Google Health Related Search Results, Can You Find Them?

Jun 20, 2013 • 8:27 am | comments (27) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Google HealthI am sure my readers will have a field day with this screen shot. Search for [treatment for ibs] and take a look at the search results.

By default you will see 3 ads on the top, a bunch of ads on the right hand side. Then you will see Google scrapping sourcing information various medical web sites, such as webmd, and so forth. Then below that, you will find the web pages that Google is sourcing with links to them, like the typical ten blue links Google was founded on.

Here is a screen shot where I was able to manage to only show one ad at the top (trick is to keep refreshing to trick Google into thinking the ads are not relevant):

Google Health Related Search Results

Even in this example the results are well below the fold of a smaller screen.

Brent Nau spotted this and posted a screen shot on Google+, he said:

I have seen the Google SERPs for queries regarding health conditions and symptoms, but I have not seen where Google is actual scraping the authoritative sites and presenting the actual text at the top of the search results for "treatment" type keywords. (BTW - not suffering from IBS, client research!)

If I had a client in the IBS field and I saw this, it may give me IBS myself. At least now I have the information to help treat it.

Forum discussion at Google+.

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Praveen Sharma

06/20/2013 12:46 pm

"If I had a client in the IBS field and I saw this, it may give me IBS myself. At least now I have the information to help treat it." - Best part of the post. :) It seems like one of those experiments which Google keep working on. But if they rolled out this thing for all queries, it would be a nightmare for sure. From being a search engine (providing information sources in response to a query), Google is slowing becoming an answering machine (providing information in response to a query and kicking original sources down the order).


06/20/2013 12:56 pm

so when these websites close down because they don't generate revenue anymore due to users searching google and finding the answer right there, where is google then going to get its scraped data?


06/20/2013 01:32 pm

the day when google from search engine become health directory. This sites pay something for google for that listings? Anyway it monopolization of search results, -competition mode. Another step in google self-destruction program.


06/20/2013 01:33 pm

Hi Barry, just to add a little background, this started on June 6th: Seemed to have fully rolled out to most/all users on that date. There are numerous and various "question" type health related searches that would trigger this (symptoms, treatment, medication, even things like "how to lose weight")


06/20/2013 01:37 pm

Does Google have an arrangement with the sites it is scrapping? I imagine it does and the sites are being compensated. It's not like was existing on its ad revenue so maybe this is a 'win' for the sites being scraped? I don't like it the same way I don't like Google scraping Wikipedia for their knowledge graph. I am curious as to what the CTR on that 'read full answer...' link would be.


06/20/2013 01:38 pm

yes, and any competition on health queries looks like was totally destroyed in favor of wikipedia/webmd/etc.They pay $$$ for google?

Barry Schwartz

06/20/2013 01:38 pm

webmd is ad revenue

Michael Martinez

06/20/2013 01:39 pm

We have to trust that Google is sourcing the correct information and historically they have struggled to promote the right content in COMPLEX health queries. So it will be a while before I am satisfied that the sourcing is reliable.


06/20/2013 01:45 pm

No doubt, so I would imagine Google is paying them enough to make it worth their while to not make a fuss over being scraped. Or that the traffic through those snippets is enough to justify allowing the scraping. Interesting either way; must be a field day for hypochondriacs everywhere.


06/20/2013 02:32 pm

it mean less competition, google become directory.


06/20/2013 02:34 pm

forgot to mention, no, i not trust google.

Stephen Slater

06/20/2013 02:47 pm

Are they being scrapped or could this be a test of something like the Google News results?

Wendy Piersall

06/20/2013 03:16 pm

Google is certainly not compensating all of the photographers and image creators that they devastated with their image search update in January when they stopped referring that traffic as well. Google isn't in the business of helping content creators (you know, those who author the web and fuel Google's business model). Google is in the business of maximizing revenue past the gray areas of copyright law, knowing full well that on the .00000001% chance they get taken to court, they will still make more money than if they hadn't stretched the limits or broken the law in the first place.


06/20/2013 03:23 pm

...and that had what to do with my question? Not trying to be rude, might just be missing the connection.

Wendy Piersall

06/20/2013 03:33 pm

Not a problem, I made an assumption that you'd make the connection, which was my bad. Here's a better explanation: Google changed their image search interface to stop referring traffic, and instead are hotlinking scraped full resolution images right into their results. I'm just noting the growing trend for Google to take as much content as they can for themselves and display it on their own pages rather than refer traffic. I am 1000% positive that this latest health niche change is reducing traffic to health related websites, and that they don't like it, they have no choice about it, they are losing money because of it, and that Google doesn't care one smack about it.

Reg Hobbs

06/20/2013 03:44 pm

There are a few sites that are dominating the "health and medical" searches in Google. WebMD, Wikipedia, MayoClinic and the NIH. That is unless you are doing a really specific search. Then the internet marketers are there to exploit it...unfortunately. A little cynical but as an internet marketer I know that is the way it is.


06/20/2013 03:53 pm

Sorry, with only two or so lines of text per site and a clear link to the site at the bottom, how is this really different from a standard search result? Hardly seems like scraping unless they are showing a large portion of the page here which would make people less likely to click through which isn't really the case in the screenshot. The only problem I really see is how to get into one of the advanced prominence pages there. I would imagine its more sucky for the sites that didn't make the cut than for the ones it did.

Durant Imboden

06/20/2013 05:07 pm

For years, Google has defined its mission as "organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible"--not "organizing the world's information and presenting it as 10 blue links." Like it or not, and for better or for worse, Google's presentation of answers on the SERP doesn't represent a shift from that longstanding mission.


06/20/2013 09:22 pm

Google is playing with life's...


06/20/2013 10:52 pm

She's answering your question with an example. You asked "Does Google have an arrangement with the sites it is scrapping?" She gave you an example of how webmasters are not being compensated by Google image search and therefore believes that the MD sites aren't being compensated either. Do you just play stupid?


06/20/2013 11:28 pm

Yeah but it does move it away from doing no evil.


06/21/2013 12:21 am

we know, only sites from white-list (internet association/etc) can rank in google. this is just a confirmation.


06/21/2013 12:23 am

google scrapper, they dream about time when all answers will at their search results from our content and will same thing as happen now in google images (no traffic, but somebody visit our images via google/bing hotlinks/but no page visits)


06/21/2013 12:26 am

totally agree with you. That what happen with google images search, now moving to web search. Very soon webmasters will unable to rank for anything in google 'new knowledgebase scrapped directory'


06/21/2013 12:43 am

scroogle mac duck, uncle sam. $$$$ only in the eyes of big G.


06/21/2013 12:47 pm

I still don't agree that the two are compatible examples and that image scraping/display isn't the same as medical information scraping/display, although there are obvious similarities. I am pretty sure that doesn't make me stupid, but then again, if I am stupid, how would I know?

Satish Coolpctips

06/25/2013 03:33 am

Unfortunately its the same for all the geographic locations! :( Or may be a lot of people didn't write about that!

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