Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Apple Watch: Style, Functionality, and Local SEO

With all the excitement about the new "huge" iPhone, you might say Apple's new Apple Watch has faded into a (very) temporary oblivion. We like to see and feel our products--and the Apple Watch will not arrive in stores until "early 2015." Still, the mere announcement of the new gadget seems to have inspired a frenzy of speculative writing.

Will the new watch actually be cool? Esquire's style blog seems to think...maybe:

"So ... it's not so bad," John Hendrickson writes for Esquire. "Not as bad as we anticipated, at least."

This tepid enthusiasm reminds us of the response to Google Glass, which we wrote about last May, with a nod to our favorite Russian writer, Gary Shteyngart.

Gary Shteyngart doesn't necessarily present the most stylish view of Google Glass.

Why mention style on an SEO blog? Well, the success of the Apple Watch will be dependent, first, on a simple question: Will people want to wear it? And obviously the answer to this question has as much to do with style as functionality.

At $349, in terms of functionality, the Apple Watch seems to be a steal. The famous watch blog, Hodinkee, seemed quite impressed:

“Apple got more details right on their watch than the vast majority of Swiss and Asian brands do with similarly priced watches, and those details add up to a really impressive piece of design. It offers so much more functionality than other digitals it’s almost embarrassing.”

Hodinkee's review offers a lot of pictures of the new watch, too:

The Apple Watch as worn by Hodinkee

Meanwhile, Forbes, seemingly taking for granted the success of the Apple Watch, has posted a very intriguing article on how the new watch might change local search:

"SmartWatches have been experimented with by other companies in the past," Jayson DeMers writes, "but Apple’s foray into wearable smart technology could mark the beginning of a new tech era—and some radical changes for the world of local SEO."

Among the changes, DeMers notes how the new "mapping feature" could radically change local SEO:

"Rather than showing a map and speaking audible directions, like smartphones and older navigation systems, the SmartWatch will use a system known as 'haptic feedback' to provide hands-free, eye-free directions with directional buzzes."

What DeMers is envisioning here is a watch that offers "hyper-local" search results that can essentially guide a person, step-by-step, to your local business:

"Instead of focusing on results for a given query within a city, the SmartWatch could give you results within a given city block."

While DeMers notes that this "super local" search is merely speculative--and while we wonder how it differs, in practice from the iPhone's About Me app--DeMers advice to local businesses seems sound:

"Optimizing for a very specific crowd could eventually become more important than optimizing for a city or region."

If you've been following our coverage of mobile SEO, you'll know that the very practice of SEO is evolving to meet a new type of search, driven by voice technology like Siri. As Google's latest major algorithm revealed so definitively: more and more users are asking Google complex questions, and they're actually asking the questions aloud, with voice-based queries.

The best way to envision how the Apple Watch might change local SEO is to imagine a potential customer walking by your store. What could you say to entice that customer to enter? Perhaps you might offer a "mobile coupon" or some other interactive element. As DeMer notes:

"Mobile coupons have already become popular with smartphones, and interactive elements like QR codes have given smartphone users a chance to use their technology in real life for some kind of benefit..."

The operative word here is "benefit." While organic SEO has always been about matching a specific website with a specific customer, the new world of SEO might be about attracting the random customer from the street. What benefit can you offer the person on the street? This is a question you must answer with your SEO specialist, and then you must create the relevant, intriguing content that will make your answer count.

Of course, this view of SEO applies primarily to brick and mortar locations, yet it will likely effect all websites, increasing the need for hyper-specialized organic SEO across the board. We can now say, with certainty, that the world of search and organic SEO is evolving more rapidly than ever before. The Apple Watch simply offers a new image for this evolution. It is small, sleek, and incredibly local. Even more than the iPhone, the Apple Watch offers the world of search in a flash. All you have to do is look at your wrist.

If you're interested in learning more about the changing landscape of search, we suggest reading this blog weekly or contacting our sponsor, Alex Stepman, of Stepmans PC.