Have you ever experienced a headache, fatigue, or other symptoms and Googled your symptoms to see what’s causing your malady? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. ComScore.com recently compiled data showing that in 2011 alone, roughly 100 million people performed searches for health information. 17 million of these came from mobile searches.
Undoubtedly your search led you to one of numerous health sites that listed symptoms and possible conditions that would cause them. Google has introduced a new sorting method that scrapes information from top health sites and displays the conditions that match the symptoms at the top of the SERPs. You can add more symptoms to your search string to further narrow the results. For example, if you search Google for “pain on my right side,” you will receive a list of conditions that would cause pain in this portion of your body. You can click each listing to be taken to a SERP specific to each listing for further details.
One of the many reasons this change was implemented is due to the rise in search traffic for health conditions. The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project recently released data showing that 80% of Internet users have searched for at least one health-related problem across 15 broad categories. The search traffic for items in this field has increased 60% since 2008, a trend that far exceeds the 13% rise of search traffic in general.
This is the second improvement to searches pertaining to health information in recent years. The first came when Google placed the U.S. National Library of Medicine as the default number one result when a search is performed for a variety of brands in medicine. For example, “Tylenol’s” top entry is a link directly to nih.gov’s article on acetaminophen. These improvements help make searching easier for consumers while at the same time eliminating some of the need to visit specific health sites for information on these topics.
Google has essentially cut out the middle-man from health searches and provides the information directly to the consumer. How well this works has yet to be played out. However, given its ease of use and instant verifiability, it seems to be one of Google’s better improvements in recent history.