No No, Not Later: Google Now and SEO

The big ol’ search engine’s main attraction these days is Google Glass, which hasn’t gotten the best reception. What we should really be talking about is Google Now.

Google Now has been out for about a year, but its restriction to just Android phones running Jelly Bean causes it to make fewer waves as than it should. I only recently learned about Google Now a few weekends ago, but Google Now was recently released for the iOS, which means it’s quickly gaining much wider attention.

What is Google Now?

A little magical, a little creepy, Google Now is the mighty search engine’s answer to Siri. It’s a mobile app that receives voice commands, which isn’t new by any stretch, but it also provides you with relevant information without your prompting.

Image from http://www.google.com/landing/now/

Information is presented in the form of “cards,” which display everything from weather to stocks to traffic. These cards are prioritized based on relevancy, so if you’re checking Google Now in the morning, the top cards will show you the weather and how traffic is going to work. Similarly, when it’s time to clock out for the day, you’ll get a card showing traffic going home.

The more you search, the more Google Now learns about you. If you’re frequently looking up how the Padres are doing, the app shows you live scores and information. Buy something on Amazon and you get a card showing you the shipping information and the estimated time of delivery.

Say you booked a flight to Chicago for the weekend. The day of your flight, Google Now shows you when your flight is leaving, if it is delayed, the traffic heading to the airport, a QR code boarding pass with terminal and gate numbers, and the weather in Chicago—all automatically.

The kind of information it provides is a bit limited, but it’s certainly raising the bar for predictive search and mobile search. It’s only a matter of time until it integrates with different user search needs. For example, Google Now may realize that it’s about lunch time in a new city and automatically provide you with the top restaurants in your vicinity. It might see that you’re looking up how to get rid of termites and recommend exterminators.

Optimizing for Google Now

Does that mean you should worry about ranking for cards now? Not at all, but it does mean you need to shape up your SEO practices, particularly the misconception that improving search rankings is all about building a certain number of links. Google Now gets its results from personalization, user search history, public sources, geo-location, Google+, Google Calendar, and your Gmail. There’s clearly more to it all than building links.

With Google Now—and search in general—we’re veering from one set methodology to a strategic, gestalt form of SEO. Look at how your users are reaching your site and their interactions across various devices. Focus on solid local SEO, and optimize any pages serviced by Google, primarily Google+ and Google+ Local. Start thinking about each individual person as a search query.

Google Now is really only a sign of what’s to come. There’s plenty of evidence hinting at the appearance of Google Now in desktop browsers soon, so be prepared.

What do you think about Google Now? Have any SEO tips for adapting to Google Now?

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