- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On September 16, 2015
- Industry changes, SEO
Google recently announced that it’s adding hundreds of health conditions to its Knowledge Graph—the knowledge base that displays relevant information above or to the right of search results—making it easier for users to find and save the answers they need.
The update will bring the total number of health conditions in the Knowledge Graph to over 900, more than double the around 400 added in February 2015, and add downloadable PDFs for all conditions along with some general user experience tweaks. All this information is available in both desktop and mobile search results, so people can find it at home or on the go.
The Knowledge Graph expansion is of note to hospital marketers because of the way people use Google as they search for medical information. While there’s little data available on how much users favor reading information on search engine results pages over pages that rank in organic search results, we do know that users early in the patient journey start out with non-branded symptom and condition search terms. The Knowledge Graph is clearly targeted at those users, satisfying the needs of those who just want quick answers and providing a jumping-off point for those seeking more.
With industry giants like the Mayo Clinic and WebMD dominating this kind of search results, it was already difficult for local hospitals to compete without paying for Google Adwords. Throw in the Knowledge Graph and it could be nearly impossible to acquire significant traffic from these symptom and condition searches unless your hospital is a world-class leader in a niche specialty.
Take a step back and let patients come to you
The key to finding your share of search traffic is to target users later in the patient journey, when Google interprets more specific search terms locally instead of globally. Where nearly half (49 percent) of all patients start searching with conditions or diseases, nearly three quarters (73 percent) finish with either a branded search or a search for a department, which Google treats as a local search.
By specifically targeting those local search results instead of trying to rank for everything, you aren’t competing with the Knowledge Graph (or with WebMD or the Mayo Clinic) anymore but with other hospitals and physicians in your region.
It’s much easier to rank in these search results without having to shell out a huge portion of your marketing budget for pay-per-click ads, and Google isn’t siphoning off a healthy share of searchers with Knowledge Graph information before they even look at the organic results. Even better, the prospective patients performing those searches are more qualified leads because they’re looking for specific services and specialties available at your hospital. That means that not only will people find your hospital but also that when they do, they’ll be more likely to become patients.
Local search is more important than ever
A vast majority (77 percent) of patients use search to find information about conditions, procedures, physicians, and facilities before they make appointments. Making sure those searchers see your hospital and your staff is imperative to fueling growth.
Google users who make appointments conduct as many as 15 different searches before choosing a doctor or hospital. For every one of those patients, there are as many as 15 different opportunities for you to put your hospital brand in front of them and be a consideration when it comes time to make a decision. By carefully selecting which type of search results to target, you can focus your efforts and maximize the number of new patients you bring in through search channels.