New healthcare market entrants like CVS, Amazon, and even Walmart are threatening traditional patient access and acquisition models for health systems across the country. These non-traditional healthcare entrants know the consumer inside and out. They have collected massive amounts of data, and they can map that data back to consumer preferences. They know what their consumer is looking for. The result? Traditional healthcare organizations are being forced to adapt. The time to explore how search marketing can help your organization deliver a better experience and improve patient acquisition is now.
In looking to evolve, many health systems are finding that their view of the patient journey is less sophisticated than they might like. The good news? Healthcare organizations largely do have the right information at their fingertips to identify the needs and wants of their patients — it’s just a question of analysis and implementation. Understanding the search landscape is key to meeting this objective. By helping your health system identify what patients are searching for, and what needs drive those searches, you can deliver a better patient experience in the long term.
Here are our predictions for the healthcare search trends that will make the biggest impact in 2020:
1. Search will become (even) more conversational.
In 2006, there were 6 billion searches on Google. Fast forward to 2016, and Google registered 2 trillion searches on Google in a year. Google has also reported that 5% of all searches are healthcare-related. So if you apply 5% to 2 trillion searches — a figure likely to be even higher in 2019 — that means there are at least 100 BILLION searches for healthcare on Google alone each year. That’s 273 million healthcare searches a day!
Why is this so important to note? First, it’s important to recognize how frequently patients and consumers are searching for healthcare information via Google and other search services. Second, what we’re starting to see is the conversational nature of those searches. Instead of just searching for “doctor near me,” patients are now searching for very precise needs, including “cardiologist who does mitral valve repair who accepts Blue Cross.” As patients continue to use more technologies (e.g., voice devices, mobile phones, and tablets) to find health information, they are searching in more places and in more conversational ways.
As a result, we expect to see an uptick in long-tail searches in all of Yext’s healthcare customers’ Google Analytics, AdWords, and Yext query data throughout 2020.
2. Search in 2020 will be about intent.
As patients and consumers continue to ask conversational questions in search, they are sharing their intentions with search engines and with marketers. Intent marketing is not a new concept, but 2020 will be the year that healthcare organizations start to realize that when patients are searching for information on search engines and on owned properties — like websites and apps — these patients are giving the gift of an intent signal.
With this behavior, Google has stated that intent is redefining the marketing funnel. Consumers, and your patients, are now so trained to ask a search box for exactly what they want, with the exact specifications of their intent, it’s now a given that they expect accurate answers — every time.
In 2020, intent will be the theme for healthcare marketer conversations. We will start to see organizations deliver answers to intent-based questions that are layered on top of existing demographic, psychographic, and behavioral marketing personas. The organizations that pick up on intent marketing before their competition are the ones that will be rewarded — with better SEO, better patient experience, and with driving greater patient volume.
3. Expectations for direct answers will rise.
As people become accustomed to seeing answers to their increasingly specific questions, it stands to reason that patients will subsequently develop higher expectations for receiving direct answers in search experiences.
Throughout 2020, we will see how dissatisfied patients and consumers will be when they do not receive a direct answer in their search experience. Bounce rates will go up on sites, if a click occurs — and as Google and other search engines prioritize direct answers and showcase zero-click results, the fight will be on for organizations to dominate ‘position zero’ on the search engine results page. This will require organizations to effectively position themselves as the authority on the information that search engines pick up on their behalf. Content on owned properties will need to be structured in such a way that search engines will position their information in that zero spot.
What do these search trends mean for marketers in 2020? At Yext, we believe the foundation for all search experiences about a brand should come from the brand itself — in this case, your healthcare organization — and not from various potentially unsavory or unqualified sources. The best way you can focus on these three trends in 2020 is to build your organization’s knowledge graph that is optimized for intent across all of the AI-based discovery services.
With a knowledge graph, you can understand the intent of a searcher and deliver a direct answer to each potential patient.
January 1st, 2020 allows us to start fresh with the new year. But we are also entering a new decade — and that means even bigger considerations for change in how we might want to market to our patients and consumers. Taking these three search trends into account, marketers also have the opportunity to take a fresh look at their approach to marketing, and to make some tweaks that can truly make a difference in driving patient acquisition and volume throughout the next decade.
Want more insight into what’s ahead for search in 2020? Get marketing predictions from 10 experts at companies including Microsoft, Adobe, Yum! Brands, and more in our latest eBook.