The increasing importance of mobile optimization
Optimizing your website for mobile devices is more important than ever as it’s one of the fastest growing online marketing channels. It’s growing so fast that by 2014, mobile internet should take over desktop internet usage. It has been reported that 7% of all U.S. web traffic occurred from mobile devices (ComScore, October 2011) and that 33% of mobile users want to access local content relevant to their GPS location (eMarketer, August 2011). If you don’t have a mobile strategy in place, you are missing out on a rapidly growing consumer base.
Apple reveals a potential game changer
In early October, Apple revealed the iPhone 4S and its new mobile operating system, iOS 5. The new device also came integrated with new voice command-based software named “Siri”. This new technology is a potential game changer as Siri expands Apple’s reach to compete in the search engine arena with each voice enabled question.
First off, what is “Siri”?
The voice recognition software has been named “Siri” and is only available on the latest model of iPhone 4S. Siri has been positioned by Apple as an “intelligent personal assistant” that can do anything from schedule meetings to find local restaurants just by listening to your voice – no typing required.
Voice recognition is old news. Where’s the innovation?
It’s tempting to dismiss Apple’s Siri as just another voice recognition application as its technology is nothing new. So, where’s the innovation? Two words: role reversal. For once, users aren’t required to memorize specific commands and keywords. This time, technology is speaking our language – in natural, conversional form.
Business implications: How Siri can affect search engine optimization
The search functionality offered by Siri will have the largest impact on online businesses and brands. One feature of Siri on Apple’s iPhone 4S is that it can perform online searches. Therefore, businesses need to think about how voice commands will affect their online marketing strategies. Currently, websites are optimizing for text-based queries in search engines – we will now need to start thinking about audio or voice-based search queries.
Siri also presents an opportunity for Apple to dip its toes in the search industry. Just as Google finds a way to connect intent (a search query) with action (display ad related to keywords used), Siri could also capture intent (a voice commanded audio search query) and route it to the vendor of Apple’s choice (a vendor that paid to appear).
Although Apple may not choose this route, the company could just as easily become a gatekeeper of a new way to shop and do business online. Who knows, maybe in a few years, people will be scrambling to optimize for Apple rather than Google.
Siri Search Optimization Strategies
It’s important to note that Siri is not a search engine – it’s a task engine. Its purpose is to help accomplish the task at hand (and if it can’t, it will distract you with a sassy comment). Yet due to its ability to fetch information from the internet, brands and businesses need to start thinking about a new type of SEO: Siri Engine Optimization. The following are tactics that may help your business appear in Siri search results.
Optimize for Local Search
People frequently use mobile devices to perform location specific searches such as looking for directions, nearby restaurants, and local services. Accordingly, optimizing your website for local search will put your business’ best foot forward towards appearing in Siri’s search results.
You can optimize your site for local searches by including your business address, phone number, and website URL on every page (like in your footer). Submit your business listing to Google Places, Bing Business Places, Yelp, Yellow Pages, and other local directory listings. Where possible, try to get listed in third-party applications as well. Make sure the listings you submit are as complete as possible. For example, you can include a keyword-rich description, hours of operation, images, video and categories in your Google Places listing. Finally, ask your customers to rate and review your business online because Siri is more likely to display local businesses with positive reviews.
Use Schema Tags / Rich Snippets
Rich Snippets assist search engines in better understanding the content on your website by communicating business information and labeling content in a manner that makes it easier to index.
There are numerous Rich Snippet tags available for use (view them here). Useful business schema tags include address, phone number, website URL, business category, hours of operation, price range, rankings, and reviews. In addition, be sure to include any other helpful information relevant to your business. Rich Snippets will not impact the appearance of your site (just the data structure behind the scenes) so include as many schema tags as you feel relevant.
Leverage Long Tail Keywords
People are getting better at using search engines. Rather than scrolling through pages of irrelevant search results, people are refining their original search query to make it more specific. Longer tail queries are being used to narrow down results.
Siri presents a unique opportunity to further expand how people are using search. Since Siri can understand conversional voice commands, long tail keywords will likely grow longer. For example, “Where is the closest sushi restaurant to my current location”? versus “Sushi restaurant Vancouver”.
Voice recognition software applied in the search industry will present new opportunities for website optimization and could even influence future best practices.
Develop a Mobile Friendly Website
Making your website mobile friendly is important. If your website is not designed for mobile search, your website won’t display properly. The site will also encounter connectivity problems and experience slower loading speeds. Important information like your contact information may be hard to access (or may never load), which will cause users to leave your site to visit your mobile ready competitors. There are also different Search Engine Bots/Crawlers used to index mobile sites that need to be optimized for.
Create a Mobile Sitemap
We recommend creating a mobile XML sitemap so your website can be easily understood by search algorithms. Essentially, mobile sitemaps help search engines locate your mobile webpages and match them up to relevant searches. It may also be a good idea to use phone URLs within your mobile sitemap.
Visit this Google link to learn how to create a mobile sitemap. Once you have your mobile sitemap created, submit it to Google just like you would a regular sitemap.
This is just the beginning: Version 1.0
Apple will make continuous improvements as Siri is still in beta mode. Until users become accustomed to using their voice to navigate their phone and use the internet, the potential of voice recognition software like Siri will remain dormant. However, it will have a meaningful impact on how we interact with our devices in the future. Until then, it’s too early to judge the true impact of voice-based search.
Regardless, it’s best to optimize your online presence and adopt mobile SEO best practices in order to compete in the ever changing technological landscape. Contact 6S Marketing to receive a free SEO quote for your website.
How do you think this technology will change how people search from their mobile devices? Do you believe Siri (and voice recognition software in general) will impact the search engine optimization industry? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.