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GUEST OPINION Is your SEO strategy wearables-ready?

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Despite being around for ages, wearables are now official under starters orders thanks to the launch of the Apple Watch. So retailers need to be wearables ready: and that starts with SEO says Martin Dinham, Director, Barracuda – and it could have some surprising upsides for you.

With the Apple Watch selling more units in its opening 24 hours than its rival Android Wear has sold in a year and Google Glass 2.0 reportedly due for release ‘soon’, it seems like the wearables market might finally be gathering some momentum.

While these new AR devices, wristbands and smartwatches offer marketers new channels through which to reach their consumers, the form factor and input limitations of wearables are destined to create a number of SEO challenges which could have a major impact on retailers search volumes.

We’ve recently seen mobile usurp desktop as the platform through which most searches are now conducted. The way we search on desktop is very different to mobile. Whereas desktop searches tend to be keyboard and keyword driven, like “sheds Brighton sale”, on mobile search terms are much more conversational, with location playing an increasingly important role, for example “Where are the cheapest sheds in Brighton?”

With wearables voice is the only realistic input method that makes sense, as having to type in your search terms in on a tiny screen while stood on a busy High Street just isn’t practical, and Google knows it. In 2013 we saw the release of Hummingbird, Google’s ambitious ‘wearables-ready’ algorithm developed with voice-search in mind as its primary user-interaction method. With voice searches, the structure becomes even more linguistic and conversational, so unless your SEO campaign is optimised with much deeper, richer key phrases then it’s likely your page rankings are going to be effected once wearables become more commonplace.

With the first wave of Apple Watches making their way to a High Street near you, it’s vital that you ensure that your online store is fully optimised and ready for wearables.

There are three keys areas where retailers need to focus on which are:

1. Product descriptions must be unique and informative

Google’s recent Panda algorithm update was the latest move in the search giants ongoing bid to make the internet as useful and unique an experience as possible for users. As a result, sites which feature unique content offering as much utility as possible are going to be looked on much more favourably by Google and ranked higher accordingly.

For online retailers with thousands of product lines it can often be tempting to simply go with the product description provided by the merchant, but as this copy is likely to be replicated numerous times across the web, its going to score poorly for originality.

Instead, take time to make your descriptions as in-depth and useful as possible. Make them longer and try to incorporate user-generated content like user reviews, which will really help to amplify your search signals. Adding images, or even better an instructional video would also have an extremely positive effect on your rankings.

2. Local SEO is gold

When users search for goods and services via mobile or tablet they are often looking for results within a few miles of their current location. However, with devices like the Apple Watch, that search radius is going to be dramatically reduced with users searching for things that are within feet of them. This could be somewhere to eat, somewhere to sleep or perhaps somewhere selling a specific product, but the search results are going to need to have an immediate benefit to the user, so if you haven’t optimised your site for local SEO then you’re going to have problems.

In addition, with Apple Watch a lot of searches are likely to come directly from the map function, where Apple uses a number of third party directories like Yelp, TomTom, etc to locate businesses. Ensuring your details are up to date on these sites is will also pay dividends and also try to encourage happy customers to leave reviews at these sites.

As Apple Watch also uses Bing as its default engine, make sure you also optimise for local SEO on there as well.

This is also largely a function of how your site is represented in the major local services, including Bing Places and Google+, but also ensuring that your site is correctly represented (with consistent Name, Address, Postcode and Opening Hours or NAPO data) in the major local directory services such as Yell, etc. It can be a tedious task, but it’s worthwhile ensuring that you appear correctly in these services and have ownership of your accounts, this will enhance your local search presence generally as well as specifically for wearables.

3. Bing becomes a whole lot more important

With 90% of the UK’s total search volumes coming through Google, its dominance in the search market would appear unassailable, but then you might have said the same about Nokia’s handset business before the brand was recently dissolved into Microsoft. Interestingly, 30% of US searches now take place on non-Google properties (principally Bing and Yahoo!

Apple has been making every to move to oust Google as the default search engine for its operating systems, but while you can easily go into the settings and choose to make Google your default choice for browser searches, with Siri it’s not so straight forward.

Therefore, if Apple Watch goes on to have the same kind of impact that the iPad had before it, we could see a huge amount of search volume being conducted via Siri and not through the browser. In addition, if Siri ever makes the leap from mobile to Mac, we could see Google losing even more volume.

As a result, retailers should be across all the search engines and their services – don’t put your eggs all in the Google market, make sure that you take advantage of the opportunities that engines such as Bing offer, not just in terms of optimisation, but also where channels such as their local and paid search services are concerned.

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