Search Engine Optimization: The Rise of Voice Search in Healthcare

SEO voice search in healthcare

As the popularity of voice search continues to rise, here's how medical marketers can adapt their SEO strategies in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a constantly evolving field. With each new update to Google's search algorithm, medical marketers need to adapt their optimization tactics or risk being left out in the proverbial cold of the search results — also known as “page three."

Consumer trends, however, are easier to follow and adapt to, and typically reflect a larger theme in SEO. We've seen many trends develop over the years, such as the death of links schemes, the growth in content creation, the prioritization of mobile, the reshaping of local SEO, and the movement of optimization towards people instead of computers. In 2017, yet another game-changing trend is emerging: the use of voice search.

Voice Search is on the Rise in Medical

Today, voice search is the fastest-growing type of search. Google's Mobile Voice study found that "55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search more than once a day." The report also states that 20% of searches on mobile apps are now voice searches. In reality, the total number is actually much higher when you factor in the use of Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Siri and Cortana, which are all voice search apps.

"At least Half of all Searches will be made via voice queries by 2020" - ComScore

When voice search first appeared on the market, it’s voice recognition and natural-speech processing capabilities were relatively limited, which made it frustrating from a consumer standpoint. However, the technologies have improved dramatically — according to the KPCB Internet Trends in 2016 report, the accuracy rate has reached 92%.

Alexa and Google Home are the relative newcomers to the market, designed specifically to help streamline the user’s homelife. As more and more voice recognition products emerge, medical marketers need to make sure they’re doing everything they can to adapt their SEO and digital marketing efforts accordingly if they want to reap their share of the benefits in the years to come.

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Why People Use Voice Search

According to data compiled by an app called Hound, we can clearly see the four major categories that people people are using voice seach for:

  • General Information: things like news, recipes, travel, stock market information, etc.
  • Personal Assistant: things like reminders, shopping lists, and to-do lists
  • Fun and Entertainment: searching for video and music, sports schedules, tv shows, movie times
  • Local Information: this might include local business listing info (i.e., addresses and store hours), food delivery, weather, traffic information, etc.

voice-search.jpg*This chart from Hound includes the four major categories used in voice search

"Local information" would be the most relevant category for online medical marketing, as people often search for local doctors and hospital information. With local information accounting for 22% of voice searches, this area represents a major opportunity for medical practices and hospitals who are willing to make the appropriate SEO adjustments.

Since business aggregator sites are linked to different voice search services (for example, Amazon's Echo uses Yelp to source local business information), you’ll want to fill out and/or update your business’ listing info on as many different platforms as possible. By making sure that all of your listings include accurate, comprehensive, and useful information about your practice or hospital, you can rest assured you’ll be successfully referenced by these third-party sites.

Natural Language Processing And "Topics"

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It’s also important to remember that people perform voice searches differently than mobile and/or desktop searches. Instead of chopping a query down to only a few relevant keyword, as you might do on a computer, users tend to ask complete questions (i.e., they use natural language) when searching with their voice.

For example, a typical laptop search look something like this: "Vein doctor Boston, MA." However, the same query conducted via voice search might turn into “Who is the vein doctor in Boston?” NLP or "natural language processing" is becoming more and more integrated into Google's mobile search algorithms. Because of this, SEOs should be looking to focus their content more around generalized "topics" rather than specific keywords.

Admittedly, this is kind of a difficult idea to grasp, however, the biggest takeaway is this: medical marketers need to focus on developing content around the things that users are actually looking for, rather than simply trying to rank for all of the specific ways they might phrase it.

In other words, optimizing your page simply means maximizing the value and quality of information for the consumer. Since there are multiple variations of keywords around any given topic, your focus should be on overall content quality and communication — not just one or two of potentially hundreds of relevant keywords.

Tips on Adapting to Voice Search

  • Content: try to write content in a natural, conversational tone that answers the questions your consumers are asking. Website content in the era of voice search isn’t about targeting specific keywords, it’s about semantic search and providing quality information.
  • User Intent: always try to keep the intent of your users in mind when designing and developing your site. Pay special attention to way in which your users are phrasing their queries. Grasping the intent behind a question is essential if you want to understand how both you and the search engine can deliver more accurate results. For this reason, including a FAQ's page that's structured to reflect common questions around your medical practice and procedures is always good idea.
  • Structured Data: using structured data and schema markup can help the search engines understand and crawl your site more efficiently when building their knowledge graph for voice search. Include rich snippets, breadcrumbs, and Sitelinks search box. Google will pull from the structured data markup and display it in the Knowledge Graph depending on whether the site is authoritative for the given search query.

Looking to the Future

Voice is inevitably going to play a larger and larger role in search results. As the technology’s level of sophistication increases, it’s going to become more pervasive than ever before. The days of writing content for a computer are rapidly disappearing. Almost counterintuitively, the more advanced our technology becomes, the more we'll need to focus on creating content for real-live human beings — not search engine algorithms.

SEO Audit Report, Medical Practice Marketing