Google Streamlines Health Queries with Medical Knowledge Graph Enhancements

In the U.S., search engines are quickly becoming many people’s go-to medical reference, with nearly 75% of adult internet users having gone online to find health information in the past year. Responding to this demand, Google recently enhanced the Knowledge Graph results for medical queries, in order to streamline and improve the quality of health-related answers.

Desktop and mobile searches surrounding more than 400 medical conditions now return enriched knowledge graph results that provide robust details about potential symptoms and common treatment options, among other information. While this update may be welcomed by internet users seeking medical advice, it could complicate efforts by search engine marketers to drive visibility and traffic in both the organic and paid search landscapes.

What has changed in the Knowledge Graph?

The new and improved health or medical Knowledge Graph appears in the same right-hand location of desktop search engine results pages, and at the top of mobile results, but instead of providing a single panel of information, health-related queries now return three compact sections of content:

  • The “About” tab offers a basic definition of the condition, as well as details about how commonly it occurs, the risk of contagion, the age groups usually affected, and the typical length of recovery.
  • The “Symptoms” tab provides searchers with information about possible indicators of the condition, and helps them determine whether they can make a self-diagnosis or should consult a healthcare professional.
  • The “Treatment” tab details the most common methods for addressing the searched condition, including home remedies and over-the-counter treatment, as well as doctor-prescribed medications and therapy options.

In addition to written content, the “About” and “Symptoms” tabs also feature licensed medical illustrations of each condition’s physiological indicators.

Currently, Google only serves the enriched medical Knowledge Graph for searches generally considered high in the conversion funnel, responding to users who are seeking general and non-personal health information. For instance, someone looking for Knowledge Graph information about pink eye will have more luck searching “what is pink eye” or “pink eye symptoms,” rather than typing “do I have pink eye?” or similarly personal queries.

How reliable is the information?

According to the official Google blog, each medical fact appearing in the enriched Knowledge Graph was drawn from “high-quality medical sources across the web,” and reviewed by an average of 11 healthcare professionals, including a team of Google’s own medical experts and doctors associated with the Mayo Clinic. The robust health information is currently only available in English to U.S. searchers, but Google plans to roll out multilingual and international versions of the content in coming months, with hopes that the resource may particularly benefit individuals living in remote or developing areas where medical facilities are less prevalent.

Amit Singhal, Google’s Senior Vice President in charge of content, emphasized that the enhanced medical Knowledge Graph is not intended to replace doctors, but rather to facilitate efficient interactions with healthcare professionals.

“We’re hoping to provide a framework for a more informed conversation with your doctor,” Singhal said.

What does this mean for my site?

Google’s Knowledge Graph enhancements are cause for consideration in the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) community for several reasons. First, the new layout increases competition for sites trying to capture high-funnel searches organically, because Google now prioritizes its own answers at the expense of other sites’ organic visibility. Particularly on mobile devices, the Knowledge Graph takes up a significant portion of Search Engine Results Page (SERP) real estate, which may minimize users’ need to explore lower-page resources.

Within the paid landscape, ads are still in top positions within the desktop and mobile search results. However, rising competition among top-funnel searches may drive marketers to increase visibility on lower-funnel searches, targeting users who are seeking treatment options rather than broader condition-related information. It will also be interesting to see if and how Google monetizes the Knowledge Graph, which now offers three tabs where potential Product Listing Ads (PLAs) could be placed, and perhaps even the opportunity for websites to sponsor curated content within the Knowledge Graph itself.

Look for updates from iProspect as we continue to monitor how the enhanced Knowledge Graph evolves and impacts sites within search results.