Posted in #HCSM

OK Google: Why & How Your Medical Practice Should Prepare For Voice Search

Your patients are searching for you online. Pew Research Center data shows 77% of all health inquiries begin at a search engine, with 72% of total Internet users say they’ve looked online for health information within the past year.

While the majority of patients searching for information on the web still trust search engines but the way people search for information online is changing. Increasingly, people are using voice search on their smartphones, tablets or voice assistants (like the Amazon Echo or Google Home devices) to search for information on the internet (yet another compelling reason to make sure that your site is optimized for mobile).

According to comScore’s forecasting, 50 percent of searches will be performed through voice functions in 2020 and the majority will be done without even looking at a screen.

How people are using voice search

In recent research carried out by BrightLocal, consumers were asked how they used voice assistants and voice search for local business. The top three most demanded voice search functions involve finding restaurants, grocery stores, and food delivery, with clothing, accommodation, and medicine following closely behind.


The Voice Search for Local Business Study also revealed that 46% of voice search users use voice search to find local businesses daily.


How to optimize your website for voice searches

In essence, voice searches are largely about answering questions, not about focusing on individual keywords. SEO is fast becoming AEO (Answer Engine Optimisation).

question-phrases-are-more-searched-1024x449 (1).jpg

What does best-answer content look like? Top Rank Blog’s Lee Odden, says best-answer content encompasses the following:

  • Specific, in-demand topic
  • More valuable and useful than other sites
  • Credible
  • High quality
  • Engaging
  • Device friendly, accessible
  • Fast

Here are 3 more tips to consider while generating content for voice activation devices:

  1. Use long-tail keywords.  A great tip here is to use the “People Also Asked” Feature in Google.
  2. Structure SEO around conversational keywords – in other words, address not just a specific keyword with your content, but rather the breadth of what someone is trying to learn when they search for that keyword
  3. Account for misspelled/misinterpreted words (sometimes Siri or Alexa can misinterpret what you’re saying).

Just as marketers have optimized content for web 2.0 and mobile, they will have to start optimizing content for voice search as well. To quote NewsCred, “If you’re a marketer, “What’s the Alexa strategy?” will be a question you’ll be expected to answer.”

Related Reading

How to Optimize for Voice Search: 4 Simple SEO Strategies 

Voice search optimization guide: Six steps for 2019

Study: How ready are businesses for voice search? 



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What Information Are Parents of Children with Cancer Looking For Online?

If you haven’t already guessed it by now, I’m a sucker for a good research study. I believe strongly that we need a  more robust evidence-base around why and how people use social media for health-related information.

The latest study* I want to share with you concerns the information seeking behaviour of parents of children with cancer.

Why this study matters

For a parent, learning their child has cancer can be overwhelming, stressful, and debilitating. After a new cancer diagnosis, parents seek social support and information from multiple sources including healthcare providers and the internet. Not surprisingly the study shows that parents of children with cancer performed health-related searches at over twice the rate performed by the general population. Online searches peaks at about one month after cancer diagnosis.

To date, little has been known about the specific information parents of children with cancer search for online.  Although it has been shown that cancer searches online correlate to cancer prevalence at a population level, little is known about the specific, granular information parents search for online.

Understanding the content of parents’ searches over time offers insight into what matters most to parents and helps to identify knowledge gaps that could inform more comprehensive approaches to family education and support.

Why do parents use the web for information?

The study authors put forward some suggestions for why parents of children with cancer search online for information. One reason may be that they don’t feel their providers shared information in appropriate depth. “Alternatively, because these types of searches require less medical sophistication to interpret, parents may feel more comfortable searching for them online compared with medical information,” the authors suggest.  Or parents may simply forget to ask questions about these topics when medical providers are present and subsequently search for supportive care information at a later time.

What kind of information are parents seeking online?

Over half of the cancer-specific searches were for cancer support, such as queries for cancer charities and inspirational quotations.

Among the overall health-related searches, 31% were for “symptoms, disease and medical information.” Supportive care and logistic-related health searches were extremely common, and health insurance searches were also present, although to a lesser extent. Other relatively common health-related search categories included “Medications” (and “Treatment and disease management.” 

How health professionals can use this information

The study authors believe the results are most applicable for family support and education.

Given the peak of internet use near the time of diagnosis, educational interventions to improve parents’ ability to navigate the internet for cancer information should be considered.

The authors highlight the need to support parents’ need for logistical information. This “represents a measurable and potentially modifiable domain through interventions such as website design and educational materials.”

Study Conclusion

Google search content offers insight into what matters to parents of cancer patients. More research is needed to explore use of Google to obtain health-related information and utilize this to inform future education, quality, and research initiatives and better understand how internet use influences healthcare decision-making.

* Charles A Phillips, Alaina Hunt, Mikaela Salvesen‐Quinn, Jorge Guerra, Marilyn M Schapira, L Charles Bailey, Raina M Merchant. Health-related Google searches performed by parents of pediatric oncology patients. Pediatric Blood and Cancer, May 9, 2019. doi: 10.1002/pbc.27795.

Related Reading 

Digital Health Checkup: 10 Signs It’s Time To Redesign Your Medical Practice Website

Do Online Health Seekers Trust Social Media? Surprising Results From A New Survey 

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4 Proven Ways To Increase The Visibility of Your Healthcare Website

Eight in ten online health seekers say they began at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. If you want more people to find you online, you need to optimize your website to increase visibility.

There are many tactics you can use to drive more traffic to your blog and while the following list is not exhaustive, these are some of the ways I have used to increase my own visibility online.

1. Audit Your Competitors

Start by drawing up a list of ten top websites in your niche. If your competitors’ websites are more streamlined, functional and fresher than yours, they may be drawing in more patients with a stronger online presence.  Make a list of their sites and critically evaluate them in terms of look, design, and functionality. Do they include a blog? Helpful checklists? Pre-registration forms patients can fill out to save time before their appointment? An online appointment system?  Screenshot the design features you think work well and think about how you might incorporate them into your own website.

2. Sign Up For Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free tool which will help you identify how well your website is performing over time. Use it to monitor your site’s performance. Has it declined over time? Are there fewer people coming to your site? Do they stick around or “bounce” off your site too quickly? Bounce rate is a contributor to your site’s search rankings, and it refers to the amount of time someone is on your site before “bouncing” off to another site. If you have a lot of people who look and quickly click away, it tells search engines you don’t have useful information on your site.  This information helps you plan ways to improve your site’s performance and visibility.

3. Tailor Your Site’s Information To Reader Needs

Is your website nothing more than a glorified brochure? To attract patients to your website, you should be prepared to add more value in the form of information. What kind of information are potential readers looking for? Identify the most frequently asked questions in your practice and create blogs, videos, and FAQs for your website to answer those questions.

4. Use Keywords Strategically

It’s important to include the right keywords on your website if you want to rank higher for particular search terms and increase your online visibility.  Keyword research is vital because identifying the terms people are searching for will determine the kind of content you create and the way you will optimize it.

Recommended Reading: How To Find The Best Keywords For Your Website

5. Optimize Your Site For Local Search

If you want more people to find you online, you need to optimize your website through good search engine optimization practices. And if you want to attract new patients, your website also needs to be optimized for your local area. When someone uses the internet to locate a Medical Practice nearby, it’s critical that your website appears in those results (searches on mobile devices containing the phrase “near me” has skyrocketed in recent years).

Recommended Reading: Why and How You Should Optimise Your Medical Website For Local Search

6. Optimize Your Site For Voice Search

The majority of patients searching for information on the web still trust search engines but the way people search for information online is changing. Increasingly, people are using voice search on their smartphones, tablets or voice assistants (like the Amazon Echo or Google Home devices) to search for information on the internet (yet another compelling reason to make sure that your site is optimized for mobile).

In essence, voice searches are largely about answering questions. Here are some tips to consider while generating content for voice activation devices:

  • Write in a conversational tone
  • Use long-tail keywords
  • Account for misspelled/misinterpreted words (sometimes Siri or Alexa can misinterpret what you’re saying).

7. Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile Responsive

Having a mobile-responsive site (ie one that automatically changes its layout and placements of certain menus and buttons automatically) is important because firstly, over half of patients search online for health information on their smartphone, and secondly, Google now gives ranking priority to those sites that are mobile friendly.  In fact, Google has stated that it will penalize websites that aren’t mobile-responsive, so if your site isn’t optimized for mobile devices, you’ll likely lose out significantly in the organic search rankings.  To check if your site’s design is responsive, enter its URL into this Google tool.

8. Include A Blog

Companies who blog receive a whopping 97% more links to their website. Incorporating a blog on your site is relatively easy; the challenge lies in consistently creating fresh content. If you are struggling to come up with new ideas on a regular basis for your blog, then this list of 16 content ideas should help get you started.

9. Drive More Traffic With Social Shares

By making it easy for visitors to your site to share your content, you increase the likelihood that they will take this action. When more people share your content, you increase the chance of driving more visitors to your site.

Wrapping Up

Your website is pivotal to your digital marketing strategy. And with more patients than ever searching online for you, it’s imperative that your website is optimized for them to find you.  It takes time and resources to optimize your site to deliver the best experience possible, but if you are serious about how your business performs, you need to get serious about the performance of your website too.

Posted in #HCSM

How Do Consumers Evaluate the Quality of Online Health Information?

A new study* has set out to identify criteria that consumers use to evaluate the quality of online health information, and the indicators they use to support their evaluation.

Criteria and Indicators Used To Evaluate Online Health Information

The study reports that the most widely reported criteria used by consumers were (1)  trustworthiness, (2) expertise, and (3) objectivity, followed by transparency, popularity, and understandability.

The indicators were related to (1) source (a website or the owner, creator, or sponsor of the site), (2) content, and (3) design. The most widely reported indicators were site owners/sponsors; consensus among multiple sources; characteristics of writing and language; advertisements; content authorship; and interface design.

(1) Source

Mixed attitudes were found toward some indicators representing site owners/sponsors. Firstly, most participants believed that government websites reflect high levels of expertise and good intentions; however, some consumers suspected that the information on government websites is biased due to their agendas and some, particularly younger generations, did not identify themselves with government sources, considering them “less cool” and not relatable

Secondly, people usually considered websites owned by commercial companies less objective and trusted more websites with no commercial interests; nevertheless, popular commercial websites such as were favored by some people for their expertise and comprehensiveness.

Individuals’ prior knowledge and experience of a source were mentioned most frequently as factors that influence quality judgment. Consumers tended to trust sites that they had experience with, because they may already know the source to be credible, have had positive experiences with it, have seen it from advertisements on other media (eg, television and magazine), or are familiar with the organization behind the source.

Trust in Social Media

Consumers had mixed attitudes toward social media sites. Some consumers favored online discussion groups, chat rooms, and listservs because they offered first-person narratives and practical information and support from peers with whom they could identify, but some disliked such sites for their lack of objectivity and expertise.

Concerning Wikipedia, some people questioned its objectivity because information can be edited by anyone on the Web, but some consumers were attracted to its encyclopedic nature and comprehensiveness.

2. Content

Content refers to the information contained in a source as well as the presentation of the information. Eight categories of content-related indicators were identified: substance, writing and language, presentation, references, authorship, audience, date/updating, and advertisements.

The most frequently reported content indicators were about consensus among sources. Content that appears in multiple sources, be it online sources, sources in other media (eg, newspaper, television, books, and academic journals), or health care professionals, is trusted by consumers.

Writing- and language-related factors were the second most frequently reported content indicators. Consumers expect high-quality information to be error-free in spelling and grammar, use straightforward language, and have a clear layout. The use of medical and technical vocabularies had mixed views. For some consumers, high-quality information was easy to understand, that is, it exhibited less use of professional medical vocabularies or provided easy-to-understand definitions of medical jargon; however, for others, the use of technical vocabularies demonstrated expertise and was highly valued

The third most frequently reported indicators were advertisements. Consumers expect quality websites to neither depend on advertisements nor seek to make a profit. Therefore, sites with advertisements were considered less objective.

3. Design

Design refers to the appearance of a website or an app and the user experience (UX) it gives. Four categories of design-related quality indicators were identified: interface design, interaction design, navigation design, and security settings.

The most frequently reported design indicators were related to interface design, mostly visual factors, including the overall appearance of a site, the graphics it includes, and font size.

Interaction design features, including links, interactive functions, and other interactive features (eg, loading time and login requirement), were the second most frequently mentioned quality indicators.

Sites with robust search capabilities (eg, easy to locate and diverse search entrance), offering useful tools (eg, self-management tools), and rendering smooth user-system interaction (eg, providing links to additional relevant sources and not having pop-ups) were perceived as high quality.

Navigation-related indicators such as navigation aids and site maps were the third most frequently mentioned quality indicators.

Key Takeaway For Healthcare Marketers and HCPs

The ability to critically evaluate the quality of health information is an important component of health literacy which is an important determinant of health.

The findings of this study have practical application for designers of online health information for patients. The authors recommend the incorporation of positive indicators (eg, offering authors’ credentials and presenting information in a clear and organized way) and avoidance of negative indicators (eg, dead links and flash media format) to offer users better information seeking experiences.

The fact that the same indicator (eg, government institutions as the source owner) can lead to different quality judgment for different people suggests that designers should also carefully investigate target users’ values and the corresponding criteria that they use to evaluate health information. This calls for active user research and user involvement in the design process.

Related Reading 

Digital Health Checkup: 10 Signs It’s Time To Redesign Your Medical Practice Website

Do Online Health Seekers Trust Social Media? Surprising Results From A New Survey 

What Information Are Parents of Children with Cancer Looking For Online?

* Sun Y, Zhang Y, Gwizdka J, Trace CB, Consumer Evaluation of the Quality of Online Health Information: Systematic Literature Review of Relevant Criteria and Indicators
J Med Internet Res 2019;21(5):e12522
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How Social Media Can Enhance Supportive Cancer Care [Infographic]

Next month, I will be presenting to attendees at the joint Annual Meeting of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) and the International Society of Oral Oncology (ISOO), which will take place in San Francisco, June 21 to 23, 2019.

The topic will be one of my favourite things to talk about –  the role of social media in healthcare. To promote the session, MASC Ambassador, Dr Hannah Rose Wardill has produced this infographic. I wanted to share it with you today for two reasons. Firstly, it’s an awesome infographic and secondly, it’s a super promotion idea for a conference. Hannah sourced the content of the graphic from articles and posts I’ve written on this topic.

I’m really so impressed with how Hannah did this and I can already see I will be borrowing this idea next time I want to promote my speaking sessions in the future.


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A-Z of HCSM: Z is for Zoom #AtoZChallenge


26 posts. 26 days. 26 letters of the alphabet, one blog post beginning with each letter.

Z is for Zoom

So I made it through to Z and with the exception of one letter (for the life of me I couldn’t come up with a social media related word for X!)  I stuck to the challenge.

It’s been a great way to get into a daily blogging habit and I highly encourage you to consider doing something similar for your own niche.

Now on with today’s post.

Zoom is a tool I use several times a week for conference calls. It allows you to have video conferences with anyone from around the world. You can also hold online meetings, trainings, webinars and conference calls with the Zoom app.

The free plan allows unlimited one on one video conferencing and up to 40 minutes for groups. It also includes screen share, a chat function and a record feature.

For more productivity tools like Zoom, check out my list of 30 Essential Productivity Tools Every Business Owner Should Try In 2019

Posted in #HCSM

A-Z of HCSM: Y is for YouTube #AtoZChallenge


26 posts. 26 days. 26 letters of the alphabet, one blog post beginning with each letter.

Y is for YouTube

YouTube has more than 1.8 billion monthly active users, and remains the online video leader. 

People around the world are now watching a billion hours of YouTube’s content every single day.  That’s a huge amount of time spent watching diverse content on the channel.  Here are some more staggering stats to consider.


YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world with added SEO potential due to its Google connection.  YouTube also has live-streaming options and social tools, which it’s expanding as it works to keep in line with evolving consumer trends.

Mobile devices now account for 70% of all time spent on YouTube by adults in the US, according to research from comScore. Audience reach is bigger on mobile than on desktop for 99 of the top 100 YouTube channels in the United States.


Mobile viewing is especially popular with younger adults (age 18-34) and women, the analysis found. YouTube mobile viewers tend to watch shorter-form videos than desktop viewers do. However, mobile viewers watch nearly three times as many videos per month, on average.


Check out more YouTube stats here 

YouTube is a platform that people are searching every day for how to solve their problems and get their questions answered. As a form of patient education and health promotion, it has great potential but recent studies show it is not being used to its full potential.

2013 study which examined the effectiveness of YouTube as a source of medical information on heart transplantation found it time-consuming to find high-quality videos and recommended that more authoritative videos by trusted sources should be posted for the dissemination of reliable information. Similarly, a 2015 study found that in YouTube videos related to skin cancer, there was a missed opportunity for cancer prevention and control.

These findings notwithstanding, there are some good examples of medical organizations who are already using YouTube to communicate health information. Mayo Clinic, in particular, stands out, with over 250K subscribers to its channel. I particularly like its series of Mayo Clinic  Minute videos.

If you don’t already have a YouTube channel for your practice, check out my guide to getting started with YouTube here

You might also like to read 9 YouTube stats to inform your marketing strategy in 2019



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A-Z of HCSM: W is for WordSwag #AtoZChallenge


26 posts. 26 days. 26 letters of the alphabet, one blog post beginning with each letter.

W is for WordSwag

WordSwag is a mobile application that turns your ideas, quotes, and content into attractive graphics that can be shared on social media.


Here’s how it works

1. Select your picture (Word Swag also includes 590,000+ free backgrounds!)
2. Edit your text (you can also choose from hundreds of captions and quotes)
3. Select one of 48 text styles.
5. Save or share your creative design on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook.

Posted in #HCSM

A-Z of HCSM: U is for Unsplash #AtoZChallenge


26 posts. 26 days. 26 letters of the alphabet, one blog post beginning with each letter.

U is for Unsplash

Unsplash is a royalty-free stock image resource which gives you access to a bank of 50,000+ free-to-use photos.

All photos are licensed under Creative Commons Zero, “which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.”

Here’s a selection of healthcare-related images from the site.




Posted in #HCSM

A-Z of HCSM: T is for Trend #AtoZChallenge


26 posts. 26 days. 26 letters of the alphabet, one blog post beginning with each letter.

T is for Trend

To succeed on social media, it’s essential to stay ahead of the curve and understand the latest social media trends.

In my annual social media marketing predictions for 2019, I identified 14 major trends that should claim your focus this year. It’s a lengthy post so if you are short on time,  I’ve highlighted five of these trends which I think will have particular relevance to medical marketing.

My Top 5 Health Apps.jpg