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Search By Voice Is Taking Over: Why 2017 Is The Year of Voice Search

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

A Continuing Series by Raheim Bundle

Woman talking on a cellphone on speakerJust the other day, a headline caught my eye proudly declaring 2017: The Year of Voice Search.

Maybe my calendar runs a little faster than others, but the staggering statistics say voice search use has already moved beyond “emerging.” The commonplace practice now has a comfortable “mainstream” foothold. There are the typers and there are the talkers. And voice search is changing healthcare marketing.

The essential distinction is that everyday technology is getting smarter with voice search. What’s more, voice search itself is getting smarter. Everyone’s mobile device is gaining the “smarts” to identify the words spoken, their context and the intended meaning.

Trust me, voice recognition alone is a huge technological hurdle. And, for voice-tech devices, the Internet search process is different from using simple keywords. Here’s some of what voice means for hospitals and healthcare marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and paid search campaigns.

Talkers vs typers: The big numbers in voice search…

Since voice-enabled, smart-assistant devices emerged in 2011, the field has been dominated—not surprisingly—by familiar business names. The big-brand players include Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s Now (the voice without a clever name).

The voice recognition and interpretation ability is a significant advance in search, mainly via mobile devices where instant answers are on demand. But voice systems are also becoming standard fare in games, appliances, productivity assistants, vehicles and other devices.

Voice is a disruptive change agent for search. Adoption and technical sophistication are rapid, and user-survey numbers may be a trailing indicator of an even bigger installed base. In the recent numbers, Google says that voice searches account for one-fifth (20 percent) of mobile searches. What’s more, over half of the teen population (55 percent) and better than 40 percent of adults use voice search more than once a day.

As voice is changing search, voice-driven computer interfaces are the new gatekeepers for marketing information, locations and services. For many users, it’s faster and easier than typing a keyword or two. More than ever, your audience wants immediate, online gratification, even if they use their device to “call someone,” “check the time,” “play a song,” “find movie times,” or “ask directions.”

Being natural means being found online…

As in the past, Internet users want quick solutions to specific needs. But the primary difference is anticipating the natural language words they’ll be asking their friendly digital assistant. Instead of typing “hospital near me,” their voice search might ask: “OK, Google, what’s the shortest route to an emergency room.” Consider how your target audience would shape a “question phrase,” or a long-tail keyword expression or expression.

In addition, people tend to speak to their device/assistant/smartphone as they would talk to a friend. Where (typed) keywords may be more formal, shorter and specific, voice searches are increasingly able to interpret meaning, intent or context from slang and informal/conversational speech.

When SEO encounters voice search…

Search Engine Optimization has always been a dynamic process of keeping up with technology and the mysteries of Google. The primary message here is that patients and consumers have not only gone mobile, they are increasingly using voice search to answer their needs. Marketing professionals need to adapt.

The voice commands, searches and questions of healthcare need to find your site online when the consumer uses voice search. Here are some of the content considerations that can help SEO visibility:

  • Adapt to friendly, conversational speech of the audience
  • Everyday speech—including slang and local expressions—are acceptable
  • Have a FAQ or Q&A page with Who-What-When-Where-Why-How questions and answers
  • For local searches, build in long tail keywords or phrases
  • Online content should be authoritative, using informal, natural language
  • Provide quick and direct answers to key questions

Pay-per-Click campaigns must be smarter…

PPC, as well as SEO, will be a reflection of how well you are able to communicate with the consumer or patient in a natural language “dialogue.” And often, the immediacy of voice search overlays the need for a local answer. Voice search, according to Google, is more likely to be local-based. Individuals want answers—such as directions to the hospital ER—that are close and convenient. Optimize for “near me” or “close to me” questions.

You want the buyer’s journey to end with your practice as the most valuable choice for a service provider. Unfortunately, voice search and typed search create significantly different paths to your door.

We can help with that, so please give me a call today at 800-656-0907. To be successful—and capture the talkers and the typers—your healthcare SEO and PPC efforts need to be designed for greatest effectiveness on both fronts.

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