Let us begin with this disclaimer: There is no evidence there is anything wrong with Hillary Clinton's health.
Nevetherless, the insinuation by Donald Trump and his supporters that she may be secretly sick has triggered a remarkable jump in searches on Google about Hillary Clinton's health. According to Google, for the week of Aug. 21 – Aug. 28, three of the top ten Hillary Clinton-related search terms were health-linked: “Hillary Clinton illness,” “Hillary Clinton health,” and “Hillary Clinton illness video.” (At least one YouTube video purporting to show Clinton's "symptoms" has more than 3 million views.) There were no policy-related searches in the top ten.
The week prior, only “Hillary Clinton health” made the top ten list, and before Aug. 7, it was not showing up in top Hillary searches at all.
Last month, fake medical documents began circulating online suggesting that Clinton suffered from seizures and dementia. The story played large on conservative websites and ultimately made it into the mainstream media when Trump said Clinton "lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS" in an Aug. 15 speech. His campaign surrogates repeated claims that she has an undisclosed illness.
Clinton's campaign ultimately responded to the chatter, offering a detailed critique of the unorthodox letter Trump's doctor released to vouch for the real estate mogul's health.
The Google results show Trump was clearly able to insert Clinton's health into the political conversation, but it is unclear how that affects the race — or whether it does at all. "You have an electorate where there are almost no undecideds," said Eric Jaye, founder of San Francisco-based Storefront Political Media. If you drilled down into the search data, Jaye said, "you would see that almost all of those searches would come from people who are already for Donald trump."
Jaye — whose firm works for Democrats but is not working fro Clinton — said the Clinton campaign has little to fear from this chatter. "I'm not sure that Hillary Clinton is particularly concerned about what Matt Drudge's audience thinks."
Digital marketing expert Michael Griffin of Fish Marketing in Portland, Ore., said the burst of health searches may simply reflect the passion of a relatively small number of web users who are enthusiastic Trump supporters. "It is impressive that [Trump] is able to leverage new media this way," Griffin said, but the strategy would more successful with for a niche brand or product. "You are taking that core group and making them even more rabid fans."
Phoenix-based Republican strategist Kim Owens of the political firm Meridian sees it differently. She says people are going to Google for information about these stories because they believe the mainstream media will not provide straight answers. "People are looking for their own answers" because there is "an underlying concern about the truth in reporting."
It is worth noting that Clinton is not the only one who can lose control of the Google search narrative.
The third week of August, three of the top 10 searches related to Donald Trump were "Trump statue," "Donald Trump statue" and "naked Trump statue" after unflattering statues of him were unveiled in 4 cities.