Dan Cristo

Dan Cristo

Director of SEO Innovation

The Pebble Smart Watch, An Evolution In Mobile SEO

Smart watches are the latest entry into the growing category of Internet aware appliances and devices, joining other emerging smart-products like smart lights, net fridges, and smart TVs.

The Verge has a fantastic review of the Pebble, the crowd sourced Kickstarter campaign that raised over 10 million dollars to produce an e-ink based smart watch.

The reason smart watches are particularly interesting is that they usher in the age of human wearable computers. Now we’re still years away from Google Glass going mainstream, but smart watches create an important bridge for consumers to start becoming comfortable wearing computers on their body.

What Are Smart Watches?

A smart watch, like Pebble, connects to the Internet via your mobile phone. The core functionality is a standard watch, but it can also act as a second screen for your phone, connecting to it through Bluetooth. You can read emails, text messages and control your music library. It can also access your phone’s GPS to display a speedometer – useful for runners and bikers.

What About Search?

The search functionality in Pebble is pretty limited… as in, “there is none.” But that doesn’t mean you “won’t” be able to search from your watch. In fact, another Kickstarter-backed smart watch, called Martian, boasts full voice integration with Android and iOS. This means that you can control Siri or Google Voice and perform voice searches from your watch!

Why Pebble?

If Martian can perform voice searches, and Pebble can’t, why focus on SEO for Pebble? The answer is, “apps.”

Pebble has released a developer SDK (software development kit) so anyone can create an app for their watches. This creates some interesting search possibilities, and therefore, interesting SEO possibilities. I’ll also note that Martian plans on creating an SDK for developers as well, but they are far behind Pebble in terms of development, funding, customers, and awareness. This gives Pebble a big first mover advantage that could translate into a powerful app ecosystem à la Apple.

For example, let’s pretend that I’m a developer who creates an app called, “Tour Guide.” Any time you walk by a landmark, the app sends a notification to your watch with cool facts about the landmark. That action is actually a search. The only caveat is that I’m not actively searching out information myself.  Instead, the app is proactively providing me with this information. Now take that same app concept and imagine a commercial application where local businesses can send coupons to customers walking by their shop. Now go a step further by overlaying Facebook’s Graph Search data to see which nearby restaurants or stores your friends like.

All of a sudden you have a very powerful communication channel between brands and the wrists of potential customers.

What About Phones?

You can do proactive searches on mobile phones as well. In fact, Google has been hinting at this direction for a while. They even introduced a serious mobile app called Google Now which will do all sorts of proactive searches – weather, sports scores, what time your train will arrive, traffic delays, upcoming appointments, etc.

The difference between a smartphone and a smart watch is access. When you get a notification on your phone, you need to stop what you’re doing, dig it out of your pocket or purse, slide to unlock, enter security password, wait for the app to load, and then engage with it.

If you get a notification on your watch you simply look at it. It’s right there. If you want to engage you can press a dismiss button on the side of the watch, or perhaps give a voice command. There is no annoying ring. You won’t lose your watch in a cab or drop it down the toilet. It’s always there, strapped to your wrist.

A Screen For Every Need

Wouldn’t it be great if every single piece of content could be consumed on a single screen size? Well, it could, but it wouldn’t be a great experience.

You want a big TV to enjoy a great movie, but you wouldn’t want to read a book on that same TV. Tablets on the other hand are perfect for long form reading, but they’re kind of annoying to take pictures with, or to text a friend on. Phones are perfect for photos and texting, but having to check your phone every a few minutes to read status updates is a pain. Watches are ideal for notifications and music controls (think iPod Shuffle), but you’d get a migraine trying to watch a movie on it.

Since there seems to be a place for smart watches as a content consumption device, there will also be a need to organize and search for content on the device. And where there is search, there will be SEO.

The Future Is Here

I know most SEOs are still wrapping their head around the shift from web to mobile, but we can’t stop there. Every day new devices are becoming “smart,” and central to smart devices will be search. That means SEO will extend beyond mainstream app stores like iTunes and Google Play into vertical app stores like Ford’s car app marketplace and Pebble’s app ecosystem.

Not only will SEOs need to optimize apps for multiple ecosystems, we’ll need to access and optimize the content contained within these apps.

Clearly apps that run on smart devices aren’t going to have a web page Google can crawl. Could you imagine your refrigerator updating a web page with what food is rotting in your freezer? Of course not. But that’s that type of content you’ll want to know when you’re in the grocery store. Google wants to be the one to tell you that, but the only way they would be able to see that is if app developers build an API for Google.

Turns out, that’s exactly where SEO is headed.

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  • Heather Frahm

    Great article Dan! I want a Pebble, and Valentine’s Day is approaching…

    • haha. A Pebble would make a pretty amazing v-day gift.
      Chances are pretty slim that you could get one delivered in time. Their kickstarter campaign took almost 70,000 orders in 30 days. They’re still fulfilling that original batch of orders I believe, but they’re also taking new ones on GetPebble.com.

      I was just reading that they’re going to support text messaging and iMessage in iOS6. This means you can read texts on your watch. Very cool way to get important messages in a meeting, or on a jog.

  • I’m excited to watch where this whole trend goes.

  • Excited for this!!