Google Knowledge Graph is set to include answers to health questions in its search results.
Users will be able to read up on symptoms and treatments for a range of common medical conditions, ascertain whether their illness is serious and/or contagious and even check relevant medical diagrams.
Google is keen to stress that this is not a substitute for medical advice, and each search result will include an assertion that the user should use the basic info provided by Knowledge Graph as the basis for a more detailed search.
In a blog announcing the feature, Google product manager Prem Ramaswami revealed that one in 20 Google searches are related to health matters and declared that users should have access to the information they need “more quickly and easily”.
He cited a personal situation in which his son had fallen off a hotel bed and Google had been unable to efficiently provide the facts he wanted to discover whether or not the boy was concussed.
Ramaswami also reiterated the point that Knowledge Graph will be for “information purposes only”, adding that each person could react differently to a certain illness and that exceptions would apply in every case.
What does this mean for medical sites?
Whenever Knowledge Graph provides more information on a topic, it will of course appear at the top of SERPs. Naturally, sites operating within that space could be concerned that they will be pushed down the page and ignored, as searchers simply use the basic info provided by Google.
When it comes to medical questions, Google telling people that they should still consult a doctor does not change the fact that there will always be those who take the first answer they see as gospel.
However, there will be plenty who heed Google’s warning and seek a second opinion, so it remains as important as ever for medical sites to maintain their search visibility and put themselves at the front of the queue to help people.
Additionally, as with the vast majority of Knowledge Graph changes, this will be rolled out in the US first, so there is still time for UK sites to assess the impact across the pond and see how it could affect them.