New Look For Medical Knowledge In Google's Search Results

Dec 20, 2013 • 8:26 am | comments (22) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

google medicalA WebmasterWorld thread has discussion around a new look for answers around medical or health related queries in Google.

The results, as described by a webmaster, "replaces results with content," which is what the knowledge graph does. But he goes on to explain that the "content from our sites is placed directly on Google I feel that this will have a huge negative impact in terms of how much actual traffic Google will send to our sites."

Here is a screen shot of what he means:

click for full size

At least in this case, they are linking to the results. It won't be long until Google removes those links and just places it in their knowledge graph.

Of course, this pushes down the results and you won't even see results on most screens.

I doubt any of you are surprised with this, outside of the fact that Google is actually linking to the source here.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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Stuart David

12/20/2013 01:35 pm

I understand they want to serve their users, and as a user, it sure makes it easier, it takes the skim reading and multiple searches element out and maximizes your time. It just, I don't know,feels like it's a tough pill to swallow at the drop in that click-thru rate, therefore killing a sites income off, eventually dropping the site out. Surely Google have to figure a manner in which to reward webmasters for using content. And before anyone says this is public knowledge etc, yes it is, but those words are written by somebody, who put time and research into that, which Google directly lifts.


12/20/2013 02:14 pm

I don't think Mayo Clinic or WebMD will complain either for fear of retaliation from Google. This really is not good for those that work hard on creating great content and those who rely on advertising revenue to maintain their websites such as WebMD does. I think what Google is doing here will creep into other industries in the near future.


12/20/2013 02:33 pm

Of course Google wants to make it easy for the user as well as keep the users on Google properties for the purpose of serving ads, I get this. But Google is essentially scraping these site, taking their information, and then profiting from it. The SERPs have always been a trade off, Google serves relevant results on pages with ads and for that they provide a link out to where that relevant information lives. Now they are just undermining the system but simply lifting the information themselves. Right now it cuts off the answer with a small to the site but if it increases ad revenue and increases time on site I bet you'll see more and more text before it gets cut off. This is frustrating, especially to those creating the good content. Google recommends writing good content, for the users, and you'll see results. Well unfortunately that result may just end up on the Google's page itself.

Durant Imboden

12/20/2013 02:42 pm

This could have an impact on traffic to some sites, but let's be pragmatic: The information is in the public domain (in this case, from, and Google has as much right to publish it as Joe or Jo Webmaster does. We might prefer the Google Search of yesteryear, but evolution happens, whether or not we welcome it. Let's not forget that Google's stated mission all along has been "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible." There's nothing in that mission statement about limiting the SERPs to 10 blue links.

aaron wall

12/20/2013 02:51 pm

My guess is that Google will want to keep those source links in place to shield themselves from legal liability. By making them gray they already sort of prevent the full flow of traffic that would happen if the links were blue, so them removing the links would likely be more downside than upside, especially in areas like health where wrong information can literally mean death. I wonder when it'll include a sponsored self assessment tools inside the knowledge graph. That would be a great high-impact location for an interactive branded ad placement & those pre-qualified leads have to be worth (sometimes tens of) thousands of Dollars to pharmaceutical companies when their drugs are still covered by patent.


12/20/2013 03:22 pm

They also won't complain because, based on the image provided in the post, the information is abbreviated and the user is likely to follow the link to those sites provided. I would say other sites would be upset. WebMD and Mayo Clinic (and any others who may be used as a source) should be thrilled to basically be the only thing showing above the fold and will probably start to rake in traffic that answer sites/forums were previously receiving. If I worked for those companies being cited as the source, I would be thrilled. If I worked for those sites that are now pushed way down I would be mighty pissed. Overall: Stop searching for health/sickness information on the internet. The results for any symptom search are so vague that it is basically a hypochondriac-making-machine.

Stuart David

12/20/2013 04:44 pm

I knew you would pick on that fact one was a .gov ... what about mayoclinic and webmd, what claim do they have to that? It costs money to produce content you know? Your arguments flawed, as always ...


12/20/2013 04:57 pm

Thrilled? I think not. As was pointed out by Aaron, the attribution link is grey. I suspect by Google providing the answer to the query, joined with a grey link, will result in a dismal CTR than if Google linked to the source itself in the organic search results. It will have a negative impact on WebMD's advertising earnings for this query (14 total ads on page I counted), in my opinion. With those 14 ads, it's quite clear that WebMD relies heavily on advertising as part of their revenue model. I believe most people, that ordinarily have short attention spans, will get their answer from the three results in the image and simply move on. This is going to hurt WebMD badly if Google provides the answers for other health related questions in the same manner. No thrills for them - just lost traffic and revenue to maintain their operation.


12/20/2013 05:01 pm

I simply disagree. The information isn't complete and as it is read, the natural extension, in my opinion, is to click on the link to read the full answer.

Eric Ward

12/20/2013 05:21 pm

Excellent points Aaron. One thing I'm curious about: Why WebMD as the content source? There are many other extremely credible sources from which this info could be pulled. I also wonder if in the near future having structured markup will be something that helps content make it to knowledge graph status. Lastly, unless the provider of that content gets a link or some other sort of branding attribution, what exactly does this do for the site having their content scraped for the knowledge graph?

Eric Ward

12/20/2013 05:35 pm

I hesitate to say it, but mayoclinic has been a client of mine through a sub-contract. There is absoutely nothing about the linking and publicity strategies I used that was directed towards inclusion in the knowledge graph, because back when I did my work there was no knowledge graph. I'm now trying to analyze (aka figure the hell out) what I did:). As long as the gray link stays (and I wish they were blue), I can live with it, but I see a slippery slope ahead...

Stuart David

12/20/2013 06:03 pm

Must be authority based, has to be the ranking factor for such a prominent position front and center

Durant Imboden

12/20/2013 06:14 pm

The information would be in the public domain even if it wasn't a .gov site. Copyright doesn't protect facts, data, or ideas. (Don't take my word for it--look it up.)

Stuart David

12/20/2013 06:26 pm

But, the work and presentation of that data is at somebodies expense, surely they deserve reward for that? You're right, I wouldn't take your word for anything.


12/20/2013 06:31 pm

It just confirms, that Google is not the search engine anymore. It can barely search and has to provide information from bunch of websites it's sure about, probably manually selected.

Durant Imboden

12/20/2013 06:38 pm

OK, we can tell that you're angry, and that you don't like copyright law. But the fact remains that Google, Bing, and other search engines have just as much right to publish public-domain facts (or, in the case of CDC material, public-domain content) as you and I do. Twenty or 30 years ago, you might have been able to run a successful business by republishing public-domain information simply because production costs and the challenges of distribution made it harder for every Tom, Dick, or Google to enter the game. Today, anyone can republish public-domain information (including the search engines), so you've got to add value in the form of original content if you want to succeed.

Stuart David

12/20/2013 07:08 pm

Not my point, you just glaze over what I said and offer your over inflated opinion, out of context, completely to feather your end, as usual .. move on ...


12/21/2013 03:19 pm

coming soon new google health search engine. live forever to click adwords ads. Anything they do = only to increase their own revenue, but tell us lot of "good words" like content is king, "whitehat" and other things (unverifiable, just to get more time). Truth is only one: google will do anything to get money from pockets of small webmasters. That what "search engine changes", no - google is not normal search engine, it doorway now to google sites, white listed sites, adwords ads and top brands. Internet lost freedom, one big dictator show their power & killing almost anything (including freedom to create website how you like it, promote how you like it, etc). It just dictator, who will destroy everything to get money. They not care about any freedom, They not care what confuse all webmasters, They not need us (they can spend their billions to buy wikipedia & put adwords inside it, or just hire huge team of writters and have content on every topic). So soon (if google will default search engine), internet (as we know it) will dead. Will only one search engine with own sites inside it, and special agreements (or auctions) for top10. They have MFA now, so old PPC directory idea looks like their next step.


12/21/2013 03:31 pm

sure. in adult pornhub & other top sites have purchased links from almost any adult website, but still in top1-2 everywhere. It show what google not penalize sites with high authority (which even based on purchased links).


12/21/2013 03:36 pm

same as with full size images :) i am sure they not have any paper about it. it just clear blackhat.


12/23/2013 08:33 pm

Hi Barry, A little history on this: Google launched it on June 6th. I tweeted a screenshot from it back then:


06/04/2014 10:54 am

are you suggesting this has anything to do with the links you build?

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