Do you use voice technology? Do you frequently talk to Alexa, Siri, or Cortana? If so, you are one of the millions of Americans who use today’s digital voice assistants to get answers to all kinds of questions. Whether you love interacting with voice assistants or hate it, voice search is here to stay. For many, the ability to voice-command a weather forecast, a sports team’s latest score, or a favorite song is more than just extremely convenient. It gives the user a sense of empowerment, saves time, and presents a new frontier for marketers. On the flip side, people who hate talking to devices complain about the potential for lost privacy fears, eavesdropping fears, and problems with Alexa’s comprehension.
Since the introduction of Apple’s iPhone Siri voice assistant, voice-enabled search technology using AI-powered digital assistants has quickly infiltrated our lives. Today, it’s also changing the way consumers access healthcare. It’s becoming so popular that Amazon recently asked six major healthcare companies to develop new apps for Alexa. In addition, several new HIPPA-compliant apps are in the works. Voice-activated search is already changing healthcare marketing and search engine optimization, or SEO, meaning that markers and health care providers need to be aware of how this new technology works and how to take advantage of it.
Why People Like Using Voice Search
Many consumers prefer using voice-enabled search because it’s faster, easier, more convenient, and more natural. Most people would much rather speak than write. Additionally, when they ask Alexa or Siri a question, they can speak conversationally and provide more detail than they would if they were typing a query into their search browser window.
For example, a user’s typical typewritten search query on a web browser might be something like “urgent care Peoria” or “compounding pharmacies Peoria.” If that same user asks Amazon’s Alexa, he or she might say, “Alexa, I need to find a compounding pharmacy near me.” The latter is much more conversational, more like asking a friend. Thanks to your GPS, Alexa knows exactly where you are and can tailor responses to that location.
Another example reveals that a mobile device’s ability to handle voice queries can help a patient who has a more detailed, more complex question. “Hey Siri, find the best-rated pain doctor near me who offers nonsurgical pain relief.” For many people, talking simply comes more naturally than typing.
How Voice Search Marketing Is Changing Healthcare
Today’s healthcare consumers want instant action and instant answers. The latest Google research suggests that voice queries are 40 times more action-oriented than regular search queries. In healthcare, “action” often translates into finding the nearest medical specialist, hospital, urgent care center, or pharmacy where one can fill a prescription. The main difference between typical search queries and voice queries is that voice queries are more conversational.
When you take into account Alexa’s comprehension issues, you realize that voice assistants aren’t perfect — yet. But, in the next few years, they’re expected to become considerably more advanced. They are already affecting the way we search for healthcare services and providers. Some 33 percent of consumers are now using voice assistants regularly. In fact, more than 19 million people have already turned to their voice assistants for answers to healthcare questions in just the past few years. And nearly 52 percent of consumers are interested in using a voice assistant to help with healthcare questions. As a result, voice assistants are also changing healthcare marketing strategies.
More important than knowing how patients are searching for information is actually being able to accommodate them. That’s where voice search marketing and voice search content marketing are changing the healthcare landscape. Since most experts believe that voice will become the dominant search method in the very near future, healthcare providers and marketers should begin positioning themselves to meet this brave new world of spoken commands head-on. Marketing campaigns should feature call-to-action phrases such as “Just ask Alexa about the highest-rated pain specialist near you.” Or “Tell Siri you want the best nonsurgical pain relief treatment near you.” In other words, promote your acknowledgement and acceptance of voice technology as part of your healthcare marketing plans.
Why Your Practice Should Embrace Voice-Enabled Search in SEO
Embracing voice search today will give healthcare providers and organizations a distinct marketing advantage tomorrow. You need not venture into this new territory alone, either. You can partner with an experienced digital healthcare marketing team. They can guide you through adapting your website content, SEO, social media, and other digital healthcare marketing strategies. They can help you identify the voice-enabled data that pushes your healthcare practice to the top of voice searches.
Voice-enabled search is also changing SEO. Those typical short keyword searches we are accustomed to are great for targeting your usual type-and-read searches, but long-tail keywords and more conversational phrases are going to be most beneficial for voice search rankings going forward. Your SEO keywords will have to include the kinds of conversational phrases that consumers use on their Alexa and Siri devices.
Look at voice-enabled search as a new opportunity to find more patients and earn higher revenue for your practice. If you lack the time or resources to include voice search adaptations among your healthcare marketing strategies, find a reputable digital marketing company to assist you.
How Will Your Practice Survive in a Voice-First World?
Many healthcare practices are still not prepared for local search via voice. Many more practices have already begun taking steps to reach voice assistant users. Major healthcare brands, including Mayo Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross, are introducing Alexa skills to their users. Other brands have researched the impact that voice assistants have on older adults and long-term care patients. They see valuable medical use cases for voice assistants among elderly patients. In addition, Google’s acquisition of Fitbit practically guarantees greater use of healthcare in voice-enabled searches. Fitness devices and smartwatches already comprise nearly 22 percent of healthcare voice-interaction uses.
Research has shown that people who wear fitness trackers are more likely to visit healthcare providers, mostly due to prompts created on the device and their interest in improving health. It is believed that Google’s acquisition of Fitbit will play a major role in the use of voice assistants for healthcare-related questions and tasks in the near future.
How Potential New Patients Are Using Voice-Enabled Searches
According to a 2019 survey, the most commonly reported voice assistant usage for healthcare was to ask about illness symptoms (nearly 73 percent). Consumers also used voice assistants to ask about medical information (almost 46 percent), to find the location of a healthcare service provider, or learn about treatment options (nearly 38 percent). More than 29 percent asked about nutrition and more than 28 percent asked to find a doctor or other provider. These questions remained consistent among all age groups and genders.
Clearly, consumers in 2019 were already comfortable using voice assistants to ask a wide variety of healthcare-related questions. And their numbers have grown consistently since then. The voice-enabled technology arena has virtually limitless possibilities. Imagine providing potential new patients with conversational responses from your practice. Imagine being able to provide those instant solutions they want, through conversation.