After 11 million voice-activated smart speakers like Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Google Home were purchased in the 2017 holiday season, The Motley Fool dubbed 2018 “the year of the smart speaker.” In January 2018, NPR and Edison Research announced that 16 percent of Americans were regularly talking to Google Assistant and Alexa in their homes, and there’s no doubt that number will grow throughout 2019, thanks to the compact size, affordable price point, convenience and just plain fun of these devices.
Smart speaker ownership is also driving an uptick in the use of digital assistants like Siri, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana: 44 percent of new smart speaker owners in the NPR/Edison Research study reported using their smartphone digital assistants more often. Voice recognition continues to improve, as well as user satisfaction. With new skills (voice-activated apps), features and smart products rolling out every week, including Google Assistant’s brand-new multilingual recognition, it’s clear that the tech industry is equally enamored with the possibilities of voice activation. Early adopters have learned that “hands-free” is hardly “hands-off.” These devices and skills promise greater control—of your thermostat, security system, music playlists, purchasing and personal health.
CNBC predicts that Alexa’s best use might be in home healthcare. The assistive technology capabilities of Amazon Echo and Google Home were quickly recognized by people with disabilities. With the graying of the U.S. population, more people are adapting to the loss of mobility, dexterity, vision or hearing. And although Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance remains an obstacle for full integration of personal data with electronic health records, healthcare providers and websites like WebMD, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital and others have developed skills for Amazon Echo and Google Home users—the latest example of the service-first focus in healthcare.
Symptoms, appointment scheduling, specialists, discharge instructions, dosage tracking, first aid, drug interactions, prescription refills, insurance benefits: Smart speaker users are looking for the kind of information you already provide during office visits, over the phone or on your website or blog. But if your content isn’t ready for voice-activated search engine optimization (SEO), these users–and potential patients–may not be able to find you.
OK Google, Why Not?
The biggest difference between voice search and text search is that voice search relies on normal, casual language: an entire question or command, not just two or three keywords. Text search users get better results with fewer keywords, and they don’t need to be in order or even make sense. But voice search queries are not only complete sentences—they’re a (nearly) natural conversation. And voice search engines aren’t just scanning for a few important keywords. Instead, they’re looking for long-tail keywords that help them reply quickly and accurately, using intent and context. This is known as conversational query syntax. For voice-activated SEO, a site’s ranking is not as important as the quality and efficiency of that site’s content. This is a game-changer for SEOs, and it’s why Forbes named voice-activated SEO as the top SEO trend for 2018.
Confused about the differences? Let’s say a parent needs to take his daughter to urgent care. Using his desktop or laptop computer, the parent might search “urgent care tristate area New Jersey.” On his smartphone, he could type “urgent care” or “check in urgent care,” and location services would assist with results. But with a smart speaker in the house, he can say aloud, “Alexa, what is the wait time at the urgent care center near me?” or even “Alexa, check Jane Doe into the nearest open urgent care center with the shortest wait time.” With a full sentence, he can get an accurate response—and save a lot of steps. And even before leaving the house, he views this urgent care center as the most helpful and therefore the best choice for his daughter’s healthcare.
You Have Questions? We Have Answers
Voice-activated SEO is all about questions and answers, so getting ready for this technology means knowing which questions people are most likely to ask—and then being able to provide the answers. How can you do this?
Search analytics will certainly help, but first comes a change in perspective. If you aren’t focusing on patient experience, you’re missing out on the biggest trend in healthcare. And these days, patient experience begins online. It’s not clear yet how star ratings will affect voice-activated SEO, but before doing anything else, you’ll want to look at all your listings on third-party websites, including Google, social media and Healthgrades. Make sure that your description, address, office hours, contact information and key staff are up to date. Respond to reviews, both good and bad. Take advantage of “call now” or “check in” click buttons wherever possible.
Because smartphones and tablet searches are outpacing desktop and laptop searches, double-check that your website is optimized for mobile use and up to speed. If your website needs more than a few minor touch-ups, consider this an opportunity to start from scratch and optimize for both mobile use and voice search.
Now it’s finally time to take a fresh look at your content by reading it aloud, with a focus on patient experience—but keep in mind that more and more people will be hearing it, rather than reading it. So, as you’re reading aloud, ask yourself: What are the questions, and where are the answers? Does this sound more like a formal lecture, or a casual discussion? Are there too many clinical terms or confusing jargon?
Make a list of your patients’ most frequently asked questions (FAQs), and be sure to get input from co-workers at other points of contact, including the front desk or call center. If these questions aren’t part of your existing content, you’ll want to include them in your FAQs later.
Ready to start? Here are 10 quick tips to help you get your content ready for voice-activated SEO:
- Mobile voice search is more likely to be local, so use phrases such as “near you.” Mention the neighborhood or region by name–downtown, north side, tristate area—and include the names of nearby mass transit lines, too.
- Make your “About” page more specific by highlighting other aspects of the patient experience that you offer, such as online check-in, evening and weekend hours or bilingual staff.
- Include rankings, press releases and popular awards with a doctor’s name: “Dr. Alice Jones was recently named one of the best cardiologists in the tristate area.”
- Add a list of FAQs to each important topic. Don’t forget to incorporate the questions from the list you gathered earlier.
- Minimize the number of mostly-empty landing pages. Try longer-form content but shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs.
- Emphasize the common names of conditions and procedures by using them more often than the clinical terms—but be sure to include the clinical term, too. For example, “pinkeye, also known as conjunctivitis.”
- Use complete questions instead of phrases in headings, and be sure to answer them clearly in the first paragraph–ideally in the first sentence. Include at least two keywords. (Bonus tip: Question phrases that use “where” have the highest likelihood of action.)
- Don’t rely on tables and charts to provide information–these are great for screens, but not smart speakers. Instead, pull out the most relevant information and discuss it in the previous paragraph, or use links.
- Give numbered or bulleted lists plenty of context so that they stand alone—and stand out. For example, use “step 1, step 2” or “first, second” and so on.
- Test your changes using your own smart speaker and digital assistant, and enlist the help of others. Younger people are the heaviest users of voice search, and you might have noticed that kids are happy to ask Alexa or Siri anything, anytime. Have fun with this new technology—it’s here to stay!
Whether you need new content, a new website or a whole new marketing strategy, Points Group has all the tools to take you to the next level. Contact us today to get started.