When Google Knowledge Graph Meets Healthcare


Image Credits: Gajus (opens in a new window) / Shutterstock (opens in a new window)

Owen McCorry


Editor’s note: Owen McCorry is the senior vice president of health at Merkle.

Google recently announced the rollout of an update to its Knowledge Graph, which now provides a broad set of answers to common medical questions for searches related to health conditions. According to Google’s official blog, one in 20 searches is health related, so as they expand on the search terms triggering the new Knowledge Graph result, the potential number of queries affected by this update could be very significant.

The Knowledge Graph results will now include common symptoms, treatments, typical age group affected by the condition, whether it is critical, and more.

Google partnered with the Mayo Clinic to develop the content associated with the graph, and the information displayed has been reviewed and evaluated by an average of 11 physicians. The search results for some conditions will include illustrations from licensed medical illustrators – there is no word yet on which conditions will contain these illustrations, but they currently show for terms like type 2 diabetes, broken leg, pneumonia, frostbite and pink eye.

Although it’s hard to predict the short-term impact of this update on health-related paid and organic search, there are some initial observations to consider. This update is not only going to shift consumer search behavior, but also the strategies used by marketers to deliver content through paid and organic search.

Implications for patients

Consumers have become increasingly advanced in their use of technology to search for the information they need, but despite their proficiency with the devices and platforms, they are not always as advanced in their ability to choose the search terms that will produce the most useful results – particularly in the medical field.

The new Knowledge Graph results will help create a better patient experience for users at the top of the funnel who are searching on a broad keyword set. It will deliver content that is easily digested and will enable a more defined search for the patient to continue researching either within Google or other websites, such as WebMD, where patients will find the more detailed information they’re seeking.


Implications for healthcare providers

At this point, the perceived implications and benefits for healthcare providers are less significant, as the Knowledge Graph is triggered by broad categorical search terms and addresses the consumer’s need for basic information.

While many healthcare providers search daily for information, they are more likely to use more targeted terms (i.e. drug interactions, generic names, side effects and other indications) and favor online medical journals for scholarly articles and studies on conditions or drug prescribing information.

We know that implementing structured data like schema markup helps Google read pages and can provide rich snippets in search results, so any evolution in Google’s search results to provide richer information for healthcare would be a welcome addition.

Business implications for paid and organic search

In this iteration of the Knowledge Graph, pharma brands likely won’t see much impact on organic search, but could begin to see big shifts within paid search. If a patient searches for a broad, disease-state term like “pink eye,” a manufacturer’s site won’t typically rank high in the search results (often not even on the first page). Instead, that query will typically list content publishers such as WebMD, Wikipedia, etc. higher on the page.

Top-of-funnel queries result in general content being delivered based on the perceived need. As the healthcare graph matures and more search terms deliver the new results, the way in which companies approach search engine optimization and marketing will need to shift to better target their audiences. Understanding what words to target at the various stages of the funnel to deliver the content needed for an optimized customer experience will be crucial to paid search ROI.

Two specific paid search implications will be 1) decreased click-through rates to websites and 2) increased cost of paid search because only the top three spots on the left will show because the right rail will be occupied by the Knowledge Graph.

Premium positions will become increasingly costly as companies seek to remain in top positions and increase bids to maintain visibility for high-level keywords, which patients in all stages of their disease state search on.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

12 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

14 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android