The introduction of digital, voice-responsive assistants like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Now may change the way search is conducted online.
For years, search has focused on responding to keyword inquiries. For instance, a prospective dental patient might enter the terms “orthodontist Jackson Mississippi” in the search box. The results would reflect those keywords.
Let’s say that our searcher added the term “best.” Google would look for those four keywords and return a result.
More recently, search engines have become more responsive to natural inquiries, such as “best orthodontist in Jackson, Mississippi”.
Digital assistants take natural inquiries to the next level. Users are much more likely to phrase their inquiries conversationally. The assistants are designed to not only respond but also to access more sources of information to understand the intent behind the inquiry. Those sources can include your email data and patterns, location information from your GPS, and prior search requests.
Under this model, keywords are only one determinant of the results. Web pages that are only keyword-rich will not deliver the results you’re used to. Context that helps to understand the intent is an important factor in digital-assistant, voice-based search. Your content must be accessible, understandable, and responsive.
Among other things, that means:
- adjusting your SEO strategy
- linking additional resources
- incorporating more long-tail keyword phrases into your page copy, and
- making sure that your page addresses longer-form questions.
Another issue is that these various digital assistants all work slightly differently to return their results. At present, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have digital assistants. According to techcrunch.com, there are many other smaller companies trying to break into this space. As competition for the best voice-activated “bot” heats up, you can expect the SEO landscape to keep changing.
As well, digital assistants learn. The Siri in your phone or Cortana on your desktop isn’t a stand-alone app. The programs are constantly updated as uncounted requests from users around the world are processed. This “machine learning” is the major driver that allows digital assistants to adapt over time.
Smartphone search is rapidly increasing in popularity – it surpassed desktop search in 2015 – and voice search from a smartphone is much easier than typing in a query. It appears that these digital assistants will become the default search mode for more and more of your potential patients.
Implementing an SEO strategy has been a moving target ever since the term search engine optimization was coined. With “The Rise of the Machines” that target is moving faster and more erratically than ever before.
What does this mean for your online dental marketing? To start with, some retooling of your page content is necessary to make it more responsive to voice search. As digital assistant search continues to evolve, updating or revising your website may have to happen more frequently.
Second, you’ll need to pay even more attention to new developments in SEO, because those who don’t keep up will be left behind.
And third, your online marketing has to be mobile-responsive as more and more searches are conducted using smartphones. Even the landscape for “mobile-responsive” marketing is changing as “wearable tech” like smartwatches move into wider use. The screen sizes are very small, even compared to smartphones, and your marketing must adapt to the reduced area.
If this all sounds overwhelming, consider hiring a reputable dental marketing firm with SEO expertise to manage updates and revisions.