With Wednesday’s rollout of the latest iPhones, it’s not surprising that Apple aficionados are buzzing about the devices’ new features (e.g., improved cameras) and lack thereof (no headphone jack).
But for those hoping to connect with potential patients, the more pertinent development is not nearly so obvious: The devices will feature a new and improved version of Siri, underscoring both the rapid growth of voice search and the potential impact on those patients’ search results.
Simply put, voice searches are different than text searches, and practices that adapt accordingly stand a much better chance of remaining visible.
Consider, for example, a woman searching for tummy tucks. Typing in her request, she’s likely to type just that — “tummy tucks” — because typing on a small mobile screen is a pain and shorter is always better. Without more details, a search engine will likely return everything from a Wikipedia entry to a review site to, if you’re lucky, your practice website.
But if that searcher speaks into her phone, she’s much more likely to talk normally and ask an actual question, e.g., “Who does tummy tucks near me?” Such inquiries are not just longer; they also signal a more specific interest and, therefore, are almost certain to return a different set of results.
And there are more people conducting more voice searches all the time. Earlier this year, Search Engine Land reported that:
Fueling the trend, many of those queries are coming from newcomers to voice search. (As of last December, 60% of users said they’d started using the technology within the previous year.) Given the advances in the technology and the proliferation of voice-enabled devices, the takeaway is inescapable:
Practices that hope to show up in the results of voice-based searches need to ensure that their content employs “voice friendly” SEO. Here’s how:
Be more conversational
As with text-based searches, the key to ranking well is to provide information that best matches what searchers are looking for. And since they’re actually talking, the more your content “speaks their language,” the better. Adopting a more conversational, less clinical tone, for example, helps humanize your content while highlighting location information correlates well with many mobile searchers’ intent to take quick action.
Ask more questions
It’s hardly surprising that the majority of voice-based searches are asked as actual questions. “How long does Botox last? Is Juvederm painful? What’s the recovery time for a tummy tuck?” Considering that the search engines are looking for matching content, posting popular questions on your practice website — via FAQ pages, for example — just makes sense.
Look to the long tail
Once upon a time, it was enough to incorporate popular keywords (specific procedures, your city, etc.) into your content to get the search engines’ attention. Today’s web users, however, conduct incredibly nuanced searches that incorporate specific details, multiple factors, and supporting phrases. Web marketers call the latter long-tail searches. (Think “Affordable wrinkle treatments in Dallas” vs. “Radiesse” or “Juvederm.”) Individually, each one represents a tiny portion of total searches, but in aggregate, they can add up to a potentially large market.
Ultimately, it boils down to providing content that appeals to both search engines and the potential patients who use them. At the same time, the ongoing advances in speech recognition and digital-assistant technology are going to favor those businesses that adapt accordingly.
In other words, when it comes to the future of SEO, listening to what searchers say may prove more important than tracking what they type.