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Impact of Voice Search

Mobile assistants are changing the search experience

Something is changing in the mobile search landscape and it might impact how you lay out your search engine optimization strategy in the future.

Enter the Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA). You might know them by their formal names: Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant or Cortana.

There’s very little data right now on personal assistant usage, but one report suggests over half of adults (56%) are using tools like Siri on their mobile devices. The same report also suggests users in the 18-29 age group tend to use these tools more frequently.

And it’s not just mobile devices where we’re seeing these trends. Cortana is already part of Windows 10 and Siri is rumored to be coming to OS X in the coming months, so laptop and desktop users are also in the mix.

So what does the voice search trend mean for your organization and search strategy in the coming months or years?

The Classic Search Experience

Consider the “classic” mobile search experience: Users perform a Google search, review the results, proceed to a landing page and then (hopefully) convert or take whatever the next action might be.

As users begin to explore and engage with the personal assistants on their phone, this workflow changes dramatically. Webmasters and site owners controlled the experience that users had once they landed on the website.

Changing the Search Experience

Imagine planning your next vacation. You might search for flights, hotels or other vacation details using Siri or Google Now.

But instead of being given website results or directed to a specific website, you might be directed to the Expedia app (or travel app of your choosing) installed on your phone to see results and complete your purchase. No website(s) necessary!

Users that ask these assistants questions may receive a direct answer from the assistant or, with available SDKs, reference another app on your mobile device for the answer or the next steps.

This is a fundamental shift in the way users receive and interact with results of their search query. It puts answers in the hands of users almost immediately and makes them reliant on the personal assistant technology in a way we haven’t seen before. It potentially takes the website out of the equation.

With industry giants like Apple announcing new hardware and SDK tools daily, it’s going to be hard to ignore this new search interface.

Next Steps for Healthcare Organizations

So how do healthcare organizations play in this space? Are the days of optimizing your page titles, page descriptions and page content over?

First, don’t abandon your website. That’s still number one. The work you’ve done – or will do – is still relevant and important. Continue with your current SEO strategy, but look to the horizon and what these new search entry points mean for where you want to be visible.

The right app might make sense if you can provide value and make it work well with the various personal assistants, but be mindful of investing there if there’s not a clear reason to. With the new APIs and integration opportunities being announced, there will be many creative ways to remain in front of potential searchers.

Consider the type of audience currently using personal assistant technology, too. If what the data suggests is real, it’s a fairly young demographic. This should factor in to your overall strategy, but I would also expect growth in older demographics as well, especially as the technology gets better and more useful.

Wrapping Up and Moving Forward

Traditional search is not going away anytime soon. But the landscape is slowly changing and new technology will change optimization strategies going forward.

The end goal is to always be in front of potential patients or customers however they search. As an industry, we’ve been focused on what users type in the search field. Now we must pay attention to what they say to their search engine.

Pay close attention to future announcements and trends in usage. Start planning your strategy now and, just like Siri, your organization will be ready to answer the question, “What can I help you with today?”

Impact of Voice Search