A game-changer is about to hit the social marketing world. Well-known blogs are claiming that beacons are going to be a revolutionary way for customers to search. In fact, Search Engine Watch is even calling 2020 “The Year of the Beacon.” They are predicting this is going to be a major change in searching function and capability, so it is definitely important for us to start talking about how this might impact SEO strategy. It got me thinking: Are beacons going to be as influential as they sound?
What are Beacons? Before we start talking about how Beacons are going to change SEO in the coming years, we might want to address what they are and how they work. Beacons are small, Bluetooth-enabled hardware devices that are installed in physical locations. Beacons can be used by any brand, business, or institution to set up notifications for those who “op in” and want to be alerted by that institution directly on their phone (via Bluetooth).
What do beacons cost? Beacons are low-cost and can be purchased for as low as $30, which is really great for businesses looking to implement them into their marketing strategy. They are also small and can easily fit on a counter/desk or can be mounted on a wall.
Where can Beacons be used? The possibilities of where Beacons can be used are endless, but some examples include retail stores, airports, events, restaurants, festivals, and even entire cities. The sky is the limit with purpose and location, but the important aspect is that they are tied to a physical locale. They silently broadcast a message to any Bluetooth-enabled devices in their proximity. One of our past articles said it perfectly when they claimed that Beacons are like “a lighthouse with text.”
How might a business use a Beacon? Let’s take, for example, a store that is having a sale. If a customer with a Bluetooth enabled device were to walk past the store, they could receive a notification about the promotion with the details. This is kind of like an advertisement that directly pops up on the consumer’s phone. This sounds like a pretty great way to gain access to passers-by or market to customers in your immediate location, right? Well, the truth is that there are some obstacles that need to be overcome before this takes off, but more on that later.
Let’s turn to how Beacons can directly impact your online marketing and SEO strategy.
How Beacons Could Impact Your SEO Strategy
- More Ratings: People seem to like the concept of Beacons and have rated the app highly. Since many businesses have not implemented Beacons yet, you could be one of the first, and this could bode well for things like business ratings, which of course, positively impacts your SEO.
- Website Landing: Since Beacons give you the ability to reach out via Bluetooth, they also give you the opportunity for more people to land on your website or content-related pages. This boost in new visitors will certainly increase your landings and help your overall standing with Google.
- Retailers Can Get Going: At this point, the Beacon system is really undergoing a lot of change, additions, and restructuring, so it is still unclear as to how this form of marketing will evolve over time. One thing is for sure, though. If you are a retailer you can absolutely get in on the action early and begin to see how store advertising on the Beacon platform begins to impact your SEO. If you get started early you are going to be able to see how Beacons make a difference in your SEO over the next few years while things are still building up.
Want to learn more about beacons? Listen to Kelsey Jones’ Marketing Nerds podcast with Casey Markee on what they mean for businesses:
Some Challenges That are Delaying Take-Off of Beacons
As you can imagine, having a system that can link from a physical location to a Bluetooth can definitely have some kinks that need to be ironed out before we see success. Beacons require an app to use and as a consequence, they have a similar issue that the QR scanners (which never really took off) have. That is, in order for them to be successful, a user needs to download an app that will allow beacons to access their personal device.
So, yeah, it isn’t a QR reader where you have to intentionally scan the advertisement you see on the train on the way to work, but it still requires downloading an app and being open-minded to having these notifications occur on your phone.
Personally, I disagree that Beacons are going to be the next big thing. In speaking to people and knowing the world we live in, where we are constantly being bombarded by advertisements and marketing attempts, I am hard pressed to believe that consumers are going to welcome advertisements just popping up on their screen as they walk around the city or a festival.
I think this could work if there were extensive preferences and settings, but I am wary of the success that is predicted on the Beacon horizon. Most people never downloaded a QR scanner to their phone, let alone took the time to scan and learn more from a physical advertisement. It seems Beacons are going to have to overcome a huge hurdle in order to make this app and process of marketing appealing to a customer. For that to take place it is definitely going to take some time, failure, and reinvention, at least in my opinion as a marketer.
That being said, it doesn’t mean you should avoid thinking about what your business may be able to offer the Beacon-Seeking world. Beacons could impact SEO in really interesting ways. In the screenshot below you can see Beacon app, which is available on Google Play.
Positive Results So Far
Business Insider found that beacons were actually getting positive reactions from customers, claiming that they enhanced their shopping experience and interaction with the business. They also found that because their use extends past the retail world, that they are likely to be adopted and used widely.
This has resulted in major companies like PayPal and Apple putting in their bids and developing hardware of their own. These positive findings do give hope that the Beacon platform and application could be favored by users. There is a lot of development underway and it will be interesting to see what comes of beacons over the next year.
If you are ready to get going (and if you are a retail business, the time is now), then the first thing you will need to do is purchase the physical device for your location and design an app. Then you will need to start figuring out the kind of advertisements you want to be able to put out to your customers and passers-by.
According to Chris Marentis at Search Engine Land, here’s what you would need:
- Eddystone-compatible BLE beacon hardware
- Ideas of what you want your app to be able to do
- A developer who can create with both the Nearby and Proximity APIs
Once you are set with these three foundational aspects, you can hire a developer to start creating simple apps for your place of business to see how the beacon and smartphones interact. You can also look into doing this in-house, although because it is still fairly new and there is not a ton of information out there just yet, so you might need to work with someone who has a little more experience with it!
While Beacons are set to become more prominent over the next few years, and they haven’t exactly gained immense popularity yet, it is never too early to start thinking about how you might want to alter your SEO strategy in consideration of Beacons. If you’re a company that focuses on technology and pride yourself on being involved in the latest technological developments, this is a fun one.
Truthfully, I am skeptical about the extent to which Beacons will take off at this point. They still have a lot of work to undergo to convince people that downloading the app and getting these Bluetooth advertisements is worth their while. As such, if getting the technology and set-up for the Beacon platform is not in the marketing budget right now, I definitely think you can take some time and wait to see how results are panning out for other companies.
For another take on the Beacon discussion, check out this article, also published on Search Engine Journal.
Are you excited about the Beacon system? Do you have any initial experiences you would like to share? Let us know in the comments section below.