Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Internet of Things Will Change the World; How Will it Change SEO?

Writing for Wired, Daniel Burrus believes the Internet of Things will be far bigger than any one predicts. In fact, Burrus and others predict, will track and collect innumerable types of data from our world. And this data will be used to make smart homes and cities.

Burrus describes a Utopian traffic scenario:

"We’re going to have traffic flow optimization, because instead of just having stoplights on fixed timers, we’ll have smart stoplights that can respond to changes in traffic flow. Traffic and street conditions will be communicated to drivers, rerouting them around areas that are congested, snowed-in, or tied up in construction."

As a prediction, this is heady stuff, but in describing this perfect traffic scenario, Burrus also offers a great definition for the IoT:

"So now we have sensors monitoring and tracking all sorts of data; we have cloud-based apps translating that data into useful intelligence and transmitting it to machines on the ground, enabling mobile, real-time responses."

Burrus may or may not be speaking about the not-too-distant future. But the IoT is already here. Take a look at cutting edge products like Neurio, which uses a sensor connected to your home's electrical panel to monitor your energy use; or Rachio, which enables you to use your laptop or smart phone to schedule watering times for your yard; or any number of smart door locks or security systems.

A visual of how the IoT will influence or day-to-day lives [Source]
But the communication these products engender is not necessarily the prime benefit.

"There’s simply no point in objects talking to each other just for the sake of it," writes George Leopold for Enterprise Tech, "and the IoT only provides the communications backbone. An Internet of Sensors looks more like the roots of a tree, with sensors of all types at the extremities, capturing and feeding data upwards to the main trunk—the Internet."

Read: "Is the IoT Really Internet of Sensors?"

In other words, the IoT is poised, first, to change the plain old Internet. With this change, of course, the world of search will change, too. Accurately predicting these changes, in one sense, is impossible. Yet Jayson Demers, writing for Forbes, lists a few predictions--some self-evident; some bold--that can be taken as  immediate action items for enterprising websites and SEO firms.

Read: "6 Predictions for How IoT Tech Will Effect Internet Marketing and SEO"

Action Item #1: Optimize for Specific, Detailed Answers 

To begin, Demers believes the IoT will accelerate the shift to voice-based recognition:

"Already, searches have started to shift toward more conversational queries; rather than only using one or two carefully selected keywords, users are asking Google long-form questions."

Google acknowledged the popularity of voice-based recognition searches with its latest major algorithm update, in 2014. The new algorithm which effected up to 90% of search results, highlighted Google's ability to answer longer and more complex questions. As the USA Today noted in its article about the algorithm, "The change comes as people become more comfortable asking long, complex questions..."

For website owners, the action item is obvious: In your content, try as much as possible to answer specific, detailed questions. Ask yourself: What question is your ideal customer asking? How are you the best product or service to answer that question?

Action Item #2: Optimize for Quick Answers

Demers also believes that the IoT will reduce the click-through rates:

"Users will rely on IoT technology for functions throughout their daily lives—from figuring out how long to bake chicken to ordering more paper towels—and many of these commands, orders, and conversations won’t require users to visit websites in any context."

Demers is essentially referring to something like Google's Quick Answers, which attempt to answer general questions quickly and easily. Search Engine Land wrote a good guide for optimizing for quick answers that advocates familiar SEO hallmarks: optimizing for user experience and creating quality content relevant to the audience.

This form of optimization is similar to the action item #1 above; instead of answering questions uniquely suited to your products or services, however, the goal here is to offer content that expresses your authority on a theme related to your product or service.

Action Item #3: Use Increased Data to Market to People's Individual Needs

Implicit in some of Demer's other predictions is the emphasis on the need to put the new data (acquired by all those sensors) to good use.

"People want individualized experiences to avoid the feeling that they’re being mass-marketed to and to get more relevant content and information in their lives," Demers writes. "With IoT, personalization will become not only more important, but more feasible; integrated systems will be able to collect data on individuals’ search histories, typical food purchases, driving habits, and everything in between."

Enterprising online business and SEO firms can get ahead of the curve by understanding now how to interpret and use the data already available. A good place to start is by analyzing the habits of your own website's visitors. Are you using the data currently available to you? If not, you're not setting yourself up to take advantage of the IoT's influx of data.

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