Recently there has also been an integration of Google+ content into search engine results pages
Google has been an important part of the health research process for patients and healthcare providers for many years. This year Google is shaking things up with a list of new products and innovations that will affect both the paid and organic search strategies of pharmaceutical companies.
Google started allowing businesses to create Google+ pages/profiles and visitors to opt into specific “circles” in order to receive specific posts and updates. An example might be using circles to customize messages for patients, healthcare providers and caregivers. The Google+ platform could integrate well with a segmented marketing strategy, and Google+ now has a network of 100 million users worldwide.
However, one reason for pharma to wait to create Google+ pages is because the commenting capability cannot be suppressed or controlled the way it can be on YouTube. Note that just like Facebook (850 million users), a Google+ page requires resources to add content, monitor comments and interact with users. Roche is the only biopharmaceutical company we have seen who has taken advantage of Google+ with placeholder company and career pages.
Recently there has also been an integration of Google+ content into search engine results pages. When Google users are logged in and search, they get search results that are personalized based on their history and can also be optionally personalized based on who they are following with their Google+ account. These personalized results are both linked at the top and integrated among the regular results. See this in the example below which Google calls “Search, Plus Your World” (SPYW). My thought is that this is a test to see if people trust their friends/contacts more than Google’s own algorithm and to test more social search functionality.
New Search Algorithm Changes
Google has started publishing changes to their search engine algorithm on a monthly basis on the Google Blog in an effort to be more transparent about how they are fighting spam and sites that game the search results. There was considerable reaction to the Panda/Farmer Updates to the algorithm in 2011 when many sites had a significant drop in traffic within days of the change. Understanding what Google looks for in a high-quality site is always evolving as they find more sophisticated ways to configure their calculations and take more information into account in making that decision. At Siren we’ve been keeping up with these changes, and they have not negatively impacted traffic to client sites at all. Some expected Google changes have to do with using more social and human interaction factors to indicate high-quality sites, since just calculating how many links point to a site provided loopholes where companies could manipulate SEO in ways that people didn’t really find matched their expectations for search results. Google has also noted that they have begun to look at site load times and the ad placement on landing pages as part of their algorithm calculations.
Google Advertising Opportunities
Google has offered display advertising opportunities across their content network of publisher partners for years and yet many people still overlook the Google Display Network (GDN) and banners as an important part of an integrated digital strategy. The GDN has many healthcare-specific network partners to target for ads. Banner advertising has been getting more useful for pharmaceutical companies as scrollable risk information was made possible with Flash-based ads and the trackability from impression through to conversion has improved. Adding banner ads to a campaign has been proven to lift paid search and direct traffic as well.
Mobile ads are another growth area for Google since the number of mobile searches more than doubled in 2011. The number of smartphones keeps increasing, and this brings Google along with you everywhere you go. In healthcare marketing this means that patients can look up health information as soon as they have a question and healthcare providers can look up reference information whenever and wherever they need it. It is important to see if your site is mobile optimized on Apple/Android/Windows smartphones before launching these ads. Creating paid search or display mobile campaigns should be a part of an integrated digital strategy in 2012.
It is clear that Google is determined to stay both relevant for business and connected to people’s social lives in the next year. Our hope is that we can help our clients use these tools to positively influence both patient health and our client business success.
(Image courtesy of Fabrizio Van Marciano on Flickr).