The SEO Impact of Medical Knowledge Cards

Curious about how the new Google Knowledge Graph roll-outs will affect your SEO? Jake McCormick, our very own Search Marketing Manager, explains the updates and their implications. 

 

THE GOOGLE MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE GRAPH

On February 10, 2015, Google announced a new Knowledge Graph feature within medical condition-specific search results. Unlike a traditional Knowledge Graph result, this information is not curated from external websites – derived instead from consulting with medical professionals, illustrators, and the Mayo Clinic, Google is now displaying a visually and content-rich “card” of information pertaining to health and medical conditions.

In the short term, the intent is to improve the reliability of medical information on the web. In the long term, this is a step towards Google’s quest to be an “answer engine.” Ultimately, Google wants to serve searchers with the most accurate medical information available in order to help them fully understand and confidently address the medical issue in question.

WHAT DO THESE RESULTS LOOK LIKE?

On mobile devices, the card takes up the majority of the search page:

screenshot1                                       

The mobile card features three tabs: About, Symptoms, and Treatments. This layout makes it more likely a person will take in this information, then conduct an additional search that is more action-focused in its intent (for example, “clinics near me”).

On desktops, the card is pushed to the sidebar Knowledge Panel:

desktop 

WHAT SEARCHES ARE AFFECTED?

Currently, only 400 condition-specific searches display the card. This means that searches for “strep throat symptoms”, “strep throat causes”, or ambiguous health questions (“sore throat and coughing”) do not receive this new layout. There is potential this could change in the future, however as of now Google cannot correlate a symptom search to a definitive interest in strep throat as an illness.

The symptoms search to the right does not include the card on mobile or desktop:

search

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR SEO?

Websites that rely on condition-specific searches to drive traffic will take a hit – most notably, this includes generic, catch-all sites such as WebMD.com and EMedicineHealth.com. Mobile visits from search may decline slightly because clickable results are further down the page, but desktop results still prominently feature above-the-fold links. Overall, this change should do more good than harm to users and legitimate websites alike, and can actually provide a foundation for strategic social and SEO initiatives.

Google is only displaying these cards for 400 conditions, so even with this update it is still incredibly important to have social and on-site content that addresses specific medical conditions and treatment options. There are almost 12 billion Google searches conducted each month, and 1 in 20 of these searches are medical-related (Google). That extrapolates out to 60 million monthly searches for medical information, which means there remains significant value to having health and medical information on your website. This also doesn’t include people who may visit your site and then navigate to a condition page.

Given Google’s latest update, there are a few key strategies that should be integrated into your SEO and social efforts:

1.) Focus on long-tail searches

As stated above, Google is only showing the medical cards for a select group of searches that are informational in their intent. Having information-rich pages on your website around medical conditions and illnesses will still help you reach “long tail” searchers (3 or more keywords in a search phrase). These are lower in search volume, but there is often less competition and these searchers are more likely to convert.

2.) Enhance the visibility of your contact us, doctor, and location pages 

Better information yields smarter patients that are confident in their decision to call a clinic or their doctor. As such, contact, doctor, and hospital/clinic location pages need to be optimized to catch people when they’re ready to take action. For example, a person searches for “strep throat”, reads Google’s information, and decides he or she needs to go to the doctor. He or she may then search for “hospitals near me” or “Sioux Falls strep throat doctors.” That creates an opportunity to get in front of a person ready to act. 

3.) Implement structured data 

Schema.org structured markup is a collection of tags that, when implemented, act as a highlighter that helps Google, Bing, and Yahoo understand the most important information on a page. Google may also pull this markup into its Knowledge Graph for non-condition searches. There is a wealth of opportunities to use Schema.org on a variety of medical information, including any doctor, location, and condition pages. 

4.) Generate content ideas for medical knowledge cards

Most of Google’s organic search updates are driven by user behavior and what users define as ‘valuable information’ related to their search. In the “strep throat” desktop screenshot above, commonality and contagiousness are at the top of the card. This is a strong indicator that people searching for “strep throat” are concerned about whether it can and will spread. The mobile screenshot indicates 6-18 year-olds are most likely to get strep throat. Write content, draft social posts, or create videos that speak to these concerns, and share them across your owned platforms. 

 

 

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