Siri's Wake-Up Call
All right, OK: So you are not a local business and no one is searching your site for a nearby place to eat Indian food. But you do have a mobile site, and it is a priority of yours to have that site optimized for search—right?
Enter Siri, Apple’s clever personal assistant with its voice-activated commands.
Siri has put SEO experts into a tailspin as they scramble to understand its role in SEO. Some are suggesting we rename SEO to mean ‘Siri Engine Optimization.’ Some are calling it ‘the end of SEO as we know it.’
To these people I say (in a bracing, soothing voice): Now now. Stay calm.
Siri is an interesting (additional) incentive to all of us interested in SEO to ensure we are doing our jobs right. But so far, if you have given your mobile SEO even a modicum of attention, Siri shouldn’t be blowing all your strategies out of the water.
What is it about Siri that makes SEO so different? We’ve gotten used to Voice Search through Google and that’s always fun to play with. CleverBot and other AI programs have gotten us used to the sassy and AI driven responses of a program that almost seems human.
One difference is the conversational nature of exchanges with Siri. She can zero in on the purpose of a fairly rambling question and come up with an appropriate answer. As a result, SEO experts are suggesting we start paying even more attention to the so-called “long tail” of search—the more targeted and detailed searches wherein the publisher optimizes, for example, not for “pets” as much as for “senior formula hamster food.”
Is that the way to go with Siri? I don’t think so. Just because people are going to be saying to Siri: “Let’s see, is there an awesome Indian restaurant around here where they do a killer korma?” doesn’t mean that Siri is searching that whole phrase and producing the very restaurant that had the genius and foresight to select that very sentence as a long tail keyword phrase. Rather, Siri will be looking for the handful of relevant keywords in that phrase and responding to them. In fact, because the conversation bias of the voice-activated usage is so much broader than what people are likely to type into a search engine, my guess is, in the near term at least, general keywords are going to do just fine.
What’s really got the SEO group in a lather, of course, is the fact that many of Siri’s searches, and in particular the local ones, bypass Google entirely and use location-based services and user-review sites such as Yelp. But wait: Our goal in optimizing our sites is not to keep Google at the top of the heap, is it? The reason we became so Google-centric is because Google dominates—but that doesn’t mean we don’t have other tricks up our sleeve.
And hey, as publishers using mobile technology, everyone is already optimizing location-based services…right? We all have our Google Places profiles completely filled out, our sites submitted to local directories, our interfaces with Foursquare and Facebook Places and the rest of it in place? That’s not Siri, that’s just mobile; and since mobile is for people who are not at their desks, we’ve gotten around to learning how to reach them…haven’t we?
Sure we have. And if not, then Siri is simply the wake-up call we need.
Linda Ruth, as president of PSCS Consulting (www.PSCSConsulting.com), offers communication companies worldwide the keys to magazine launches, search engine optimization and audience development online and at retail. She is a pioneer in the fields of Online Audience Optimization (OAO) and gamification for content publishers. Her books, "Internet Marketing for Magazine Publishers" ; "How to Market your Newsstand Magazine"; and "Secrets of SEO for Publishers" can be found on Amazon. Find her online at Google Plus, Magazine Dojo, LinkedIn, and Twitter @Linda_Ruth.