Google has recently launched a ‘symptoms onebox’ that appears when one searches for a symptom or a set of symptoms (e.g., headache pain). It is a list of potential related conditions that assist in refining search results further. When one of the keyword links is clicked the searcher is led to a refreshed search engine results page with the refined results. Google’s blog states that the hope is that this feature will make it easier and faster to research symptom information.
SEO, Paid Search and Social Implications
A possible implication for paid search is a change in ad placement. Since targeting top ad positions is a high priority for many advertisers, the roll out of the ‘symptoms onebox’ may push some paid search ads to the side rail or the bottom of the page. Another implication is that if an ad shows for a more generic symptom and the searcher clicks on one of the more refined links, a new search results page and a new set of ads could show. This could be a lost impression for the first ad or another ad may show again for the new query. However, this could also be a way for generic searches to be more quickly connected to refined keywords. For example, if an ad doesn’t show for the general symptom search, but a user clicks on the refined condition, it could assist the searcher in finding the results more quickly for the refined query. The impact to organic search results could mean that results are pushed even further down the search results page. This is especially true in instances where paid search ads maintain the top 3 positions (shown in the screenshot below) and cause all organic listings to be pushed down further below the first page fold.
In these instances, having paid search presence in top positions is important along with SEO optimized results. Since social results are also incorporated into organic results with Google + Your World, it will be important to link social components to remain competitive organically. Positions of, paid and organic ad placements may continue to change and evolve, so having a strong presence continues to be important, as well as the incorporation of social results where possible.
In an ever changing landscape, holistic integration of strong organic and paid search should be even more of a priority. It is important to maintain the strong presence because this is just one of many ways that we are seeing Google make changes to the SERP (e.g. when Google introduced mega site links, Google+…etc) to test enhancements to the search experience. . As search results evolve, organic and paid search should work together to fully adapt to the newly affected landscape. In addition, utilizing paid ads can be emphasized when organic listings are more impacted, and vice versa.
Lastly, when building out keyword lists, advertisers should assess terms to utilize this new roll out and ensure keyword coverage is appropriate, buying terms on the ‘symptoms onebox list’ that makes sense for the respective brand.