How often do people really search for health information on the Internet? The Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that 79% of online adult users look for health or medical information. Government, nonprofit and commercial sites exist for the sole purpose of serving the information these people are looking for. And I just saw an announcement that two new health search engine sites will launch next week to cater to this particular niche of information seekers.
If you work in a health field, this all sounds like great news. Information power to the people - empowerment - lower health care costs - patient-driven healthcare - self-management - disease prevention - yaddayadda.
Well, in case you missed the news, there is a treasure trove of information about what real people search for (or at least what AOL members search for - how representative they are of the population as a whole is an empirical question). When AOL published the search logs of 650,000 members including over 36 million individual searches, they were captured by a number of websites.
Curious with this accidental e-version of a natural experiment, I went to the data set at
Splunk Splunk'd to run some simple queries. Remember, the denominator is 36,251,277. The number of searches with ________ in them:
cigarette(s) 2,238 (4,676)
physical activity - 0
Excluding the comparison triad, these search words appear in a total of 0.74% of all searches. Obviously this isn't an exhaustive list or analysis, but there is a point to consider here. Real people don't search for health topics as often as we'd like to believe, and when they do, we better be prepared with fast, accurate, comprehensible and relevant information. They are a fleeting target.
Thanx to Michael for setting the Splunk'd straight!