What Pharma Marketers Should Know About Knowledge Graph


Google has updated their Knowledge Graph yet again in an effort to provide fast, accurate information to those searching for common health conditions.  With over 30 billion health related searches occurring last year on Google, you can understand why Google continues to make these types of updates.  By arming the Knowledge Graph with as much relevant information as possible, Google decreases the risk of a user navigating away to other Pharma or health focused sites.

As you may have read in our previous Knowledge Graph POVs here & here, you will also see more high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators.  These illustrations will accompany some of the 400 common medical conditions identified by Google and their panel of Physicians.  Some of these conditions include diabetes (type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, prediabetes and type 1 diabetes), psoriasis, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease, COPD, hepatitis C and Alzheimer’s disease.

So what has changed?

While general information, symptoms and treatment options for the disease or condition are still available, they will be presented differently.  The Knowledge Graph now separates the information into separate tabs: About, Symptoms & Treatments.  While this update helps drive user engagement and separates proper content, an understandable area of concern can arise with the Treatments tab as multiple, competing brands can potentially show in random order.  Obviously, Brand A doesn’t want to show behind Brand B in an effort to secure authority resulting in many questions being fired at healthcare marketers like, “How can I show before my competitors?” or “Why isn’t my brand showing at all?”  These are all completely understandable concerns.  Google worked with the same panel of physicians to identify eligible brands based on frequency of prescription ultimately determining which will show under the Treatments tab.

What should Pharma Marketers do?

From a Paid Search standpoint, there aren’t any optimizations available that will impact or change content within the Knowledge Graph.   While the Knowledge Graph still occupies the top of the right rail on the Search Engine Results page, these updates should not alter your SEM efforts.  Implementing a granular structure, writing highly relevant ad copy and putting a strategy in place should allow for SEM campaign success with proper management and optimization.  Ensuring ad extensions are utilized to the fullest extent to guarantee your ad is taking up as much real estate as possible could help drive attention toward your ad.  As a result, you should experience cost efficiencies and effective placement giving your ads the best possible chance for conversion.

Looking from a SEO lens, Google is now-more than ever-telling us that it’s time for our tactics and optimization strategy to evolve.  The Knowledge Graph will be abundantly recognizable to searchers and provide them with more information than ever. Furthermore, it will push the emphasis of traditional results down by removing the need for a user to click through in order to receive the desired answer.

In order to help ensure the validity and relevance of information appearing on search engines that is related to a brand or its disease state, brand managers can help ensure the following tactics are leveraged:

  1. Optimize Webpages with Schema Microdata. The recent Hummingbird algorithm shift layered in greater level of importance on microdata as a ranking factor. Looking at Google from an industry agnostic perspective, microdata is also what Google frequently uses to determine how information equivalent to a pregnancy warning, indication or side effect is displayed in the Knowledge Graph. Google’s current decision to rely on third parties for this information is indicative of the fact that pharma can improve on providing this contextual piece. If this practice were to begin to be accepted by pharma marketers, there’s no reason why Google couldn’t begin to reward brands with information that is directly aggregated from their websites to the Knowledge Graph.
  2. Learn to trust your Wikis. This may be hard to stomach, but Wikipedia and Wikidata are trusted authorities by search engines. Instead of running away from them, embrace the authority that these websites carry. Update the Wikipedia profile and information on Wikidata that relates to your brand. If you don’t…. someone else may do it instead. This information is regularly displayed at the top of search results and used in Knowledge Graphs outside the pharmaceutical vertical, but again, search engines cannot embrace information that is not provided to them.
  3. Don’t assume you are the Only Source of Content.  Competition for organic rankings isn’t only coming from other brand websites. They are coming from the heavy hitting health content providers, including NIH, Everyday Health and WebMD. Instead of trying to battle them head on, consider partnering for content production. Internet users have spoken and they want information through content. Whether this means unbranded articles that drive brand awareness to your indication or branded content focused on driving rankings, thinking about content serves a two-fold value and could potentially be the quickest way to land yourself and your information on the Knowledge Graph.

What Does This Mean For Brands?

It is more apparent now more than ever that Google is attempting to provide searchers with the information they are looking for without having to leave Google.com. This could potentially lead to less organic and paid traffic reaching your brand websites. With more real estate being taking up by the Knowledge Graph, even less space is now available for your brand’s listings.

An integrated SEM and SEO strategy that shows ads and organic listings that are highly relevant to search queries is now more important than ever. From a paid search perspective, ads must directly reflect search queries and on the SEO side, proper HTML tag optimizations need to be implemented to ensure organic listings entice users to click through.

For more information about the Knowledge Graph or integrating your SEM and SEO efforts, please reach out to a member of the CMI Search team.