Beacons, the in-store devices that help retailers communicate with consumers on their mobile devices and theoretically enhance the in-store shopping experience, could mean big changes in SEO as they evolve.
First and foremost, given the interaction can only occur when consumers are within a specific geographic range, beacons will increase the importance of local search – and they may force businesses to make local more of a priority in order to influence potential customers about where they want to go to obtain the products or services they are searching for in near-me moments on their mobile devices.
“With this visibility in the SERPs, a visitor would receive information about the businesses that surround them so they can choose where they would like to go to obtain the services, which would put them in range of the beacon and allow the brick and mortar location to market directly to them,” said Nathan Stenberg, organic SEO specialist for integrated marketing agency Anvil Media.
This could include promotions such as daily or weekly specials that are only available to visitors of the location or a discount for first-time in-store customers, he added.
However, per Luke Rees, digital marketing lead at search agency AccuraCast, consumers are increasingly savvy and a push notification to an in-store consumer won’t necessarily seal the deal, as said customer can easily compare prices on his or her mobile device. Further, he noted beacons are Bluetooth-enabled, which means they have limited capability when it comes to follow-up queries.
“If the ad doesn’t provide the information that’s needed all at once, search may be required,” Rees said. “You’ll clearly want to make sure your brand is providing the relevant answers and contact details in the mobile search results.”
Editor note: to learn more about beacons, listen to this Marketing Nerds podcast with Casey Markee:
Here are nine other ways beacons could change search:
Per Sam Williamson, SEO executive at digital media firm Aims Media Glasgow, beacons could present an opportunity to optimize for hyper-local searches and to find specific answers to hyper-local queries, which he said is something Google has struggled with to date.
However, he also noted hyper-local searches are incredibly specific, which means it’s not only difficult to optimize for them, it may not actually be worth it.
“Because these searches will be so specific, for example, ‘Where is terminal 4 in CDG airport,’ I imagine that the results will be presented in the form of a Knowledge Graph,” he said. “Once one article has been created outlining where Terminal 4 is, will Google really need to display any others? Furthermore, what kind of ads would be displayed alongside a search for terminal gate at an airport and would users actually click them? This is highly debatable. Unlike other searches that we carry out, these hyper-local searches tend to have very little buyer intent.”
According to Joe Scartz, managing director of digital commerce and integration at retail marketing agency TPN, beacons are “dumb devices” – a consumer walks into a store and if said customer has the right app, his or her phone receives push notifications. However, as beacons evolve, consumers will potentially receive more personalized information from them.
“What we want to see today based on proximity is how can [beacons] serve content and information that is relevant based on where you are and your previous profile in a way that prioritizes certain content over another,” Scartz said. “That’s where we’ll see more of this SEO activity.”
“One of the benefits of beacons is that you can reach your audience in real-time in their exact location.