The Internet of Things (IoT) as a phrase has been around for longer than you might actually think. Since 1999 as a matter of fact. In the same year the world was worried about the Y2K glitch, an individual named Kevin Ashton referred to the “Internet of Things” as the means by which computers could manage all individual things.

The concept itself can be dated even further back. It was 1982 when a modified Coca-Cola machine was the first internet-connected appliance that was able to report on its own level of stock.

Things have come a long way since then, with over 8 billion IoT devices around the world, but what exactly is the IoT and what does it mean for SEO going forward?

The Internet of Things Explained

The IoT is the movement that has seen ordinary mechanical/physical devices become extraordinary, by adding what was missing. A mind, with the means to communicate with the outside world.

Where previously these devices could perform a specific task, IoT functionality allows them to connect to a network and communicate with other devices, platforms and programs to increase efficiency, productivity and basically do more things.

The IoT has been further redefined in recent years with the integration of virtual assistants with voice user interfaces in our homes. Examples include Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana.

These virtual assistants are becoming an increasingly prominent part of our lives especially with respect to how we use the internet, be it for shopping, restaurant reservations, music, recipes or answering general queries.

The reason why people are doing this is that the user experience has improved so much in recent times and it’s just so much easier and more efficient. When you consider the fact that people can speak on average 150 words p/minute compared to an average of 40 words p/minute when typing, the reasons start to become clear.

The other great thing about using a voice user interface is that it frees up your hands to do other things allowing you to multitask whilst watching Netflix, prepping dinner, doing some exercise, even taking a bath!

And it is with the voice user interface aspect of the IoT that is going to most heavily influence the way individuals and organizations approach SEO.

The implications for SEO

There are a number of ways in which the IoT voice user interface is going to impact traditional SEO strategy. Some of the challenges will be easier to tackle than others, but at the very least, in acknowledging these challenges early, you’ll be able to anticipate the effects and adapt accordingly.

Oral language vs written word

The first thing to acknowledge is the difference in the way we speak compared to the way we write in the context of a search box. When we speak to Siri or Google Assistant we use language in much the same way as we would talking to another human being using full sentences.

When we are using text, our language becomes much more truncated, using as few words as possible. This is not just because texting takes more effort and we’re inherently lazy. It is because search engines make our jobs easier by providing predicted options before we’ve finished based on other popular searches and because we expect search engines to understand our intent with keywords alone.

What this means for your content moving forward is that you should write it in a way that reflects the natural, conversational tone that search queries are going to, in greater frequency, be based on.

Google has the answers

One of the very noticeable (and possibly alarming trends) is that the verbal answers provided by virtual assistants, especially with regards to factual information, is increasingly not being credited to a source of any kind leaving SEO specialists little space to optimize for their clients.

One can understand why Google has done this. A fact is a fact in most instances and the source for which becomes irrelevant once the fact has been shared.

Google has been trending towards this type of response for some time and it’s one that’s not confined to voice queries. Rich Answers (also known as Instant Answers) appear for certain text searches without credit as well for facts that are considered part of the public domain.

Although this is alarming (for SEO specialists) in some respects, in truth, it is probably the way things should be. The boom days where one could use SEO techniques to leverage off information/knowledge in the public domain was always going to come to an end sooner or later. It’s a threat in one sense, but it could usher in a new era of quality content where you’ll need to help your clients to really emphasize the strongest qualities and unique selling points in their brands so they become the search query themselves.

Featured snippets are your friend

When virtual assistants respond to a query, more often than not, they are doing so from a featured snippet. Featured snippets have always been important for SEO given how much traffic they attract. Recent research shows that if a featured snippet appears in a search query, the previous No.1 position will lose more than 20% of its traffic to the featured snippet.

With virtual assistants starting to quote featured snippets in its answers they become even more pivotal for your SEO tasks. They can be quite challenging to get, requiring strong keyword research as well as helpful and well-formatted content but it’s well worth the effort considering the results at stake. You can find out more about Featured Snippets and how to get them in this excellent post on the BrightLocal blog.

Strong Local SEO is so important

Virtual assistants are not only being used in the home but while people are on the move. This makes optimising your clients for strong local SEO vitally important.

As you’re probably aware, being successful with local SEO means doing the basics right. Things like fully updating your Google My Business profile, appearing in local directories, making sure all your name/address/phone number details are consistent across these directories and even referencing your location and what ties you to those locations in your content and blogs.

Making sure your clients understand the importance of good customer service and engaging both positive and negative reviews will help in this respect too.

The IoT will lead the future of SEO

Given the way the IoT is being incorporated and integrated into our devices and lives, it will no doubt be a huge influencing factor in SEO going forward. By being aware of the ins and outs you can make the most of the opportunities that come with it and reap the benefits at the same time.

Paul Thornton
Paul Thornton is a Brit working abroad. He is the founder and CEO of one of Auckland’s leading digital marketing agencies, Digital Hothouse in New Zealand. Paul is an SEO and AdWords specialist with a strong focus on building long-term client relationships. After forming Digital Hothouse in 2010, Paul has grown the company into one of the most successful agencies in the country. Connect with Digital Hothouse on Twitter and keep up to date with all the latest digital marketing news and trends in NZ and across the world.