more specific results, and search engines will be happy to give them. By tracking a user’s exact location (and storing the exact locations of known local establishments), smart watches would conceivably give more accurate proximity-based results, giving users the closest burger restaurants to them with up-to-the-minute adjustments for moving targets.
Proximity would also be a factor for local businesses looking to take advantage of smart watch technology. For example, a local coffee house could feasibly send out a discount coupon to smart watch users who enter the perimeter of the restaurant at a specific time, essentially producing a form of proximity-based promotion.
Companies that take advantage of these proximity-based features will likely be rewarded in two ways: first, they’ll be more likely to show up in relevant searches because they’re optimized for location, and second, they’ll generate more foot traffic from early adopters looking forward to cash in their location-based coupons.
Voice search is a technology already in use, but for a number of reasons, it has yet to catch on. Users are still accustomed to typing in their search queries, and many users don’t even know voice search exists on Google. Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, has helped to popularize the possibility of implementing computer functions with vocal prompts, but the inefficiency of the system has led to many people avoiding it entirely.
However, virtual assistants and semantic voice recognition have evolved over the course of several years. The technology is capable of giving users much more relevant results, dissecting the intent behind the spoken message and fetching results accordingly.
Smart phone screens are already small and difficult for some users to type on, and smart watches will only make those screens smaller and more difficult. Users will be almost forced to rely on voice search to execute their queries.
This shift in user adoption will force a change for search marketers in two ways. First, search marketers will need to include more phrase-based messaging on their web pages, including more colloquial and conversational language. People speak differently than they type, and search marketers will need to adapt to a new common input. Second, search marketers will have to contend with multiple search engines—the voice search functions of major search engines like Google as well as personal assistants like Siri.
Smart watch screens will be smaller, and since the technology will be attached to a user’s wrist, it will be more difficult to play with. As a result, the technology will demand shorter, more immediate forms of communication with its accompanying user. Messages will need to be shorter, and concise, immediate alerts will take precedence over any other medium of communication.
As a result, search engines will begin to show preference toward businesses with short streams of message content instead of long-form, detailed content. Users themselves will also prefer to follow and engage with companies who offer concise, valuable alerts and content instead of longwinded or cumbersome messaging. Tech giants will start to favor apps and integrations that offer convenient user alerts, and businesses that submit to those changes will earn more visibility.
The proximity-based offers I mentioned above are a part of this potential system; businesses can give special offers to customers who visit locations in-person, or design an alert system to let users know of recent changes.
Some companies might attempt to optimize their content to be visible on any format, including desktop, mobile, and wearable technologies, but the next step of content evolution is personalized content, which seamlessly integrates real-word and digital-world experiences. Wearable technology will start to serve as the gateway that allows such a world bridge to form.
For example, when users are eating at a restaurant, wearable technology could theoretically alert users to the various stages of preparation that their meals go through, integrating a digital experience into a traditional one. Pizza chains already offer a form of this technology online, and QR codes have already attempted to start a trend of using real-world establishments to spark digital experiences, but wearable devices will serve as the first generation of technology to solidify that world.
As a result, companies will need to begin offering wearable-specific content and wearable-specific experiences. Search engines will favor establishments who have taken the steps necessary to push that trend, and users will gravitate toward the businesses that offer the best overall experience.
Already, users are starting to abandon the old formats of online experience. Instead of relying on a browser window and a URL bar, users are relying on individual apps and integrated experiences to accomplish their goals and work. Google is starting to promote this trend by integrating third party applications into its broader network—for example, it recently integrated OpenTable and Uber functionality into its Maps application, and it increased the page rank for third party local directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor with the Pigeon update earlier this year.
If you want to stay relevant for search engines, you’ll need to find an alternative way to get your business online. It’s unlikely that traditional web pages will disappear overnight, but gradually, they will decline in significance. As a search marketer, you need to start hedging your bets and increase your visibility in as many ways as possible.
These paradigm shifts will be gradual, especially considering only a small portion of the population will be early adopters of smart watch technology. However, the local businesses that adapt the fastest will earn the fastest, most significant rewards. Stay ahead of your competition by refining your strategies early, and preparing for the inevitable shakeups that smart watch technology will cause.