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How Google Now Will Impact SEO & What You Can Do to Get a Head Start

Guillaume Bouchard
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cerebroGoogle has released many products and services over the last few years to improve the way people search and find information. In their line up of latest releases, we've seen Google+, Google+ Local and now, well… Google Now.

The release of Google Now nearly a year ago didn't make waves, as it was only available on Android devices running Jelly Bean (and up). But that's no longer the case as it's now free to download on the App store for iPhones and iPads.

It isn't the search giant's first foray into mobile search however; it marks a significant turning point. Google can now predict what you need when you need it without a search prompt.

Google Now displays information "cards" such as today's weather, traffic to work, your flight time and much more. It intuitively learns from your search pattern history and provides, unprompted, the right information exactly when you need it.

For now, the kind of information it displays is still limited but as the service improves, we might see better integration with different user search needs.

Google Now can very well be the Holy Grail for forward thinking marketers and here are a few reasons why.

Google Now's Deeper Understanding of Users' Search Needs Will Lead to Better Conversion Rates

"It is so good that it can predict what you want before you even know you want it." Sounds familiar? A few years ago, Target used a statistician's expertise, Andrew Pole, to analyze its customers' data and was able to figure out what they liked, what they needed and which coupons they were most likely to use. They were so good they could figure out when a teen girl was pregnant before her father did.

So it's not new; for years companies have been using data mining for marketing purposes but it looks like Google Now is raising the bar with its predictive search capabilities. This doesn't mean search has become obsolete; it's actually become even more relevant. Although it's still premature to talk about "ranking" on Google Now's information cards, we can safely assume that current best practices for local SEO will play a key role in staying ahead of the mobile search game.

Google Now Could Help Change 'Number of Links' Mentality

This brings us to what has been plaguing SEO: misconceptions and dubious practices. It's a problem when clients perceive SEO as a process for building a certain number of links to improve their search rankings.

To fix the broken culture of SEO metrics, co-founder and CEO of SEOmoz Rand Fishkin says that the solution to changing this mentality is to align clients business KPIs (conversions, transaction value, retention, etc.) with the right leading indicator metrics (links, rankings, crawl rate/depth, etc.).

Google Now is likely to be an important factor in the transition from tactical to strategic SEO. Google Now serves up results based on personalization, geo-localization, public sources and its users' search history. More specifically, it aggregates information from:

  • Location
  • Searches
  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Google+
  • Google Finance

We can't allow ourselves to be pigeonholed in executing the same tactics over time, when ranking first in the SERP now involves more than building links. Whether clients need more traffic, brand exposure or leads conversions, Google Now is inherently requiring a more strategic and holistic approach to SEO.

The Key Lies in Local SEO

Mobile searches are increasing as smartphones become more broadly available with falling device prices. When you consider that 60 percent of consumers already consult their smartphone on their way to a brick and mortar store (according to Deloitte Digital), it's undeniable local SEO will play an increasingly dominant role in every marketing strategy.

So in anticipation to Google Now's introduction to desktop, how can we prepare? By optimizing your Google service pages and its key features (Google+, +Local, Business Pages, etc.), by understanding users' interactions across devices and channels, by using the right channels. This is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list but a good way to start.

In this regard, any business will gain a clear advantage in outranking their competitor in a local search, making it very important to unlock the full potential of Google+ Local.

Conclusion

It's only a matter of time before Google Now is made available for desktop users. To stay ahead in the game, search marketers now need a better understanding of their customers' interactions across channels and devices. And although we can't know specifically what Google Now identifies outside of its usual search algorithms, we know it's search based entirely on contextual needs.

We also know Google's own array of products and services play an important role in selecting what shows up on the information cards so it's important to use and optimize Google's social platform (Google+, Google+ Local, interactive posts).

In the end, the search ecosystem will always continue to change rapidly. As users' search habits shift with it, marketers need to seize this opportunity to move from a more tactical to strategic leader.

If we understand that moving forward, search results will focus less on-page orientation and more on customer orientation, we are one step closer to staying ahead of the game as a strategic leader.

Image source: mynerfherder.com

Estelle Ngo of nvi contributed to this post.


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