Voice search for medical marketers

 Medical web sites aimed at patients, doctors, or B2B audiences need to reorient to voice search or risk losing valuable web traffic. In this post, we'll consider the maturity of voice search, its use by consumers, and broad strokes on implementation. Who's talking to voice-enabled products?

Device Share of Searches
Smartphone 57%
Tablet 29%
Laptop 29%
Desktop 29%
Speaker (Alexa, et al) 27%
Watch 14%
Source: PwC Consumer Intelligence Series 2018


Google turned over the rock to release voice search in 2011. It necessitated calling a phone number and speaking your search phrase. Since then, the number of searches conducted by voice has exploded. According to Branded3, 40% of adults use voice search once per day. By 2020, comScore estimates that 52% of all searches will be conducted by voice. What makes voice search different?

There are three important factors: 1) Consumers are more likely to use voice search on smartphones and digital assistants when multitasking at home, office, or even more likely, the car. In fact, you can look for Google to introduce an Alexa-style model for your wheels sometime soon.

Also, read optimize your  web site for mobile

2) The specificity of the search. Say you're worried about a rash on your nose. The keyboard search might be "serious nose rashes," but the voice search might be "Find a Seattle doctor who specializes in nose rashes?" The first query will yield popular and academic articles on nose rashes." The second search shows us someone who is clearly moved to action by their condition and wants help from a local physician.

3) That leads us to one of the main differences: mobile voice searches, as in the Seattle example above, are three times more likely to be local than text searches. When a patient is searching locally, they have passed awareness and consideration in the marketing funnel, and they are actively looking for an appointment. Though not as important for Medical B2B, this search is one that hospitals, ASCs, rehabs, and physicians do not want to miss.

Tweaking Your Web Site for Voice Search

We'll outline the technical aspects of voice search, but first, you need to understand the phrases patients use to learn about your services. Anyone who deals with patients - doctors, nurses, admin assistants - can make valuable contributions.

1. Consider the variations of how a patient might use voice search to look for a cardiologist:

"How do I find a good cardiologist?"

"Looking for a cardiologist with experience with sports"

"Find a cardiologist who takes Medical Mutual"

If you're familiar with optimizing for keyword phrases, e.g. "Seattle cardiologist", you'll see immediately how spoken phrases communicate much richer context and intent.

2. Make sure the mobile or responsive version of your site is good on mobile. Responsive design, however, that adapts to a mobile screen isn't enough, you'll need to consider page load speeds, video formats, and navigation schemes (, like drop-down menus), that aren't mobile friendly.

If you're unsure about performance: a. Spend a week using your site on mobile and make notes about the problems you encounter. b. Take a look at these numbers in web analytics on mobile vs. desktop -- bounce rate, time on page, pages per visit, and look at the performance of critical individual pages. c. Outsource a user test or perform one yourself.

Develop target phrases for voice search. Keep in mind that natural language searches like these will be longer, more conversational and more specific than their more familiar text counterparts. Related: Semantic Search and SEO

Enter the land of the snippets

Snippets are highlighted boxes of information that appear on the first page of Google search. They include definitions, instructions, maps and carousels of products. They're designed to respond quickly to certain types of searches, for example, let's ask "what are the dangers of bariatric surgery." Google immediate shows a box with the answer.

Why you should make friends with Featured Snippets.

The implications for brand authority and conversion are enormous. If a patient finds their answer in a snippet, they will likely proceed to the website of the company that provided it and ignore listings deeper in the results.

On mobile the effect is more profound because users are less likely to scroll through results, and Google will speak the snippet found in the search. Yes, you're competing with Google, which brings us to the technical details of optimizing for mobile.

Under the hood with Voice Search

As you've seen, it's very advantageous to have Google choose your site for a featured snippet. But how do the Snippets get there? The answer is simple. You put them there with microdata. This is a format for organizing the contents of a page that resides in the code. If this isn't you handling the guts of your site, you'll need to find a web developer who is familiar with SEO, voice search and microdata. "Hey, Siri..."