6 thoughts on “Health: Watch This Space”

  1. Can Google compete with the National Library of Medicine’s consumer websites like Medlineplus.gov whose content is evaluated, produced, and maintained by dedicated librarians and medical doctors, and which has no advertising? They are revamping their site with better search now; the content has always been great.

    If I were a medical doctor, recommending that the public go to Google rather than medlineplus for health advice would verge on malpractice.

  2. Bosworth writes in his blog: If you go to Google and type in [Lipitor], for example, and then you click on the “For patients” link and look carefully, you’ll see that the search results often include at the bottom the word “Labeled By,” followed by words like NLM and HON. [snip] These are organizations that have marked the part of the web that this link in the search results points to as medically reliable. It seems that we at Google may not have done a great job of making this clear enough. Unfortunately, many of you either don’t notice these words when you’re searching about health questions at Google or have no idea what they mean. Clearly, we can do better at making this kind of labeling noticeable and your ideas on how we could make it clear to you that a site is medically reliable or trustworthy would be greatly appreciated as we think this through.

    Adam, or anyone else from Google interested in this stuff: I would say that a big part of my own problem when I see this is that I am used to subconsciously filtering out any crap at the top of the search results that doesn’t look like a link. Because I’ve been conditioned to expect advertisements there. Do your “Lipitor” search, for example. At the top, you’ll see two Sponsored links for the drug, followed by News results, followed by the information you mention above (“For patients”, “for health professionals”, “side effects”, etc).

    The problem is, the moment my mind sees the sponsored links at the top, I immediately tune out and ignore everything in that general area that does not look like a SERP. I totally blow by the news results, the query term suggestions, etc.

    This is terrible, I know, because I have clamored for so long on John’s blog here (sorry John!) for you to offer query refinement suggestions.. and here you are, actually doing it! Kudos for the effort.

    But it’s all mixed up now, mixed in with news and advertisements, etc. No wonder folks don’t click it.

    IMHO, the only way around this is to do something that, frankly, I don’t think you will do. Remove the sponsored links above the SERPs. That will uncondition people from skipping past anything that doesn’t look like a SERP. Right now, as a result of my search for “lipitor”, my unscrolled results page only shows two search results. TWO! No wonder I scroll down as quickly as possible and ignore everything at the top! Having no ads above those links means that people will see more links, immediately. Thus they might actually start to believe that the other information you’re showing them up at the top is real information, not advertisements, and start to click it.

    I actually think you should take it one step further, and have nothing at all above the SERPs, and then put your “for patients”, etc. links on the right hand side of the page, displacing the top few right column ads, too. So, no ads above the SERPs, and make the top information on the right your links, rather than an ad. Below those links, you can still show ads, if you want.

    I bet if you try that, you’ll get higher clickthroughs on those “for patient” links.

    The problem is, I don’t see you trying it. Because to do so would mean to sacrifice your top 4 ads for lipitor (two above the SERPs, two to the right of the serps). I’ll bet clickthroughs on all the ads on the right, the ones that are now pushed down further toward the bottom right corner of the page, will go down.

    Of course, this runs contrary to what Matt Cutts said a few months ago when he went into debunking mode; he talked about how ads have zero effect on the SERPs and vice versa. I think he is wrong. I think what you are seeing is a trade-off between ads and SERPs, where the more ads you are showing, the more that gets in the way of people clicking relevant, SERP-related information such as this “for patient” stuff.

    So why don’t you try it..? Stop taking money from the drug companies, stop showing all those ads, and give those “for patient” links much more prominence. And then report back to all of us the results of your experiment. My respect to you for doing so can only increase.

  3. Your timing with this post is uncanny. I am launching a survey next week on the very subject of how people use the internet to find physicians, and how physicians can use the internet to better service patients and be a more valuable resource. One of the key questions centers on what information patients need to help them make their decisions, along with various other questions about doctor selection and internet preferences.

    Thanks for the notice. That’s getting bookmarked!

  4. John,
    I agree that health care is the vertical to watch in search and in the content publishing industry in general. Of course, folks at Google understand the extent of the opportunities to help transform the health care industry and whatever Google does–or is planning to do–merits watching.

    In fact, I have been watching Google, other search engines, and a number of the newer and traditional medical and health care information providers and will be co-producing a conference called Health Content07 in conjunction with the InfoCommerce Group in September. The conference will focus on the major drivers of change in the health care industry that present opportunities for publishers, aggregators, and search engines. Initial details were just posted on http://www.grandviewinsight.com.

    I’d love to hear your reaction to our preliminary program.

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