Smart home technology has been a public interest for the last several years. Countless wireless gadgets, from smart thermostats to smart ovens, have been released as individual smart home components, but as of yet, there hasn’t been any singular technology to stitch all these individual pieces together into the Jetsons-style reality we’ve all been longing for.
Now, major tech companies like Google and Amazon are entering the ring, trying to centralize smart home developments and pave a path toward a more integrated residential future. Google has Google Home, but with their core product still being search, how will this product affect the landscape of search optimization? How will other smart home devices affect the way people search and glean results?
The Digital Assistant Era
First, it’s important to realize that what we’re really dealing with is the power of digital assistants, a technology that’s been growing in sophistication and prevalence for the last several years. It’s not the fact that Google Home is a smart home device that interests search marketers, but rather the fact that it can be used simply to capture and execute vocal commands. I forecast the growth of digital assistant technology in 2017, and this is just one extension of that realm.
True Conversational Queries
Having a product in the home that can pick up and respond to your commands, without any need for manual buttons, screens, or interfaces, means more people are going to be making conversational queries—in the truest sense. Consumers aren’t going to be typing in individual keywords; instead, they’ll be asking questions and giving commands, which means the importance of long-tail keywords is going to skyrocket. Google Home may also engage consumers in conversation, asking for refinement or further commands, which could significantly shape how users search on a regular basis.
Another major development from Google Home is the fact that its digital assistant technology will be focused on providing consumers one result at a time. Rather than scrolling down and seeing the top 10 relevant results (or top 3 in the case of local SEO), users will only see or hear from one main option unless they specifically choose to look for something else. If your strategy revolves around coming up with catchy article titles, or one of your main priorities is optimizing for local SEO, this could be a major drawback for your campaign. First-position rankings are going to significantly increase in importance, with anything below first decreasing in importance.
This change could mean that even your existing search rankings could bear less fruit in terms of visitors, with those visitors less likely to interact with the various components of your site.
User Data and Personalization Galore
There have already been some privacy concerns raised about the nature and limitations of Google Home. Because the device exists in your home and connects with many other personal devices, the device has the potential to gather more data about you and your personal life than almost anything else on the market. Google has pledged not to violate any privacy laws or use data for nefarious purposes, but the search engine giant has never shied away from using user data to improve the search experience.
My guess is that once Google starts collecting these massive swaths of multifaceted data, it’s going to take search personalization to a whole new level. Users will start seeing recommendations for products, services, and pages long before they even realize they need them, and marketers are going to have to pivot accordingly to keep up.
Keep in mind that Google Home isn’t the only “home base” smart home device on the market. Amazon Echo is also a major contender, with Alexa serving as its personal digital assistant backing, and there will likely be dozens more to rise in the next few years. Each of these competitors will bring something unique to the table, and you can bet Google will be watching. Major search revolutions don’t happen all at once—instead, they start rolling out in bits and pieces as search engines experiment and gradually learn new insights to guide them in a new direction. Pay close attention to these competitors, and how the world of smart homes develop if you want even more insights into search.
Preparing for the Future
User adoption of smart home technology is still low, and it probably won’t really catch on until one breakthrough product finds a way to speak to multiple demographics at once. It’s not necessary to start changing your strategy now, while the technology is in its infancy, but it’s worth your time to plan for hypothetical scenarios. The further ahead you plan, and the more options you give yourself, the better.