The online search battlefield is shifting. Large segments of your audience are shunning keyboards in favor of smartphones and smart speakers like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa when they search online for healthcare information. In 2016, 20% of mobile search queries utilized voice.1 By 2020, 30% of all Web browsing is predicted to be screenless.2
Healthcare professionals, consumers, and caregivers aren’t waiting. DRG Digital reports that 23% of physicians use a voice assistant for professional reasons.3 In a survey of 1000 US consumers who use voice assistants, 70% of respondents said that they had used their voice assistant to inquire about symptoms they were experiencing, 48% had used it to contact a hospital or doctor, and 41% had used it to inquire about health plans or insurance.4
The impact of voice search on marketing strategy is significant. Screenless voice-driven online search produces 1 spoken winner, not the 10 to 15 winners that a marketer could count on if their Web page appeared on page 1 of an onscreen search result. With current voice-search technology, it’s win, or hope that the user doesn’t select the first response, or the second, or the third…
Winning the Search Battle on Two Fronts
Marketers have to optimize their content for voice and nonvoice searches. To win on both fronts, we strongly encourage our clients to apply structured markup along with best practices for on-page, off-page, and technical SEO. Structured markup is information in plain English that’s included in the source code of a Web page to help search engines understand the meaning and context of the content on that page.
Structured Markup Helps Google Interpret Your Website Content
Google defines structured markup (also known as structured data) as “a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.5”
Consider the situation when Google’s search engine encounters the term “voice search.” On their own, Google’s search algorithms would have difficulty determining whether the content deals with search engine optimization or with locating voice-over talent for a television commercial. Including the structured data from the table below in the website source code clarifies the meaning and context so that Google can decide correctly:
|NewsArticle||about||The role that structured markup plays in optimizing website content for voice-driven and standard online searches|
|name||Does Structured Data Help Win the Search Battles?|
|publisher||Arteric Digital Healthcare Marketing Agency|
|description||Arteric is a digital healthcare marketing agency whose market strategies, websites, mobile apps & Web applications push the boundary of what’s possible to seal wins.|
|award||2017 MobileWebAward Best Advertising Mobile Website|
|award||2017 MobileWebAward Best Interactive Services Mobile Website|
|award||2018 IAC Best Marketing Website|
|award||2018 IAC Best Professional Services Website|
The structured markup that we author and optimize for disease-education websites includes information that defines causes, treatments, and pathophysiology — among dozens of other properties related to the medical condition. Schema.org (a standards organization that is sponsored by Google LLC, Yahoo!, Microsoft Corporation, and Yandex NV) defines the properties for each topic (eg, recipe vs disease education). These collections of properties are referred to as “schemas.”
Structured Markup, Featured Snippets, and Voice Search
A featured snippet is a search result that appears onscreen in a prominent box at the top of a search page in a standard search. To appear in a featured snippet, Google’s algorithms must consider the content to be the most appropriate answer for a search query.
Featured snippets are important to voice search because content in a featured snippet is often the spoken answer provided by a voice assistant.6,7,8,9 In a study that evaluated 22 industry verticals, 84% of voice assistant responses to health-related questions were taken from content that appeared in a featured snippet.10 The association of featured snippets with voice assistant answers in other verticals ranged from a low of 66% (sports) to 100% (entertainment). In other studies, the association between featured snippets and voice search answers ranged from 15% to 57%.11,12
Including structured data is one of many recommendations11,13 to increase the likelihood that content will be included in a featured snippet—and ultimately, in a voice assistant answer.14,15 However, other research suggests that markup doesn’t significantly increase the likelihood of landing content in a featured snippet.11 In one study, 15.7% of featured snippet content came from pages that included markup vs 19.6% for pages that lacked markup.16
Structured Markup and Page Rank
As with the results for voice search, the impact of markup on page rank is debatable. Recent reports indicate that markup doesn’t elevate rank.17,18 However, a 2014 analysis of tens of thousands of keywords and more than 500,000 Web domains concluded that sites with markup ranked an average of 4 positions higher than sites without schema.19
Structured Markup and Rich Content
Structured markup enables marketers to include specific, high-value information in search results that appear on a screen. This high-value content is referred to as “rich information.*”
Rich information enables marketers to include persuasive, click-inducing content directly in a search result. In the example below, the team behind tylenol.com marked up their website content with a schema property called ratingValue that enables users to see Tylenol’s nearly 5-star rating.
Rich information provides direct and indirect benefits. Directly, rich information draws attention. A search result at position 8 that includes rich information can lure eyes away from higher ranking search results. Indirectly, rich information can send signals to search engines that increase the value of a page. For example, rich information can tell users what to expect before they click. As a result, fewer users will bounce from the page and search engine algorithms will judge the page favorably.
Everything to Gain
The influence of structured markup on parameters that impact voice and nonvoice search performance defies generalization and absolute statements. Arteric recommends to all of our clients that they invest in authoring, optimizing, and publishing structured content. Our internal data suggests that this provides an incremental positive quality signal for all healthcare-related websites and that it increases the likelihood of higher ranking and tighter targeting of search audiences. Structured data’s benefits, such as clarifying meaning and context for search engines and providing rich information that informs smart click throughs, provide an everything-to-gain upside that we encourage brand teams to exploit. Our experience adding structured data to our SEO process produced a #4 rank for a late-entry unbranded website in a blockbuster-filled market.
A quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes summarizes the status of structured markup in search strategy:
“…the logical form flatters that longing for certainty and for repose, which is in every human mind. But certainty is illusion and repose is not the destiny of man.”
The effects of structured data are an area of active research at Arteric and throughout the industry. We’ll keep you informed as the story evolves.
Work With Arteric
There are several criteria to consider when creating rich markup and optimizing your website for search. Contact me to schedule a 15-minute introductory call so that we can discuss your goals and challenges.
If you would like Arteric to respond to your RFP or RFI, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In the Google app, 20% of searches are now by voice. Think With Google website. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/data-gallery/detail/google-app-voice-search. Published May 2016. Accessed July 8, 2018.
- Levy HP. Gartner predicts a world of exponential change. Gartner website. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/gartner-predicts-a-virtual-world-of-exponential-change. Accessed March 22, 2018. Accessed July 8, 2018.
- Decision Resources Group. Paging Dr. Siri. Physicians and the rise of voice assistants. DRG Digital website. https://www.drgdigital.com/ebooks/paging-dr-siri-physicians-and-the-rise-of-voice-assistants. Accessed July 8, 2018.
- The rise of voice. Invoca website. http://go.invoca.com/rs/769-GSC-394/images/The-Rise-Of_Voice_Invoca-REPORT.pdf. Accessed April 18, 2018.
- Introduction to structured data. Google Developer website. https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/intro-structured-data. Accessed January 25, 2018.
- Robbins M. Voice search: Content may be king, but context is queen in the new voice-first world. Search Engine Land website. https://searchengineland.com/voice-search-changes-everything-286665. Accessed January 25, 2018.
- Muller B. Voice search: is your content prepared for the verbal revolution? Content Marketing Institute website. http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2018/01/voice-search-content/. Accessed January 25, 2018.
- Sterling G. Study: 80% of Google Home results come from snippets. Search Engine Land website. https://searchengineland.com/study-80-google-home-results-come-snippets-289992. Accessed January 25, 2018.
- Sullivan D. A reintroduction to Google’s featured snippets. The Keyword blog. https://www.blog.google/products/search/reintroduction-googles-featured-snippets. Accessed March 19, 2018.
- Roast. Voice search. Reporting at keyword levels. Roast website. http://weareroast.com/whitepapers/voice-search-vertical-report. Accessed July 8, 2018.
- Dean B. We Analyzed 10,000 Google Home results. Here’s what we learned about voice search SEO. Backlinko website. https://backlinko.com/voice-search-seo-study. Accessed July 8, 2018.
- Rating the smarts of the digital personal assistants in 2018. Stone Temple website. https://www.stonetemple.com/digital-personal-assistants-study. Accessed July 8, 2018.
- Smarty A. How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets to build more traffic. Moz website. https://moz.com/blog/optimize-featured-snippets. Published August 23, 2017. Accessed July 8, 2018.
- Toonen E. How to get featured snippets. Yoast website. https://yoast.com/featured-snippets. October 26, 2017.
- Ussery B. Featured snippets: optimization tips & how to ID candidate snippets. Search Engine Land website. https://searchengineland.com/featured-snippets-optimization-tips-id-candidate-snippets-277114. Published June 20, 2017. Accessed July 8, 2018.
- Whitepaper: How to get more featured snippets. STAT website. https://getstat.com/blog/featured-snippets. Accessed July 8, 2018.
- Dean B. We analyzed 1 million Google search results. Here’s what we learned about SEO. BacklinkO website. https://backlinko.com/search-engine-ranking. Updated September 2, 2016. Accessed July 8, 2018.
- Price C. What is schema markup & why it’s important for SEO. Search Engine Journal website. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/schema-101-improve-seo-results/204858/. Published July 10, 2017. Accessed July 8, 2018.
- Over a third of Google search results incorporate rich snippets supported by Schema. Searchmetrics website. https://www.searchmetrics.com/news-and-events/schema-org-in-google-search-results. Published April 22, 2014. Accessed July 8, 2018.
*Onscreen search results that include rich information are referred to as “rich snippets.” Some authors use “rich snippet” and “featured snippet” interchangeably. To be accurate, a rich snippet is a featured snippet only if it appears at the top of the search result page.
What are you waiting for?
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