Increasingly, people are finding things, getting directions, and connecting with the wisdom of the Internet via Siri and other apps on their smartphones. This begs the question: what’s the future of SEO when people are connecting to information via intelligent agents and apps as opposed to search engines?
How can we as marketers and SEOs adapt to this change in user behavior to make sure our products, brands, and information is discoverable via non-search (i.e., not involving a visit to Google.com) interaction?
Well, here are seven tips to guide you through the app-and-mobile storm on the horizon to the sunny shores of post-search nirvana.
1. API as Much as Possible IMG
Get your marketing content wired. It’s all about making connections so your content gets into as many environments as possible.
Intelligent agents and other apps, mobile or otherwise, need access to data. Put your data out there via an open data set or API.
Work with vendors who put themselves between APIs and App developers to smooth the interactions and help keep API updates from breaking apps.
APIs can be hard to make, maintain, and keep updated and you may need help doing this. Here are some companies to consider so you don’t overload your in-house devs:
- Mashery.com – helps you plan and develop your API and handle outrach to App developers.
- Geofeedia.com – aggregates social and other API-sourced data by location and resells it to brands and app developers – make sure they have access to your location-relevant data (sales, events, etc) so they can then provide it folks who turn it into products.
- Mashape.com – runs an "API Marketplace" – if you create an API, consider putting it up here so devs can find it. Here’s a list of their APIs.
This is a fast-moving area – any comments, reviews, or corrections to the above section would be welcome in the comments section!
2. Get Semantic
Using semantic markup like the Schema.org protocol helps third parties interpret and use your public HTML. This increases your chances of non-search apps using your data (and thus increasing its value).
Now Google allows you to add schematic markup using Google webmaster tools – it’s just for “events” at the moment, but it offers a lot of potential for SEO professionals to take action without needing help from developers.
SEO professionals have been recommending this for years, but outside of the hotels/reviews, events and recipes verticals, amazingly little has been done. Just adding NAP (name, address phone number) semantic markup to your local store pages that exactly matches the data provided to the Google+ Local page can make a big difference in the local results.
3. Know Your Apps and App Developers
Make friends (even more so) with your developers and get their input on how to open up your data and web services. Make it somebody’s job (yours maybe?) to seek out and engage with app developers who may benefit from your data or web services.
Participate in hackathons or hold your own. Reach out to apps that might be a good integration partner for your content or business and hammer out a deal. The upside could be as little an attribution or citation from the app or as high as more traffic, sales, or exposure for your content.
4. Think Beyond Search/SEO and Digital
Don’t focus just on SEO. Think in terms of the keywords, content, and context you want to optimize for.
A compelling real-life art installation, event, sale, or live performance will do more for your inbound links, traffic, and conversions than many a traditional SEO effort. And it will get you into discovery apps that are always on the lookout for interesting, local, and timely things (Think the Field Trip app from Google).
Content marketing isn’t just for search or digital. EConsultancy has a great article about how Red Bull used content marketing that merged digital and real-life with their famous Stratus Jump.
5. Socialize Your Content and Your People
With new social search and social authority metrics arising everyday, you need to make sure both your brand and your content creators have large, engaged, and active social presences. The connections between your social profiles and your web or non-web content need to be clear and machine-discoverable (see: rel=author tag and Klout.com).
Soon enough intelligent agents will know who’s the authority – be it a brand or a person – on Thai cuisine in your area and will give a set of recommendations. While Google+ may suck as a social network, it could become indispensible as a social avatar/digital identity reference point to identify authoritative real people and brands.
You (the brand) need to be both a subject expert and you need to have brand experts (actual people) on staff creating content in areas where you do business.
6. Find Ways to Get Local
Mobile apps are really blowing the SEO world apart. They are driving increasing amounts of (often untrackable) visits. Siri practically assumes you’re looking for local things.
Find some way to make your content locally relevant.
For example, a software vendor with a single office can create a list of resellers or service partners and create local pages that are optimized for search, API’d, and have Google+ Local pages. This gets your brand into local results even if your reseller network doesn’t have its act together enough to do it on their own. A vintner (someone who makes or sells wines) could do the same with the stores that carry its vintages and brands.
7. Consider Whether You Even Need an App
Honestly, your client might not need mobile apps at all. They may be better off making their data available and working with other app developers where there is a good fit. Again, getting your information into other apps usually involves getting some sort of credit or a citation, and may involve them paying you for it.
If you decide to go with creating your own app, consider cross-platform vendors like Appcelerator to reduce versioning and increase speed-to-platform (i.e., Android and Apple). There are pluses and minuses to this approach, but it’s worth looking at.
Incidentally, all these tips will help your search engine rankings as well. Search is an app too, remember?
We have already arrived at a post-search era when users and visits are coming from an ever-greater variety of places, using discovery-type apps and sites like Foursquare and Yelp as opposed to traditional search engines.
Make it your job as a post-search guy to not only rock the traditional side of SEO but to also get your business found in the new world of social, mobile, and everything in-between.