How To Future Proof RIGHT NOW For the IoT

IoT Future Proofing
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This post was originally made on the 4Ps Marketing blog.

This big malarkey about “the Internet of Things” (IoT) just won’t go away, will it? From radiators you control with your phone to fridges with internal cameras so you can check the contents on the move, it seems like everything is connected these days. Alexa and Google Home are all set to start battling it out on the home voice search stage, and it seems like only a matter of time before you’ll be shouting at your loo to get more toilet paper or hollering at the oven to order pizza.

One of the biggest challenges marketers currently face is providing some kind of actionable answer to the big question everyone is asking – what does this mean for my brand, how can we leverage it, and how can we start future proofing our digital assets?

I could spend the blog equivalent of War & Peace giving my best shot at answering all of those questions (drop me a line for a cuppa and we can talk about it if you’re interested) but what I’m going to focus on right now is the third one – specifically, what you can do right now on your website that will form the first steps of future proofing it against the rise of the voice-driven Internet of Things.

You’ll need a friendly developer (or, failing that, an unfriendly developer and something to bribe them with) and ideally a tech-fluent SEO on hand to get this done. It is worth it though, as an immediate and sometimes surprisingly simple-to-implement form of future-proofing that doesn’t require a multi-million pound technology investment.

That’s right, I’m going to tell you to mark up your website with schema.org again.

Schema? Again?

Right, now the groaning noises have stopped let me tell you why you should do this – and specifically do it with JSON-LD script injections rather than microdata. Well, other than the previously covered reasons when I updated my recommendation last year.

Google Home & Alexa Skills Use JSON

The first image is a screencap of an Action for Google Home (from here) and the second is a Skill for Alexa (from here). Notice anything about both of these?

That’s right, they’re both powered by JSON.

We’ve already seen the early beginnings of JSON driving actions on pages as well as simply structuring data to be machine readable – the most obvious example is the sitelink search box markup which allows users to directly interface with your website’s search bar from the Google results page, saving a click. In a future without a conventional results “page” – say, the Internet of Things or a voice search heavy technology ecosystem – it’s easy to see how these sorts of interactions can evolve. What precisely this looks like is still to be determined, but all the signs point to it being written in JSON.

Schema.org already has a whole mess of options available for Actions as well as Objects. A lot of them, especially as given in the examples, are rather pedantic and not necessarily of immediate use from a marketer’s perspective, but the point is that the vocabulary is there. It’s quite accessible as well – even I can write JSON scripts, and I haven’t done any formal coding since the FORTRAN 90 module in my undergraduate degree.

So if you’re a brand, get marked up with JSON rather than microdata, and start using this to signpost key actions on your site – from Order Brochure to Add To Basket, or whatever else you can implement. I recommend inline markup where you can; while it is perfectly possible to deploy schema.org using Google Tag Manager and similar systems, there seems to be a marked delay in pickup by crawlers and there’s every possibility that non-Google entities won’t even realise the stuff is there.

If you’re a marketer, and doing anything in the vague region of technical SEO or web development, try and get at least basic reading fluency in JSON scripting. W3CSchools is a good starting point, and I would personally recommend Codecademy if you want something more structured towards progressive learning.

Photo Credit: Gian Prosdocimo

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