Whether you’re a true Apple fan or just a dedicated tech enthusiast, the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is one of the year’s biggest events in the technology industry.
Announcements were made on all kinds of hardware and software (not least a new desktop OS), but there were two announcements that stood out for me as potentially very important for the SEO industry.
This post will look at exactly what’s being introduced and how that will affect the landscape of search.
Siri for Mac – the rise of ambient search
Siri has been around for several years now on iPhones, and on Android people have the Google app for voice searches, and there is Cortana for Windows phone. Since their rollout, these intelligent personal assistant apps have started to gain traction, and increasing numbers of people are doing voice searches.
There are rumours that Google may be adding data about voice search to Search Console, but in the meantime, the data from other sources also seems to indicate that written queries are also increasingly ‘natural language’ queries – even on desktop.
Very polite search from a Grandmother (see article)
Cortana has since rolled out on Windows last year, and at WWDC Apple announced that Siri would be coming to desktop Macs later this year. Whilst I think it is unlikely we’re going to see a lot of voice searches being done at computers in place of typed searches, what is interesting is the rise in the number of searches being done via ‘ambient’ devices.
Amazon Echo has been around for a while, and the rumour is Apple are working on a Siri-powered device that works similarly. Apple also released HomeKit which allows Siri to control devices around your home. Meanwhile, in May, Google announced Google Home which is their take on an ambient search device.
Ambient devices which provide the interface to controlling devices around your home seems to be a new battlefront amongst tech companies, and as they gain penetration we’ll see people becoming more accustomed to doing ‘hands and screen free’ searches via these same devices. Furthermore, it will become increasingly common to make purchases via these interfaces (see section below).
I wrote more about the impact of intelligent personal assistants on search on Moz a few weeks ago.
Apple Pay for web – micro/ambient transactions
Apple Pay launched late 2014, allowing people to use later model iOS devices to pay for items where contactless payments were accepted in stores. In 2015 the platform rolled out to more countries, and there were almost $11 billion of transactions completed via the platform last year. That is still a small portion of the overall mobile payments market, but it is growing, and the news from WWDC is likely to accelerate that growth.
Apple announced that Apple Pay would be coming to the web – meaning that at the checkout point of participating online stores people can opt to pay with Apple Pay which will prompt their iPhone/iPad to ask them for confirmation by scanning their fingerprint.
This obviously has the power to dramatically change the options that people have for paying online, and can also reduce friction in the checkout process. There is a lot that could be written about this side of things, but I wanted to focus on three of the SEO implications.
It has been some time since mobile search overtook desktop search in terms of the number of queries, but more e-commerce transactions still take place on desktop devices than mobile devices.
However, frictionless web payments via Apple Pay have the capability to have a big impact on the rate of m-commerce conversions. This will have a trickle-down effect as we see more budget being put into mobile SEO efforts when it has a bigger impact on the bottom line.
Another front Apple Pay might touch upon is micro-transactions. Since the 1990s there have been efforts to get some sort of online micro-transactions system off the ground, which have generally failed to get widespread traction. More recently micro-transactions started to become viable inside phone apps which use them for in-app purchases, but for web purchases there still hasn’t been a good solution.
Apple Pay for web is also for desktop
I think Apple Pay for the web has the power to change this. The solution is not just for mobile, but for desktop also, where you are prompted to scan your fingerprint on your iOS device. If checking out is as easy as picking up your phone and scanning your thumbprint then it removes a huge amount of friction, and suddenly 3-second transactions become viable, which also means the level of effort to complete a transaction becomes low enough that it is worth doing even for small amounts of money. This plays into SEO as it means there is a new category of query types that will potentially become monetisable that were not previously. However, only time will tell how much of an impact this will have – which will also depend on whether similar Android solutions come to market.
It is worth noting that payment platform providers such as Stripe have already announced support for Apple Pay which will mean there is a large number of websites where Apple Pay is a checkout option right from the outset.
Lastly, the possibility of seamless checkouts will allow ambient search devices (see above) to also become capable of handling transactions. Amazon Echo has already demonstrated that people are willing to make purchases via ambient devices.
You could imagine such purchases becoming more widespread when the checkout process is just a tap on your phone after the query (possibly even at a later time – queue up a few purchases and authorise later). It will be interesting to see the category ‘transactional queries’ becoming truly transactional where the query is both the search and the purchase directive in one (e.g. “Hey Siri, buy me a new set of 8 AA batteries.”).
These announcements will have an impact beyond SEO, of course, and there were also some other announcements that were interesting from an SEO perspective (e.g. allowing developers to integrate into apps, so you might be able to checkout from a search inside the Maps app, or via the Messages app).
However, the two above were the ones that immediately got my attention and which I think could impact SEO quite quickly once they are rolled out. I’d love to hear from others regarding what they think the impact may be – especially Apple Pay for web which has the potential to really change things.
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