Voice search in healthcare is on the rise — here's how to ensure your medical practice or hospital stays one step ahead of the competition in 2018.
It’s clear that voice search will only become more important to medical marketing in 2018. Once again, voice-assisted devices like the Amazon Echo ruled the holidays, and nearly 41% of American adults use voice search on a daily basis. Google revealed that more than 20% of all searches on Android occur through voice. Despite the clear signs that voice search is the future, 62% of marketers have no specific strategy for voice search in 2018.
However, we suspect that medical marketers aren’t indifferent to voice search; they’re simply unsure how to move forward. As speech recognition continues to improve, patients will rely more heavily on their voice-enabled devices to answer their questions about provider research, treatment and management. Smart medical marketers can lead the pack by following these simple steps:
Get the Specs
The basic tenets of website crawlability that apply to typed searches are also key to voice search. If a search engine can’t find or navigate your site, your practice won’t appear in search results to begin with. But SEO is even more important for voice search, since voice assistants often present only one answer in response to a given query. Only when the program can’t pick one specific answer does it present a list of search results.
Make it easy for users to find your practice via voice search by optimizing for desktop and mobile SEO. Ensure that you’ve added schema markup to your site so that Google’s crawlers can present users with most important information. Develop a clearly-structured sitemap that follows potential patients’ user journey when they’re considering your practice. Medical marketers should also conduct a thorough mobile SEO audit and fill in any gaps.
Pay Attention to Context
Once you have basic SEO optimization out of the way, it’s time to think about language, specifically how spoken queries differ from written ones. To some extent, all search queries are contextual; that is, the same question can mean different things depending on where, when, by whom, and how it’s asked.
For search engines, the smartphone provides an invaluable source of context. For example, when a user searches for “cardiologist near me,” the phone can fill in implicit context like location, device type, and even browser history. With this additional information, a simple query takes on new meaning and gives search engines clues about which results are meaningful to the user.
With voice search, context becomes even more important, as there are multiple ways of asking a question with the same underlying intent. “Cardiologist near me” could be phrased as “Find me a cardiologist” or “Who’s the best heart doctor in my town?” On their own, these questions are nonspecific, but users expect that their phones or home assistants like Amazon Alexa will understand context and fill in the gaps.
So, how do medical practices ensure that they’re optimizing for context? FAQ pages — what many voice SEO guides recommend — are an easy (and ineffective) way out. Instead, create a map of a potential patient’s journey to your site, considering their intent, how they might formulate a question, and which results will be helpful to them. You can then associate long-tail keywords with each nodule in your map, catching users at every stage of their research and decision process.
When it comes to voice SEO, it’s all about location, location, location. Since the majority of voice queries currently occur on mobile devices, search engines try to present information that’s relevant to the user’s whereabouts.
To make the most of your local listing, ensure that your practice name, address, and contact information are correct across all presences, including social media and review apps like Yelp. Make use of LocalBusiness markup where appropriate to give potential patients valuable information about your practice. Last, add clear calls to action to encourage users to take steps toward conversion.
The medical marketing community’s ambitions for voice search may not be met for a few years, but in the meantime, practices can adapt their SEO strategy for a voice-enabled future. It’s only a matter of time before voice search becomes ubiquitous, and you’ll be happy you put the building blocks in place for strong voice search results.