Can Google’s Improved Algorithm Lead to Better Patient Web Accessibility?

In anticipation of Bing’s launch in late May 2009, Google began to revamp its search algorithm to positively impact the following:

Speed
The speed of search results matters to search engine users. If results take too long to download, users will go elsewhere. Why should this matter? Search marketers spend money where they know quality traffic resides. A high abandonment rate of the search engine could lead marketers to believe that quality traffic resides elsewhere. This would motivate marketers to move spend in favor of a quicker alternative.


Relevance and Accuracy
In my view, these attributes are the most important elements of a search engine’s usefulness.
Accuracy: An intelligent search engine should provide in its top results a list that closely matches whatwas entered into the search bar.
Relevance: In late 2009,Google launched a real-time search feature to report breaking news. This is possible because of the creation of newer search technologies and ventures with multiple players, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Below are a couple of search engine examples that highlight these attributes:

Google Example:

Bing Example:

Inthe exam ple “healthed group” was typed into both Google and Bing; you’ll notice the search engines ranked equally on accuracy with the first listing being the official company website. However, Bingfared better on relevancy; it’s second listing was HealthEd’s Twitter feed.

Indexed Volume
Google is expected to increase the volume of indexed Web pages as a result of its recent revamp. This could increase availability of Web pages in the search engine results pages (SERPs).


With many of these changes either under way or expected to happen within Google (which owns more than two-thirds of the search engine market share), here are the key areas that Web marketers should focus onin developing a digital strategy for patients (from a search engine perspective):

  • Web site content—Contentthat is relevant to the site’s core message is essential. Choice and emphasis of keywords within the body and title of the pages also are important.
  • Meta title and description tags—good ones increase site relevancy and improve standings in SERPs.
  • Site/page download time—currently Google places little importance on download time. The best digital assets will be those that achieve a compromise between faster download times and better creative delivery.
  • Fresh and updated text—in the new version of Google, recently updated Web sites will rank higher in the SERPs than those Web sites that haven’t been updated for awhile. Therefore brand marketers should start thinking about getting additional Web content pre-approved through med/legal, embargoing it, and posting it throughout the year.
  • Quality links—Web sites that are similar to own-product sites will receive greater weighting, irrespective of Google Page Rank.Example: news article linked to pharmabrand.com in PR Newswire will receive a lower ranking than those linked to pharmabrand.com in, say, Quality Health.
  • Social media—thanks to partnerships, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs are being mined by search engines to provide real-time search results. The powers of blogs, search engines, and social media Web sites are finally converging.

About.com conducted a study in June 2009 in which patients were surveyed online about their behavior post diagnosis. Almost 65% of survey participants stated that they would research the disease state, treatment options, and specific pharma brands either via search or specific health Web sites, such as WebMD, Quality Health, and Real Age.

An increasing number of pharma brand marketers are now focused on patients and their Web usage. As marketers, let us help our patients be more engaged participants in their treatment process and provide them with up-to-date, relevant information in a medium that is a popular choice for many.

Abel Rajan
Director of Strategic Services & Analytics
HealthEd Group

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