“Hey, Siri!” “”Hey Alexa!” Even if you don’t use these commands to interact with virtual personal assistants like Apple’s Siri mobile app and Amazon’s Echo “smart speaker,” you likely have heard them on their respective TV commercials or have personally witnessed people uttering those and similar phrases into their “knowledge navigator” devices to get information.
Although not yet a universal best practice for healthcare marketers—even for those actively involved with in hospital Website’s search engine optimization (SEO)—the continued adoption of intelligent personal assistant technologies ensure that medical SEO techniques will soon merge with personal assistant search optimization (PASO) as part of healthcare digital marketing strategy best practices.
A 2014 Google blog, “OMG! Mobile Voice Survey Reveals Teens Love to Talk,” noted 41 percent of adults rely on voice searches at least once per day—with more than half of all teens reportedly turning to personal digital assistants daily for help with locating information. Presumably, as smartphones (and the virtual personal assistant technologies they provide) have become even more commoditized, it’s a safe assumption that voice search rates have grown too.
Another safe presumption is users will use increasingly rely upon virtual personal assistants for finding healthcare information. For instance, a person driving to work that suddenly remembers they haven’t had a physical in years might ask Siri about available physicians. Or, someone out with friends that experiences an injury might turn to Google Assistant to locate an urgent care facility. Or, a mother worried about her child at night might turn to the mobile device on the bedside table to ask about symptoms.
But no matter who (or what) is doing the knowledge navigation, the location of that data remains the same: on the Internet. And thus, the advantages of search optimization also remain the same. Therefore, the time is now to start understanding how healthcare SEO and PASO can help healthcare organizations improve their online efforts for patient acquisition and patient engagement.
Additional Advantages of Medical SEO for Virtual Personal Assistants
So, there’s no doubt that implementing your existing medical SEO strategies for the new virtual personal assistant audience is an opportunity to find new patients (and for them to find you!). However, those that embrace this sooner than later will likely reap additional rewards. Here are a few reasons why:
• Currently, virtual personal assistant search results tend only yield a few links—as compared to traditional Web-browser searches that can produce hundreds—if not thousands — of results. (For example Siri on average returns one to four links per search.) This indicates the current competition to preferred rankings is not very fierce, which naturally suggests it can be very easy to achieve top medical SEO rankings.
• Intelligent personal assistant searches are often filtered through additional artificial intelligence technologies, which mean the results are more likely to be custom tailored to the user. As such, the opportunity to develop highly personalized results may likely result in impressive click-through rates. This is likely to become even more true as the technologies improve.
• Because search engine algorithms are routinely adjusted to embrace new ways for users to find relevant information—not to mention the potential boosts in a hospital Website’s traffic and engagement— it’s entirely possible that early adopters of medical SEO for virtual personal assistants may see overall increases in their Website’s search engine result page rankings.
Challenges of Healthcare SEO for Intelligent Personal Assistants
• Keyword and result strategies: Unfortunately, healthcare SEO for intelligent personal assistants does not mean a simple transfer of keywords and calls to action. This is primarily due to the differences in how a browser-based search will return search results in comparison to a virtual personal assistant.
The easiest way to describe this is the balance of quality versus quantity. Of course, all search engines strive to provide quality results, but virtual personal assistants will make additional pressure to provide a limited quantity. After all, a Web-browser user can quickly scan results on page, open multiple links, conduct another search, etc. the voice-based results from a virtual personal assistant will not have that luxury. For instance, if a user asks Siri where to find an ENT, preferred results will verbally provide one or two resources, rather than a recital of a full Internet scour.
• Terminology and nomenclature: Most search engines are “smart” enough to detect misspellings and suggest appropriate searches. However, this may be a problem for the still-not-perfect accuracy of voice recognition when coupled with the demanding language requirements for some medical searches.
• Voice inflections: Finally, medical providers must also keep up with the capabilities of current search technologies so they know how best to leverage it for patient engagement and assistance. As explained in an mHealth Intellgence article, “mHealth Takes a Closer Look at Digital Assistant,” there are concerns about the technology’s current inability to recognize emotional distress and respond accordingly. Consequently, patients might query with symptoms and be provided with completely irrelevant—and sometimes irreverent — responses, which could exacerbate emergencies.
As Sequence Health’s Associate Director of Search Engine Marketing, Susan Gullion is one of our most knowledgeable resources for enhancing our healthcare clients’ search engine marketing strategies with SEO, PPC and social media.
Please contact us to learn more about how Sequence Health can partner with you to develop a custom healthcare search engine marketing solution.