EXPERT OPINION: SEO in the era of connected objects
Mobile is everywhere: in all conversations and recommendations. But isn't this deep-rooted trend already being overshadowed by the next big revolution? We take a look at the expert opinions and future predictions made at the SEO Camp’us Paris 2015.
Mobile: a state of emergency has been declared
We may say that 21 April 2015 (1) is pure hype, but SEO experts do agree on one thing: "there's urgency to be mobile-friendly in 2015". These words, spoken by Philippe Yonnet, founder of the SEO Camp association, were also backed by the renowned SEO consultant Laurent Bourelly during the round-table discussion that preceded the opening keynote: "My main recommendation is having a mobile compatible website". Being mobile-friendly is a truly deep-rooted trend, and we've been talking about the importance of mobile-friendly websites for user experience for a few years now. But Google only officially confirmed the impact of mobile-friendliness in the search engine rankings algorithm a few months ago.
Mobile websites aside, we mustn't forget that mobile enables us to configure objects, such as connected bracelets; is used as a basis for others, such as the connected watch; or even for remote control operations, such as drones. Today it's the real basis of the Internet of Things. Mobile is much more than a trend. For Sylvain Peyronnet, the manager of a private laboratory for algorithmic R&D, it's "a concern for the future of search". Will keyword searches die out with the arrival of connected objects? This is certainly a possibility in the long term, but for now the focus is on adopting new hardware and new usages such as conversational search and an intelligent personal assistant, which Google Now perfectly illustrates.
For the last few years, we've been tweaking our content for keyword searches. With semantic-search and search engines eager to provide results (Knowledge Graph, Direct Answer Boxes, conversational search, etc.), this exercise is now totally different, particularly since Google's algorithm began taking web users' intentions into account. "Can we still talk about SEO with connected objects?" asked Philippe Yonnet. We should now begin to ask ourselves how we can get our brands on search engines, personal assistants and, more generally, connected objects.
From SEO to COO?
Connected object optimisation: maybe this will be the name we will soon be using to talk about the reinvention of SEO. Thanks to smartphones, we now have access to information at our fingertips, and this will only become more possible with the rise of connected objects. How do we best adapt to these new ways to search for information? Here are a few thought-provoking considerations we took away from some of the search engine experts and conferences at the SEO Camp’us in Paris.
1. The importance of microdata for voice search
In their mission to constantly provide more relevant and personalised results, search engines need to better "understand" our content. A few years ago, Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex agreed on a type of semantic markup to enable them to obtain more additional information on the same content: schema.org.
We now know that schema.org's microdata helps to improve the display of search engine results (with Rich Snippets) and even enables us to get our pages on the Knowledge Graph. Microdata improves the diplay of traditional results, and is now also the key to conversational search.
Our requests have been getting longer over the years. We've gone from searching for strings of keywords to searching for entire sentences. This is especially true for mobile phones, particularly in vocal searches. By updating Humming Bird, Google has shown that it has now a greatly improved understanding of natural language queries. To provide the most relevant result to the query "what is the nearest pizza restaurant?", Google needs to look through pages for signals, and that's where schema.org comes in. As an example, schema.org makes it possible to embed markups for places, such as latitude, longitude, address, reviews and telephone number.
During his conference at the SEO Camp’us, Erlé Alberton raised a point that went beyond SEO: "Getting your brand on the Knowledge Graph or even in Google's Personal Assistant is a real bonus for customer retention. Imagine, for example, what having a Google Now card could do for customer relations".
2. Speed: even more important on mobile devices?
Websites with mobile-friendly elements and design are now taken into account in search results; and when it comes to mobile, we must also understand that speed is of prime importance. How long did it take you to leave a slow-loading page the last time you tried to access one? Loading speed influences our first impressions of a website. In search engines, even 1 second makes a big difference to conversion rate and page indexation.
In mobile environments (today with smartphones, tomorrow with any other connected object from a browser), a number of factors contribute to the amount of time it takes for a user to load a web page. As internet connection can also impact loading time, we must optimise the things we can control on our side to do everything possible to increase speed. We can, for example, use a CDN to reduce the distance between the users and content, activate the cache browser in .htaccess, use compression or switch to HTTP/2.
3. Other tips?
"It's also necessary to master geolocated searches and local SEO", advised Matthieu Tournade, renowned for his SEO podcasts, and who sees connected objects as new targeting opportunities for digital marketing campaigns.
The Internet of Things is bringing with it huge changes, and we've only just begun to scratch the surface. It's now not only crucial to adapt to new algorithms, but also to keep our fingers on the pulse of the Internet of Things.
(1)Google announced that it would make its next big search algorithm change on 21 avril 2015. This update factored in mobile-friendly websites and applications.