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Google’s New Medication Knowledge Graph in Search Results

Posted by | 10:12pm on Tuesday, December 11, 2012

There have been some big changes in Google search results for pharmaceutical keywords in the last few weeks. Google has taken the next step in evolving the search results to include more information from their “knowledge graph.” They have changed both the design of the results page and how the medication information is provided for brand/generic name searches.

The previous design showed a brief description of the drug from the National Institutes of Health and links to the prescribing and risk information. The new design (see below) gives the drug information an expanded space on the top right and changes the information provided.

Google Knowledge Graph Example

For nondrug searches, Google has also added other types of reference information directly to the search results pages to expand the original scope of the knowledge graph. For example, they’ve added live stock quote information, travel reservation information and enhanced restaurant listings.

How will the medication knowledge panel impact pharma?
Some thoughts about this change to the Google search results and pharmaceutical content:

  1. It is important to remember that this look isn’t forever; Google will continue to evolve. With this medical knowledge panel and the other knowledge graph additions, it looks as if Google would like to become more encyclopedic as opposed to simply offering links. The sources of this information are listed as U.S. FDA, the National Library of Medicine and the Department of Veterans Affairs, among others.
  2. This gives a lot of page space to medication information, but not all therapies are listed. We’re not sure what the logic is to which drugs are included and which are not. It doesn’t seem to be linked to search volume. The large text size of the drug name and prominence of the knowledge graph may drive users to click on those links as opposed to the paid search ads or brand page, which is often the top organic search result.
  3. The change in the search results layout has shifted where and how paid search ads are placed on the page. In most cases it looks as if there are more ads being served in the paid search areas of the page compared with the last year or so. This does vary highly from one search to the next, and Google always customizes its ad-serving algorithm based on a long list of factors.

What about mobile search?
The medication knowledge panel change has also affected mobile search result pages for pharmaceutical products. We expected the knowledge graph information to be listed first on the narrow mobile screen, but instead it seems to be listed in different locations and showing different information, depending on what Google sees as most important at that time. See the example below.

We’ll be watching as these medication knowledge graphs evolve and evaluating the impact on paid search campaigns and brand sites. What do you think about this change?

About CS Yates

She is responsible for search and analytics for all of the agency’s brands. She has 7 years of experience working with web analytics, organic search optimization and paid search campaigns. Via measurement reports, she is able to provide actionable insights for our clients. She is certified in Google AdWords.

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