SEO & Waymo, The Google Self-Driving Car – What’s The Connection?
Do you remember back in 2007, when Google Maps launched their Google Street View cars with the idea of mapping the world?
At the time,many considered the mission quaint and eccentric, though there were soon worries about Privacy, when some Google Street Views “show[ed] men leaving strip clubs, protesters at an abortion clinic, sunbathers in bikinis, and people engaging in activities visible from public property in which they do not wish to be seen publicly” wikipedia.
Irrespective, Google Maps has powered on to become the standard (Apple Maps was initially so bad that it’s become a Silicone Valley joke), used by hundreds of millions of people, throughout much of the world.
Waymo: The Google Self-Driving Car
And now, in 2016, Google has finally launched Waymo, their self-driving car. It functions through 10 Astonishing Technologies, such as various cameras, radar, GPS tracking etc. and one can only surmise that Google Street View is somehow integrated into Waymo’s Artificial Intelligence, as well.
— Waymo (@Waymo) December 13, 2016
So, you might be asking yourself, “That’s all fine and dandy but what does Waymo have to do with SEO?”
Well, from a normal point of view, nothing. Waymo is a futuristic mode of transport that’s almost arrived and SEO consists of a series of techniques to make your website’s pages more valuable to the Search Engines, with the intention of getting your site more traffic!
Fair enough -but from a more abstract, Google-centric perspective:
- Waymo, powered by Google Maps and other groundbreaking technologies, takes a passenger to their intended destination &
- Good SEO enables Google to take a searcher to what will probably be their most likely destination
And that difficult leap – towards a Google world view – is what I believe businesses should be doing, to ensure that their websites remain successful. I’ve gone into this in some detail in Future Shock, which looks at the coming Virtual Reality revolution but it’s also relevant today, when you look at how Google is updating INFO in your Google My Business listing, such as the addition of wheelchair access INFO, (in the USA) in December 2016.
The Google World View, Today
Let’s look at an example of someone with a disability that needs wheelchair access, Fred. He is in his Waymo and decides that he wants to go to a Thai restaurant for dinner.
- Fred does a quick search and chooses one restaurant from the Local Pack (for what that is, see: Google My Business), the Jasmine Thai
- He clicks THRU to their Google My Business listing and checks out a few reviews. Recognizing his work-mate Donna, he gets sold by her enthusiastic four stars review and decides he’d like to visit
- However, first he searches the Jasmine Thai‘s listing for details of wheelchair access
- Seeing that they have wheelchair access, Fred uses Google My Business’ LIVE CHAT (coming soon) to order his meal. Presently, he’d just phone the order through
- Then, getting his estimated time of arrival at the Jasmine Thai from Waymo, he arranges for a staff member to meet him and help him get out of the car and into his wheelchair. Within a few minutes, Fred’s happily crunching away on his Thai Spring Rolls entree
- After his meal, another staff member helps him back into his Waymo
- Since the meal was so good and both the staff members who helped him were so kind, Fred decides to write the Jasmine Thai a glowing Google My Business review on the way home [NOTE: I’ve assumed that Fred has a remote controlled wheelchair that he can get into, when he arrives home!]
Why I’ve gone through these individual steps is not to be pedantic but to try to help business owners understand that increasingly, from Google’s perspective, your website / business is becoming part of a process, where Google’s FREE tools are integral to the way that customers do business. In Fred’s case, he’s used:
- Google Maps
- Google My Business Listings
- Google My Business Listings LIVE CHAT
- Google My Business reviews
In the process of using these services, Google users like Fred will probably occasionally click some Google ads and as a result, Google will continue making billions. Your business, then, is the variable in this model and in effect, Google feels it’s taking a risk on you! I’ve found a very interesting quote from a Google spokesperson that provides invaluable insights into understanding the Google universe. It follows the first serious accident involving a Google self-driving car (a LEXXUS, not a Waymo), which a van drove into, after running through a red light.
“Thousands of crashes happen everyday on U.S. roads, and…human error plays a role in 94% of [them], which is why we’re developing fully self-driving technology to make our roads safer.”
That quote may appear innocuous but look beyond the obvious. With cars, at least, Google wants to eliminate human error by having an Artificial Intelligence become a superior human-like driver on the road.
I believe that the company would have a similar ethos for their Search Engine. As stated elsewhere on this site, your site’s rank in the Search Engines is determined by about 200 factors, presently, and Google sees your site as a variable in their economic model, a risk.
The Best Ways For Your Site To Remain Valuable To Google & The Other Search Engines
The best ways to become less of a risk are:
- Use SEO – keep presenting your website’s info in a style that works for both your customers and the Search Engines (NOTE: In the Get Your Website Found world, that includes keeping your website looking contemporary and inviting)
- use changes or updates in Google My Business to create new media that will be of interest to your customers e.g. with the addition of wheelchair access INFO, the Jasmine Thai might consider making a brief video detailing their restaurant’s wheelchair access. It need not be expensive – in that particular case, a brief phone video would probably suffice – but title it informatively, using relevant keywords e.g Jasmine Thai Wheelchair Access Video. [See also, our follow-up article: How Keyword Research Can Help Your Business]
- continue to provide great service and monitor your reviews
Many business website owners complain that “Google keeps changing the rules”. Interestingly, I don’t know of any consumers who complain that Google Search is getting worse. If you want your website to become or remain successful, it’s imperative that your site evolves with the web. And if you want some help, as I say at the end of many of our articles, we’re here to help.
NOTE 1: To date, with one million miles driven (1.6m km), there have been about a dozen Google driverless car accidents. Most were minor – with Google accepting responsibility in only one case.
NOTE 2: The May 2016 well-publicized, self-driving car fatality was a Tesla, which had both human control & self-driving capabilities. The accident occurred while it was self-driving.