The Rise of Voice Search: What Pharma Brands Need to Do Now

July 18, 2017

Today, 1 out of every 5 searches is a voice search. Yet, many brands are not set up to take advantage of the rising growth in voice search. Thankfully there are a set of optimization efforts that can be implemented to put your brand in the forefront and capture the real estate across all forms of voice search.

What Has Driven the Growth of Voice Search?

Voice search’s growth is being driven by multiple factors. At first thought, you might think voice search is only occurring when open your Google App and ask it to search something. In actuality, voice search is being powered by many different avenues.

Growth Area One: Virtual Assistants (Artificial Intelligence)

Many of the leading tech companies have pushed forward in the virtual assistant space. Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Assistant, and most recently Samsung brought Bixby to the scene. With these being made available across mobile devices as well as in home technology such as Amazon Echo/Dot and Google Home, AI plays a significant role in the increase of voice search.

Growth Area Two: The Rise of Mobile

It’s been the year of mobile since 2010, but now more than ever content consumption is happening on mobile devices. When searching for content, voice search is often used. When looking at certain demographics that skew younger or with lower income, mobile devices are the primary device used to access the internet. As mentioned above, a significant portion of voice searches come from mobile devices and are related to location or late funnel stage searchers.

What Pharma Brands Need to Do:

If the current 20% of total searches isn’t already motivating you to execute a voice search strategy, it is predicted by Baidu’s Andrew Ng, that by 2020, 50% of searches will be voice searches.

The time is now to act and get your website and search strategies fitted with voice search in mind. Thankfully, many of the approaches that cater to voice search can also help with traditional search engine optimization.

Optimize and Structure Content for Voice Search

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm utilizes natural language processing and machine learning to continuously improve search results. Each search is used to improve the results delivered to the searcher. The main area of focus for these learnings has been related to the context of a search.

As an example, if someone utilizes voice search on their Android phone and searches ‘diabetes dieting tips’, the engine is no longer returning a set of results that directly relate to the keywords that are searched. Instead, it is understanding the context behind the search and will present an answer to the question if believes the user is asking, which may be something like ‘what are some ways I can help treat my diabetes through changing what I eat’. Instead of returning an article that lists out 10 diabetes tips, you get results that also contain more holistic view of healthy eating. The results also contain Google’s Quick Answers, which contain similarly related content that may answer additional questions the user has.

As you can see in this example, the Quick Answer Box also contains content that is in bulleted format. Structuring your content in easily digestible formats like bulleting and labeling of the content can help get your content favored in results.

Structured Data and Mark Up

To dive into this a step further, structured data refers to kinds of data with a high level of organization, such as information in a database. When information is highly structured and predictable, search engines can more easily organize and display it in creative ways.

Structured data markup is a text-based organization of data that is included in a file and served from the web. It typically uses the vocabulary—an open community effort to promote standard structured data in a variety of online applications.

Structured data markup is most easily represented in JSON-LD format, which stands for JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data.

For pharma marketers, there is a specific set of schema that can be leveraged for healthcare based elements such as indication, contraindications, side effects and many other items.

Now these examples are all showing how things layout on desktop search results, not voice. But the results and answers being returned are what virtual assistants often utilize as their responses for voice search queries, so the tactics explained can help improve both traditional and voice search optimizations efforts.

Write Your Content With Questions In Mind

What makes great content? At the end of thr day, it doesn’t matter how much you paid your creative agency, what matters is if the content is relevant to your audience or not. It is now more important than ever for pharma brands to bring their SEO agency into the fold when planning content for a new website or updating content for an existing brand site.

This should not only be done for optimizations related to search volume and content structure as highlighted above, but also for ensuring longer tailed, question related searches are properly answered. Content will also need to be answered in a conversational manner. The tone of the content will need to sound natural and direct to the point.

Time To Get Started With Voice Search:

The tactics outlined can be taken advantage of now by brands. With SEO rankings taking time to change, the brands who are first to market with these tactics will benefit the most. Should you be interested in learning more about voice search and how your brand can reach this audience, please reach out to Justin Freid, SVP Emering Media at