Podcast #9

How Consumer Search Behavior is Evolving

As search algorithms have become more sophisticated and able to provide better results, user behavior has evolved. Instead of searching with fragmented keywords, longer, more conversational queries are now the norm. CEO, Alex Membrillo and SEO Director, John McAlpin, discuss how user behavior and semantic search have evolved over this past year and how the pandemic has fueled more changes.

Episode Highlights:

John McAlpin

John McAlpin: “Google trends analysts have said that about 15% of searches that happen every single day have never been searched before, especially when you note that there are over a trillion searches every day.”

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Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite podcast. The only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics, that help you accelerate growth each week. Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex MembrilloHey everybody, excited to have you on. We’ve got John McAlpin, our SEO director and head wizard of all things organic here at Cardinal. Excited to have him on. You guys are going to learn a lot. If you’ve listened to some of the other sessions with him or seen any of his speeches around the country, presentations, or any of his writing on Search Engine Journal, the guy is a super whiz, and you guys are going to love hearing from him. John, welcome to Ignite.

John McAlpinThanks for having me.

Alex: Yes, absolutely. Today we’re talking about changing search behaviors for all of our healthcare workers out there. The pandemic has changed the way they behave, the way they intake patients, the way they market to patients, the way they care for patients, the way they follow up with patients, but has it changed search behavior?

John: Absolutely. I mean, search behavior is changing already as in– But we’ve seen a huge shift of people looking for things online. People aren’t going from home, people are looking for a lot more delivery, less in-person things. The biggest impact that the healthcare industry has seen, and I’m sure this is no surprise to anyone, it’s the huge shift to telehealth research. If people can know how they can get help over the phone or video.

Alex: You’re seeing a lot more search? Are you seeing PCP, near me virtual? Are we seeing some of our traditional, like walk-in type groups, was nursing more telehealth search volume, for those–?

John: As we’ve tried to expand content for our clients, I’ve noticed huge trend uptakes in virtual, online, and tele– Whatever the noun is, whether it’s psychiatry, health, Docker, et cetera. Google has actually responded in a very interesting way, in Google my business, and it’s right in the maps. You can actually see little icons and badges on whether someone offers virtual health or if they have info on COVID-19 response and things like that.

Alex: Where do you edit that? That’s in Google, my business. You need a–

John: That’s right in Google My Business and a lot of other listings have responded the same way as well.

Alex: All right. How do current events like change what you should be doing with your search strategy? And any pivots that you should have.

John: Oftentimes I always reserve about 20% of content bandwidth for addressing current events or trending topics, but 80% is still being remained for evergreen strategy.

Alex: All right. 80% evergreen stuff, that’s going to rank and matter forever, 20% for timely things, but in a monthly ranking for it won’t matter because no one’s searching for it. Put the majority of your eggs into the basket that will always bear fruit. If you will. Well, a metaphor there. Okay. Very cool. What other trends are you doing? I’ve heard about this semantic search thing. What is this?

John: Google has an interesting dilemma here. Their, trends analysts have said that about 15% of searches that happen every single day have never been searched before. Think about this, 15% out of a hundred. That’s still pretty significant, especially when you note that there are over a trillion searches every day. That’s a big number of searches never been searched before. We’re talking about different combinations of words.

They get really long tail, and what we’re noticing in the industry is that keyword research is becoming much more long tail. Because people are trying to search with more natural language is because before Google trained us to search in a very particular way, it sounded like we were almost keyword stuffing a search bar, and committed search in a very specific way to get something. Now we can just type out a full question and get great results. The way they’ve done that is they’ve used something called entities to help deliver better results.

Alex: Correct. A certain entity.

John: The short answer it’s a nap. It’s a person who plays her thing, but it goes beyond that. It’s also a concept. It could be an event or historical events, or a recurring event, like a music festival. It’s something that they can tie a concept to, and so what they do is they have what’s called the Google Knowledge Graph. In a previous episode, we talked about creating internal knowledge graphs on your website, but they have an actual knowledge graph, where they assign numerical values.

Your algebra here is going to be an entity and he’s going to be G dash one, two, three, four, five, six, or something like that. Then all these entities can be related into a web of connectivity, the reason why they’re doing this is to help with something called disambiguation. For example, let’s talk about Woodstock, thinking of Woodstock. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Alex: A town here by Marietta that’s very far from the city. I don’t like driving that far.

John: If you talk to someone from like maybe California, they wouldn’t know about that, they say, “Oh, Woodstock, I think they are the big music festival and the hippie revolution in 69.’ They’ll say, “Okay, I say music festival because you had something in New York, so I know that’s a town in New York.” It can be a couple of different things. Entities by assigning a numerical value to it, they can quickly discern what you’re talking about, what you’re searching for. They use contexts around those to help deliver that.

Alex: Then some smart people, building that algorithm. It uses the context around the article to figure out which Woodstock it is?

John: Yes, and SEO’s are taking that to the next level by providing more signals to Google, about what specifically we are talking.

Alex: How do you optimize for this? That’s what everybody wants to know. Cool. The Woodstock thing, I get it or telehealth if I’m in medical, but what can I do with that to get more patients?

John: Let’s say we’re optimizing for healthcare and Woodstock, Georgia. We can do a couple of things. The first step is content. If we’re talking about health care in Georgia, In Woodstock, we’ll say like, a doctor in Woodstock, and so all the bank that Google will see doctor and Woodstock, and rule out the possibility that we’re talking about that music festival that happened, or if it’s still coming back every now and then.

Alex: Got you.

John: Next, I’m going to talk about things in Georgia and they’re going to know that, okay. We’re not talking about the city in the New York theater. Adding in content like that, we can quickly rule out those other entities. The next step. Let’s try and see what talking about. It needs a little bit more context. We can add this call semantic schema, and identify quickly what entity we’re talking about, and not just that you can say the main focus of this is about healthcare, find a doctor, and this article also mentions Woodstock, the city in Georgia.

We use tools like InLinks to help quickly analyze our content, pull in entities, and add rich, semantic schema dynamically on websites.

Alex: Is that something anybody can do or you have tools and like, what do you need? Do you need an SEO?

John: You can code it yourself if you know how to code it. We use InLinks which is a paid tool. You can get 30 euros free. This was actually created by Dixon Jones. He used to be the CMO of Majestic. One of the industry leaders and founders, and so he built this tool with a guy named Frederick.

It’s a tool that we use in industry. It’s kind of an up-and-coming tool, but we’ve seen tremendous success with some of our larger clients that are using this. By putting this on their site, the content ranks, it continues to rank month over month without even touching it sometimes. It’s just like it builds such quality content and all we’re doing is, making sure it’s factual high-grade content, a semantic schema the InLinks. They’re continuing to see performance growth month over month.

Alex: That’s huge, and that helps Google understand the entities, and that helps associate the schema in the right way, drive more traffic, and patients that way. It’s all–

John: Absolutely. Then the one thing I didn’t want to miss out on, it’s really, really critical, especially for semantic search, is internal linking. Because if you have a bunch of internal links, if you ever mentioned, let’s say, we’re talking about that doctor in Woodstock, Georgia.

We want to make sure that if you had that doctor in Woodstock, that you’re linking to a location page about Woodstock, you’re talking about if anything else, and your segment is a doctor who was like a good link back, and the context of your links. The content is really important. That’s what helps tell Google what each page is about and see how different pages are related to each other. That is how we’re creating these internal knowledge graphs on our website.

Alex: Interesting. You don’t want just content around your service, like healthcare, but also content around the area linked to that. You should have pages about the city, and what you guys provide in the city, and all that stuff?

John: Yes. Then when you use links in the right way and make sure it’s a natural link, you’re not just stuffing in there, it makes sense. Creating this great non-stress.

Alex: All right. Got you. Is there anything else, like moving away from keywords, or is there any kind of organization healthcare groups need to take on when they’re doing this kind of topic ideation stuff?

John: I mean, think of it as creating your internal Wikipedia page. Everything that somehow’s going to be important to you. You’re going to have robust content about different topics. Whenever you’re approaching your content strategy, think of it like creating your own Wikipedia page.

Alex: Has someone serious approve it to where almost no page can get approved. That’s the Wikipedia answer to everything, but it’s becoming the encyclopedia for our generation. A lot of people never thought I’d get that far.

John: You know, what’s not nuts, Alex, it’s that Google learns most of their entities from Wikipedia.

Alex: No, way really?

John: Yes, so like 90% of the entities are from Wikipedia in Google’s balanced graph. They acquired a company called Firebase or Freebase, and I think Firebase, and then they renamed it to Wikidata. They pull all their entities from those two sources of Wikidata and Wikipedia, then only like less than 10% of their entities are actually from crawling the website and learning from websites.

Alex: No way. So really, Wikipedia is how they’re figuring a lot of it out. Then you just want to rank for the entity type stuff, so then you create all of these little graphs on your lane, connect content in the right way.

John: Yes, exactly. Then if you ever see like what’s in the– And I can talk about knowledge panels on your podcast, but whenever you search like a company, like, let’s say you searching up Apple, the computer company, and they have this big robust knowledge panel to write all their information that it’s not Google My Business page. One strategy that people are doing to get these, you can get them within Google My Business.

If you want to get a really fancy one like Apple, what they’re doing is, they’re creating Wikipedia pages and getting them approved. That’s another way to get in Google’s knowledge, become a known brand to Google, but takes forever, it’s super difficult, and it’s an ongoing battle.

Alex: Not easy, right? That’s one of the more advanced things, I suppose.

John: Yes.

Alex: Takes time. That’s good so that’s what the semantic search thing is all about. Moving from keywords to topics and ranking for entities. Trying to associate yourself with the whole noun, if you will.

John: It gets pretty complex and it takes a lot of skill on the technical side, but if you’re getting started in this, you’re trying to get your foot under the door, Google’s advice, and it’s really annoying because every time they do an algorithm update, just focus on creating good content. They’re right, though. At the end of the day, if you just focus on what our patient’s going to need, what’s going to be useful to my patients and content, that’s generally the best strategy you can do, just create great content.

Interviewer: Create great content and make sure it’s authoritative and unique. If your providers are writing everything, it’s going to bog you down, but definitely having them add a couple of twists and turns and improving it will give you some unique perspective.

John: You should be able to read this, and when you’re making your content strategy, say, “Why would a patient want to read this?”

Alex: Yes, is it different than everybody else in my town that’s saying the same thing? Try to carve out your own niche. John, thank you for joining us on Ignite, talking about semantic search and how things are changing. Very helpful. If anybody needs to find you, where would they go look?

John: Here at Cardinal Digital Marketing, or at Twitter @SEOCounseling.

Alex: There we go, there we go. You guys heard it here. All right, thank you, John, for joining us.

John: All right, thanks for having me.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

[00:12:45] [END OF AUDIO]

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