POV: Google+ for Healthcare
Date: July 1, 2011
Analyst: Mitch Cross, Director, Search Engine Marketing; and Carly Kuper, VP, Communications
Subject: Analysis of Google+ and Recommendations for Health Industry Use
On the evening of June 29, Google launched a new service called Google+ to a select number of opt-in beta testers. The social media-based technology was rumored to be a competitor to Facebook. Google+ offers four key aspects:
- Circles – social connections to friends
- Sparks – essentially a search engine for shared content based around interest
- Hangouts – group video chat
- Huddle – group messaging
Google+ was met with industry excitement and buzz, and by the morning of June 30 was forced to close its doors to any more beta testers.
While Google+ certainly has the potential to compete with Facebook and other social networks, ultimately we believe the service is in support of Google’s mission statement to index the web and make it more searchable, ultimately supporting Google’s business model. Social media is the tool Google is using to make it happen.
Google is not the oldest search engine, but gained the largest market share early on, because the company was successful in branding itself as having a superior algorithm, which returns the most relevant results of any search engine. In late 2009, Google took relevancy to the next level, with the introduction of personalized search. This innovation was the first major step in not only providing listings that were relevant to the search query, but also returning results that were relevant to individual user intent. It did so by providing customized results based on the individual user’s previous search behavior. Google+ is the next logical step in the trend of providing results that are personally relevant, as opposed to just linguistically relevant. Google+ should therefore be considered less of a revolution, and more of an evolution.
Last year Facebook generated more revenue in the sale of display ads than Yahoo. The reason for this is more than just the size of its audience. The Facebook audience is loyal and large, and spends more time on the site than just about any other web destination, including Google. Perhaps the greatest appeal that it has to advertisers is its ability to granularly target an audience based on how the individual users identify themselves (contents of their posts as well as what pages they “Like”) as opposed to relying primarily on demographics as in traditional display advertising. This has given advertisers a better way to provide relevant messaging to qualified viewers. When users self-identify interests, the results have relevance. With Google+, Google is using this model to improve personalized search by combining linguistic relevancy with the trusted relevancy of user generated content, to serve up results that most closely match the searcher’s intent.
With Google+, Google has the potential to further increase their market share by providing results that are even more relevant and trusted. If people see they are getting more personalized, relevant results, more people will perform more searches on Google. While Google has always been strong in offering advertisers the ability to reach consumers at the point of purchase intent, with Google+ they will now be able to leverage one’s interest graph to provide even more meaningful connections for advertisers.
Additionally, there is the possibility that Google+ can increase paid search ads’ share of clicks in relation to organic listings. It is no secret that organic listings generate more click volume than paid listings. One of the primary reasons for this is that searchers generally assign a greater level of trust to organic listings – especially for unbranded terms. Perhaps Google is banking on the fact that when a searcher sees that members of one of their circles have clicked on the “+1” button for a paid search ad, the searcher will trust the ad more, and more likely to click on it. This would be consistent with some of the more recent changes that Google has implemented to the appearance of their paid search ads, thus making them appear more like organic listings so as to increase their share of clicks. Remember, Google only generates revenue when a user clicks on a paid search ad – not an organic listing.
We expect health will be an area of high interest for consumers and HCPs. As a result this product has the potential to significantly change the online health information landscape. For marketers, we expect the greatest opportunity to affect unbranded search, such as for a disease state rather than for a medication, which is consistent with best practices for promotion in a social media environment.
If consumer response continues at the level it has seen within the last 24 hours, it is clear Google+ will be widely used. This means healthcare marketers should consider increased investment in smart, targeted search marketing, in what we are calling an “adopt and monitor” approach.
We encourage integrating a “+1” button on all important pages of pharma websites, and include a call to action to HCPs, patients and caregivers to select “+1.” (This is somewhat similar to the Facebook “Like” button.) A large number of “+1” selections could result in increased visits to those websites.
Marketers should track their volume of “+1s” by including this metric in search reporting, and if possible provide a pre-post analysis to determine the effects that Google+ has on overall KPIs. Leverage these learnings to inform future search strategy.
This is the opportunity for us to reach healthcare professionals, patients and caregivers on a highly targeted level. Marketing ‘messages’ must then provide extreme value to the people searching for it.