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MozCon 2019: PHM’s Big Search Takeaways

September 10, 2019
Posted by Wilson Altidor

MozCon 2019 brought about big headlines and major takeaways for the search industry, ones that may reverberate through the health and wellness space for years to come. While there were many influential themes throughout the conference, the biggest and most impactful was focused on Google’s continued shift from being the preeminent search engine to the preeminent answer engine.

In addition to this answer-first shift, the renowned three-day search conference last month in Seattle, WA explored themes surrounding the evolution of voice search, the rise of zero-click searches, the new world of information fragments in mobile-first indexing, as well as the ever-present focus on content. Take a look at how these themes play a major role in the future of search, and how each may directly influence the health and wellness industry in different.

Voice Search

Microsoft’s Head Evangelist Christi Olson discussed the growth of voice search based on Microsoft’s findings on voice technology and digital assistant adoptions.

Voice search has now expanded to everyday devices. It’s now common for our phones, entertainment systems, and home appliances to have some form of voice functionality. In fact, Olson mentioned that, by 2020, 75% of households will have at least one smart speaker.

Yet even with voice functionality’s continued growth, data does not suggest voice is cannibalizing web searches. Rather, it relies on featured snippets within web searches while also pulling information that SEO professionals lack interest in optimizing for, such as directions or quick facts. There are few voice searches where the result is different from a desktop or mobile search.

Therefore digital marketers should continue to explore new applications and integrate voice in future campaigns, without ignoring desktop and mobile optimizations. There is insufficient proof to recommend investing heavily in voice optimization, especially with voice schema — and commercial transactions conducted through voice — still in their beginning stages.

For healthcare marketers, there’s an added obstacle with voice applications and personal health information as they must access and relay sensitive data. For example, Alexa can now transmit HIPAA-compliant patient information, such as test results and general health insights.

That being said, this also opens up the voice assistant to new situations. Think of how easy it is for a toddler to use a vocal command to add their favorite cookies to a parent’s shopping list, or to ask Alexa to play the song “Baby Shark.” Because of that ease of access, patients must continue to use desktops or mobile to reach confidential information for the foreseeable future.

The Search Engine Results Page

Zero-Click Searches

This year, several presentations discussed the state of the search engine results page, also known as a SERP. Each presenter critiqued and displayed Google’s methods to undercut publisher traffic.

Rand Fishkin, Founder of SparkToro, launched the opening salvo on the first day. Most notable where his insights on the state of the SERP in 2019.

Rand announced that zero-click searches made up almost fifty percent of web searches. This means that Google is now competing with publishers and answering queries, rather than directing them to sites.

Although the impact of rich snippets is not fully trackable, it leaves marketers with a question: should we optimize for snippet visibility or website traffic?

To answer that question, we have to ask if we see any benefit or credit from investing in SERP SEO. If not, optimizing for traffic sending keywords would be our best bet.

Ultimately healthcare marketers must decide which best aligns with their brands’ goals, and here the importance of keyword intent cannot be understated.

If we’re trying to increase conversion, such as growing registrations or driving people to treatment center locations, traffic should be our primary focus, while finding less competitive keywords that Google is less likely to cannibalize. Additionally, capturing featured snippets may align with our disease awareness sites’ interests.

Mobile-First Indexing

Cindy Crum next went into detail on the state of mobile-first indexing’s impact of mobile SERPs. In her presentation, Crum focused on the importance of what she calls “Fraggles” (Fragment Handles). They are informational fragments that Google scrapes off several sites to add to the mobile SERP. Unlike featured snippets seen on desktop, these mobile snippets scroll directly to a specific section of a webpage when clicked.

The Mobile Moxie CEO stated that mobile-first indexing aims to surface answers, rather than websites. And this is Google’s preferred organization of data for mobile use.

Content ease of access has changed the mobile SERP. It’s now a content hub around the Knowledge Graph, with various information pulled from several locations to better answer search queries.

Mobile zero-click searches have grown by 11% and appear in 62% of mobile searches. The Pew Research Center found that 80% of Americans use a smartphone. We know that this is especially true for our patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals, who heavily use their phones for health and wellness information.

As mentioned earlier, marketers in the health and wellness space must optimize with featured snippet prevalence in mind. As patients search for symptoms, medication types, and remedies on their phones, Google’s featured snippets push down sites from view.

Therefore we must not only optimize for featured snippets for both desktop and mobile, but also integrate jump links on our content pages for better indexation. Schema implementation is more critical now than ever: marketers should optimize for both site traffic plus visibility on the results page.

We must think of the ways our content is indexed and accessed, not just for desktop, voice, mobile, but also in the search engine results page. Google is not giving you a choice.

Content

Ross Simmonds, a Digital Strategist at Foundation Marketing, gave one of my favorite presentations. He demonstrated how forums could generate and supplement content ideas.

Forums and social media sites are a treasure trove of audience insights that many SEO professionals overlook. While still primarily utilizing keyword research to guide ideas, search marketers can use conversations occurring on Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook to supplement their research. And for healthcare marketers specifically, these sites can provide rich insights on valuable information, such as patient and physician conversations.

By examining top posts on these sites, we can understand patterns in the kinds of content that performs well. These content themes derived from top-performing posts can help develop new ideas for campaigns that align business and organizational goals while better serving the targeted audience.

To illustrate this, let’s take a look at the Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) Subreddit. POTS is a condition where one’s heart rate increases significantly when going from sitting to standing. It has a number of possible causes, symptoms, associated conditions, and potential treatment options.

Examining this Subreddit shows a high proportion of posts discussing diet. This information is a valuable supplement to the POTS keyword research, which on its own might not objectively indicate the importance of diet-related POTS searches.

Search strategists use the SERP to gather keyword intent. Why not use social media and forums to gather audience insights? Simmonds’ suggests that if there is overwhelming user-generated interest, then cover your findings: in on-site copy, infographics, and media.

Summary

Attending the 2019 MozCon was a truly enriching experience. While there were a number of excellent presentations and speakers, I felt these four stood out not only for the quality of their content, but also their applicability to our search work at Publicis Health Media.

The rise of voice search. Changes in desktop and mobile results and SERPs. And new avenues for generating content strategies. These are topics we at PHM continue to explore in order to develop the most valuable healthcare search insights for our patients and clients.


Wilson Altidor, SEO Content Manager, leads keyword discovery, content audits and content recommendations for SEO campaigns. His passion for all forms of communication and project management highlight his skills in marketing and digital media, along with his desire to improve inefficient processes and internal dialogue.

Wilson leads SEO strategy for a number of brands. At PHM he is responsible for day-to-day management, execution, and monitoring of SEO campaigns, training and mentoring associates on SEO best practices, and structuring recommendation roadmaps for campaign success.

His involvement in identifying short- and long-term opportunities that align with client goals have established him as a team player focused on driving business impact.

Connect with Wilson on LinkedIn.


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