Apple recently unveiled the up-and-coming sixth generation of its iPhone, as well as its next gadget, which will arrive in stores in early 2015—the Apple Watch. SmartWatches have been experimented with by other companies in the past, 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.
If you represent a local business trying to boost online visibility for your brand, it’s time to start looking at how the Apple Watch is changing the rules and think about what you can do to stay ahead of your competition.
The Apple Watch: Bringing SmartWatches Back Into the Spotlight
SmartWatches have occasionally popped up on the market for the past few years, but none of them have really caught on with the public. Wearable technology, like SmartWatches and Google Glass, have generated significant interest, but only on a theoretical level thus far; the devices have generated word-of-mouth buzz, but sales and reviews have been lukewarm at best.
The Apple Watch seeks to change that landscape and bring wearable technology into public favor. Featuring the now-familiar voice-activated digital assistant Siri, Apple Play, Apple Music, and surely thousands of downloadable apps, the Apple Watch is stepping ahead of its SmartWatch competitors.
The most popular feature of the new device, and the most significant for local SEO, is its new mapping feature. 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. Time will tell how functional and practical this system is for navigation, but the early buzz seems to indicate an overwhelming excitement for the new product. If Apple delivers the same level of quality in its SmartWatch as it has its many generations of iPhone, it could be a true game changer.
Siri’s Relationship with Bing
Local search today is still dependent on search engines. Google is by far the most popular search engine, especially for local results, so most SEO campaigns cater specifically to Google. The popularity of smartphones keeps rising, leading many to perform searches on their mobile devices rather than on their home computer. The result of these trends is that search queries are changing; rather than typing search queries on a keyboard, users are speaking the search queries into their smartphones’ microphones.
With the dawn of the Apple Watch, Siri may accelerate this trend. The Apple Watch’s small screen and location on the wrist may make it more difficult to use your fingers to input data, encouraging users to speak search queries rather than type them.
Tell Siri to search for a “burger restaurant,” and she’ll populate a handful of local results. But currently, Siri uses Bing to populate that information. That means that local search marketers, in order to capture the attention of Apple Watch users, will need to adjust their strategies to focus on Bing Local results (instead of just relying on Google). Fortunately, many fundamental strategies will still apply—such as optimizing listings on local directories like Yelp—but Bing may soon see a surge in popularity due to Siri’s reliance on it.
Optimizing for Apple Maps
The Apple Watch will come with Apple Maps as a default navigation system. While many iPhone users have opted to use Google Maps on their devices instead, the Apple Watch could foster a new generation of Apple Maps users. That means local search markers will need to take extra steps to ensure their businesses can be found on Apple Maps.
Apple Maps treats local businesses differently than its contemporaries. It doesn’t offer a “claim your business” style system, like Google does, that allows business owners to identify themselves and present accurate information for their directory. Apple Maps does provide an opportunity to report mistakes in listings, but this is not as accurate, transparent, or efficient as the similar system that Yelp! offers.
Apple Maps does pull at least some information from local directories and other information providers such as Yelp!, TomTom, Factual, and Localeze, so it’s possible to improve your listing on Apple Maps simply by updating your information on third party sites. This is already a best practice for local marketers, but it will take some extra effort to claim and update your information on some of the lesser-known third party local platforms.
“Super Local” Searches
Local search results are already impressive; Google can detect your general location when you search for, say, “Mexican restaurants,” and show you a list of Mexican restaurants near your current location (usually based on your IP address). While the notion is speculative for the time being, it seems reasonable that the onset of SmartWatch popularity could give rise to a new level of local search using GPS location information. Instead of focusing on results for a given query within a city, the SmartWatch could give you results within a given city block.
Again, this “super local” search is merely speculative at this point, but it pays to look to the future. Optimizing for a very specific crowd could eventually become more important than optimizing for a city or region.
Mobile Coupons and User Engagement
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 (like a discount or more information). This trend will increase in sophistication as the Apple Watch arrives on the scene.
Users will demand even more immediacy, so if you can find a way to cater to those users faster than your competition, you’ll be on top of your local competitive market. While there are currently no details on specific offers local retailers can make to serve the Apple Watch crowd, it’s an idea to keep in the back of your mind as you rethink your local optimization strategy.
Overall, the fundamentals of local search will remain the same—ensure accurate information across all your local directories and give users an excellent mobile experience—but the Apple Watch will mark the beginning of a new series of trends. Business owners and marketers will have to spend more time optimizing for Bing and Apple Maps specifically, and will have to be prepared for the onset of super-specific local searches. Keep an eye out for more details about the Apple Watch as we get closer to its 2015 release.