The way consumers search for information is constantly changing, and search engines are adapting accordingly, with features like voice search. It’s important for healthcare companies and organizations to understand the importance of this function – which allows users to say their search queries out loud rather than typing them into a search box – and to adjust their content as needed.
In 2018, PwC conducted consumer research to gain a better understanding of voice search and consumer usage and perception of voice assistants. Of the 1,000 Americans ages 18-64 surveyed, 90% were familiar with voice-enabled products and devices (such as smartphones, tablets, smart speakers or wearables), and 72% reported using a voice assistant.
At present, a majority of those users report utilizing voices search for the following basic tasks:
- search for something that they’d normally type into a search engine (32% daily, 57% monthly)
- ask a quick question (29% daily, 59% monthly)
- check weather/news (35% daily, 50% monthly)
- play music (33% daily, 49% monthly)
From there, 61% of adults ages 25-64 and 57% of adults ages 18-24 say they plan to use voice search more actively in the future.
It’s safe to say that voice search is not a fad. When looking at inbound marketing strategies heading into 2020, as healthcare marketers, we need to optimize for voice search as part of our overall search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Maximizing SEO effectiveness is essential to growing organic traffic to your healthcare organization’s website. Now that we’ve established why your company or organization should care about voice search, let’s focus on a few best practices to get your website content ready for voice search.
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1. Use structured data and schema markup on your website.
Without delving too much into the technical aspect of website building, structured data (code added to your site’s HTML) and schema markup are what search engines use to learn more about a website and the products, services and other offerings of a company or organization. Using this type of formatting can help lead search engines in the right direction. It’s a treasure map of sorts to help them properly understand and then correctly categorize your website. Making it easy for search engines has its rewards, like moving up in search engine results pages (SERPs), the coveted waterfront property of the Internet! Google provides a structured markup gallery of all valid markup they support. You can explore the gallery and also look at specific markup for voice assistants.
2. Refine page content to match user intent in voice search.
Over time, search engines have become more intuitive. According to Search Engine Watch, “Thanks to the Hummingbird update — Google digs into the context of the search query. They investigate sites’ content and provide you with whatever answer is deemed most relevant.” When optimizing your content for voice search, first think about user intent. Why would someone want to search for a page on your website? Are they looking to buy a product or service? Are they looking for information on a particular topic? Users want the most relevant answer possible, and search engines want to deliver that to them. Make sure the content on your site answers the questions that users are asking in search.
3. Optimize keywords via meta-data for voice search.
Voice searches are usually more conversational than typed searches. As Neil Patel points out, “Voice queries contain conversational words and are longer. When we use a computer, we use short phrases to find information.” For example, on a desktop computer, one might type “urgent care facilities in Albany, NY.” When using voice search, one might say, “What urgent care facilities are open in Albany, NY?” Use long tail keywords — which are usually three- to four- word phrases — that people might use by speaking. For example, rather than just optimizing for the keyword “health plans” use the phrase “health plans available in Albany, NY” or “health plans with dental coverage.” And of course, when selecting or optimizing your meta keywords, be sure that each keyword accurately reflects the content of your pages. For question and answer content, Google has a specific reference for how to tag these pages.
4. Don’t ignore local SEO.
Consumers are using voice search to find out information on local businesses, according to BrightLocal. In fact, about 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information in the last 12 months! While most searchers are looking for restaurants, grocery stores or food delivery, optimizing for local SEO may be more important for hospitals and health systems (less so for health plans). However, BrightLocal found that 27% of users visit the website of a local business after making a voice search, meaning that traffic from voice search could mean an increase in overall users to your website. When using voice search, many users will also add the phrase “near me” to help the search engine find the closest desired location to where the user is at that very moment. To ensure you’re optimized for local SEO, make sure your (free) Google My Business Page is up to date with the correct address, contact information and opening hours. Building up your online reviews and using structed data and schema markup also helps.
5. Pay attention to page speed.
According to Moz, “Page speed is a measurement of how fast the content on your page loads.” Why should healthcare marketers care about page speed? There are a number of reasons. First, page speed is one of the signals that Google uses to rank pages. Second, users are more likely to leave a page if the load time is too long, resulting in fewer conversions, higher bounce rates and lower average time on page… changes that marketers do not want to see! Third, users who conduct voice searches are likely on-the-go and want their information fast. Google Developers have a free site called PageSpeed Insights (PSI) that provides a report for pages and how that page may be improved on both desktop and mobile devices. Larger images are one of the main culprits of slower page speeds. You can optimize your images by compressing them using a tool that will reduce the file size. One tool that we recommend for image compression is TinyJPG.
Here, we’ve only scratched the surface on ways to improve your site’s SEO and optimize for voice search. (And remember: the SEO landscape is always changing.) If you have further questions on how to improve your SEO or want to know more about content marketing, contact Jim McDonald, director of business development, at 518-456-3015.
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.Tags: content marketing, content marketing for healthcare, healthcare voice assistant, search engine optimization, search engines, SEO, voice search