How SEO is Changing the Game for Pharma

By Tom Harrison, Content Account Director at performance.io / August 2, 2023

You might have clicked on this article thinking “what in the world is SEO?”. If so, you won’t be the only one. However, if you work in Pharma or healthcare and you’re not thinking about how search engines can help your brand, you’re missing out big time.

Put simply, SEO – short for search engine optimisation – refers to the process of improving your website to appear highly in search engines like Google whenever people search for terms related to your products, services or areas of expertise.

In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is crucial. With the increasing reliance on the internet for health-related information, it’s essential for pharmaceutical companies to optimise their online presence. Whether it’s a corporate, brand or non-branded site, the potential to attract the right traffic through SEO is huge.

Do doctors and patients actually use Google?

Google is the number one source of health information, with users conducting over one billion health-related searches every day.1,2

This shouldn’t come as a surprise; ask yourself where you go first whenever you have a query about your own health, or want to learn more about a disease? However, Google isn’t just an educational resource for the public, it is also used extensively by healthcare professionals (HCPs) in their day-to-day jobs:

  • On average over 70% of HCPs use search engines daily.3
  • Around 50% of HCPs even use search engines four or more times per day.4

When HCPs and patients input their queries into Google they are presented with a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) – a list of relevant sites to access information on. If you’re creating content that’s applicable to these audiences, don’t you want your site to feature within the list? You’d also want your website to be ranked highly in the search results too. About 70% of users click on one of the top 5 organic search results,5 meaning if you’re not on page 1 for a target search query, you might as well not bother showing up.

Google crawls websites and decides the value they provide to users. If Google considers that a page on your site provides a high-quality answer to a particular search query, that page will begin to show on the SERP for that query.

However, if you’re not actively optimising and tailoring your site for search, Google is not likely to rank your pages very highly. In the worst cases, Google may not even be able to access and crawl your site’s content at all. As a result, your target audience can’t find you and you’re missing out on a huge amount of highly relevant traffic to your site. Chances are, you may even be part of the 90% of pages which get no organic search traffic from Google at all.6

For any given therapy area or brand there are hundreds, or often thousands of search queries every month. Your target audience is out there searching Google for answers you can provide, but it’s up to you to make sure they find your site.

How can SEO benefit my pharma brand or disease awareness campaign?

SEO services can be hugely valuable not only for helping to drive traffic to a specific site, but also in helping you better understand your target audiences and for insights generation.

Learning what your target audience wants – whether it’s GPs, specialist HCPs, patients, caregivers, or the public – has always been a huge challenge for Pharma. You can invest a lot of money in mapping potential customer journeys, or creating personas or patient profiles, but how much of that is based on tangible data or feedback from your target audience themselves?

This is where search is a game-changer. Your target audiences are out there, searching for drug and disease information, clicking through to the web pages that they feel answer their search queries. Google tracks and analyses these searches and journeys, using the evolving data as a constant feedback loop to judge what content is relevant and which sites provide users with what they need.

SEO can help pharma/healthcare brands to tap into the minds of their audiences, helping sites to curate content that will be visible, recognised for its integrity and be valuable to users. Using SEO data is a vital step in your online strategy and content development.

Here’s just a few examples of how search data can provide useful insights:

  • Disease-related searches around causes, symptoms, management, etc. help you understand which topics of interest to cover on your disease awareness site.
  • You can use question-based searches for your brand (e.g. “can I use XXX while pregnant”) to inform development of an FAQ page that answers your audience’s most common queries.
  • Analysing search data over time for your brand can help you measure the success of a congress presence or specific media campaigns based on whether it generates spikes in related search terms or website traffic.

There are countless other ways that search data can be leveraged to support your ambitions, help you understand your audience better, save on marketing costs etc. SEO might just be the answer you’re searching for.

What does optimising your content for search look like?

Google is extremely picky when it comes to determining the quality of content on a site. Actively optimising your content can be the difference between ranking on page 1 or page 71 of Google. This could be the difference between thousands of people a month seeing your page come up on their search results, or only a handful.

Given the amount you’re probably investing in paid campaigns to get a fraction of the available traffic, not optimising your content for search isn’t a mistake you can afford to make.

Optimising your content for search could include:

  • Building content around keywords (specific search queries) of interest to ensure your content is relevant to your target audience’s search queries
  • Ensuring heading tags are included and provide Google with a clear structure of your page content
  • Writing clear, descriptive hyperlink text when linking between pages (the so-called anchor text)
  • Providing detailed, scientifically accurate copy, written by experts
  • Creating an attractive organic listing of each web page that appears within the search results (the so-called metadata)
  • And many more…

How do I actually make this happen?

The world of SEO can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time hearing about it. It can seem like an impossible task to optimise your content, and that’s without even exploring technical SEO requirements, which are absolutely essential.

You need a partner who can educate you on what SEO is, how it works, and how you can best incorporate it to meet your goals.

That’s where we come in.

How can performance.io help with SEO in pharma?

For the last 5 years, here at performance.io we have dedicated our efforts solely on providing SEO services for pharmaceutical and healthcare clients. We don’t try to do a bit of everything. We know what we’re good at and where we can provide the most value for our clients.

Our SEO team knows more about Google and what it takes for websites to rank than I thought possible. Ever heard of XML sitemaps, robots.txt, schema or hreflang tags? They have, and know how to optimise these elements for your site so you don’t have to.

That brilliance, in combination with deep pharma experience and scientific expertise, with a killer client services team to tie it all together, is why we’re making waves in the MedComms space and providing consistent value for our clients. We hate to toot our own horn, but it’s not like we won the Agency of the Year award at the PM Society Awards 2022 for no reason!

We also don’t want to leave you in the dark when it comes to how to optimise your site for search. This is why we offer SEO 101 training to our clients, to help you better understand what SEO is, and so you know enough to keep us accountable too.

Like the sound of levelling up your insights generation and content creation with the power of SEO? Then don’t hesitate to reach out for a non-committal free consultation with tailored opportunity insights for your specific website. We hope to speak with you soon!

References:
1. Murphy, B. (2019). Dr Google will see you now: Search giant wants to cash in on your medical queries. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2019/03/10/google-sifting-one-billion-health-questions-day/.
2. Hall & Partners (2009). thinkinsights: Connecting with Physicians. [online] Google. Online Available at: http://www.gstatic.com/ads/research/en/2009_ConnectingwithPhysiciansOnline.pdf
3.Hettel, K. (2020). How marketers can reach HCPs wherever they are. [online] MM+M – Medical Marketing and Media. Available at: https://www.mmm-online.com/home/opinion/how-marketers-can-reach-hcps-wherever-they-are/.
4. Beth Snyder Bulik (2016). Physicians use ‘Doctor Google’ daily, but they still rely on traditional info sources, too: study. [online] Fierce Pharma. Available at: https://www.fiercepharma.com/marketing/doctor-google-physicians-report-daily-online-searches-for-info-still-also-rely.
5. Up Inc. (2023). Organic Vs. PPC In 2023: Which Is A Better Investment? | Up Inc. eCommerce Agency. [online] Available at: https://upinc.co/organic-vs-ppc-2023-ctr-results-best-practices/.
‌‌6. Soulo, T. (2020). 90.63% of Content Gets No Traffic From Google. And How to Be in the Other 9.37% [New Research for 2020]. [online] SEO Blog by Ahrefs. Available at: https://ahrefs.com/blog/search-traffic-study/.

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