In August, Google launched Google Health OneBox (left). This puts the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus right at the top of the search results, and is potentially a valuable new source of traffic for NLM.
There are factors, however, that work against MLP — The three prominent links on the left, which are likely to get the bulk of OneBox clicks (Asthma, Google Health, & thumbnail) go to the Google Health Topics page (below). This has the same text and pictures as the MLP Encyclopedia/ADAM page that’s linked from the OneBox Medline Plus link. But there’s an important difference — The Google Health version of ADAM has Symptoms as the first section after Overview. The MLP version of ADAM, on the other hand (see further down on this page) has Causes as the first section. …
This may seem to be a minor difference. But I’ve learned — through long experience with Hardin MD and brief experience with the short-lived Medical Library Association-Google Health Coop project — that symptoms are a very popular, heavily searched topic for users (which Google certainly knows!). So I suspect that users who try out the Google Health and Medline Plus OneBox links will quickly learn to prefer Google Health because it features the symptoms information they’re looking for. It IS a positive for NLM that the Google Health page has a prominent link to MLP. But it’s rather surprising that there’s no clear credit given to ADAM as the original provider of the information — ADAM is credited only at the bottom of the page, where few users will see it (and I suspect many will consider it copyright-free, since they’ll presume that it’s from a government site.)
MedlinePlus & Google Health OneBox — How NLM can boost traffic
Change the order of sections on ADAM Encyclopedia pages, to put Symptoms at the top, as Google does. This would make the pages more interesting to most users.
Surprisingly, MLP Encyclopedia pages, which is what Google OneBox links to, have no links to equivalent MLP Health Topic pages (Example: there is no link between the Asthma pages in the Encyclopedia and in Health Topics) — After all, it’s the MLP Health Topic pages that NLM staff creates and maintains, so how about making links to them from Encyclopedia pages, so the surging clickers from Google OneBox can find them!
See follow-up article: MedlinePlus Needs a New Name
Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey