Date posted: 19 October 2017
Keyword Research: Pharma’s How To
Welcome to another Method Minute.
Today we’re looking at the importance of organic search traffic to pharma’s marketers, and how free keyword research tools provide better understanding of audiences’ search behaviours and needs. This will allow you to optimise your content for customers and Google search rankings.
Why Are Keywords So Important To Pharma?
Physicians are people. People use search engines. In fact, physicians are using them many times each day to answer clinical questions for themselves and their patients. Particularly when their queries are time sensitive:
- 84% of physicians use search engines six times each day
- The majority of these searches are on a mobile
Pharma invests heavily in corporate, brand and therapy area websites; however, very little organic search traffic goes to them: just 7% of the total search volume.
If you’ve invested time, effort and budget into developing online resources, don’t you want your customers [physicians, healthcare professionals or patients] to find and use them?
If so, then this article is for you.
We’ll look at how you can use free keyword research tools to:
- Better understand the search behaviours and needs of your target audience
- Generate ideas for new content customers actually want and need
- Improve your website’s search rankings, traffic and engagement metrics
- Create content supporting your business objectives
It’ll take about 10 minutes, so grab a coffee and find a comfy seat.
Keyword Research Using Free Tools: Pharma’s How To
Before we begin, I must confess that at Method we use a combination of the free tools discussed below and a paid service from Ahrefs. We do this to access more detailed reports and metrics, save time and make stronger recommendations for our clients in the pharmaceutical industry.
Having said that, the approach used here is a good practical introduction to the world of keyword research, suitable to inform your strategy and brief your agency.
#1: Identify Your Seed Terms
All keyword research starts with a topic, or idea, a so-called ‘seed’. This seed can come from anywhere: your knowledge of a disease or therapy area, or directly from customer insights and market research.
If you’re not sure where to start, follow a niche-down approach: start with a broad keyword (like the name of a disease) and niche down until you find the keywords and content opportunities you’re looking for.
#2: Create Your Initial Keyword List
The best way to do this is with a keyword research tool. They pull data from Google’s Keyword Planner, Autocomplete and Similar Searches to provide you with real-world keyword suggestions — the search queries of your target audience.
Our favourite of the free keyword research tools, and the one we’ll use here is Answer The Public. We’ll also combine this with a free Chrome plug-in, called Keywords Everywhere, which will give us the metrics needed to make some educated decisions later.
How To Identify Your Keyword Opportunities
- Download the free Google Chrome extension, Keywords Everywhere keyword tool
- Go to Answer The Public
- Enter your seed term and the geography you’re interested in
- Click ‘Get Questions’
- Download your list of categorised search queries (a CSV file) and convert to Excel
- I’m afraid you’ll need to manually transfer [copy/paste] your metrics from Keywords Everywhere (another benefit of a paid service)
- Once complete, you’ll have a long list of keywords and their respective metrics:
- Search Volume: the average number of times people have searched for a specific keyword and its close variants in the last 30 days
- Cost Per Click (CPC): the amount advertisers pay for a single click for this keyword in Google Adwords. Our surrogate conversion metric
- Competition: the number of advertisers running ads on Google AdWords for this specific keyword. The number goes from 0 (low) to 1 (high). This is our difficulty metric i.e. how hard it will be to rank for this keyword in an organic search. It’s not as good as using a proper difficulty metric, but it will do for our purposes here
#3: Prioritise Your Keyword Opportunities
It’s now time to sort and prioritise your target keyword opportunities in Excel:
- Rank your keywords by volume, CPC and competition metrics:
- Have one column for each metric
- Conditionally format each column to rank by a relative score
- Rank your keyword data sheet by your priority metric, or combination of metrics. For example, you may choose to prioritise keywords with high search volume and conversion (CPC), and low difficulty (competition). Makes sense.
- Group keywords by parent topic
- Identify target keywords that are semantically and contextually related
- Group them under a ‘parent topic’ to target with a single page on your website
- Identify searcher intent
- For long tail keywords this is usually pretty obvious
- For single keywords this can be very tricky
Tip: If the search intent is unclear, search for the keyword in Google and the results will relay what the intent is
- Map your keywords to your customer journey
Vital questions to consider when mapping keywords to your customer journey include:
- What are your business objectives?
- Which stage of the buyer journey do you want to target with your content?
- Which topics and keywords (based on intent) align to which stages?
- Of those, which represent the highest value to your business?
#4: Select Your Target Keywords
You must now make a calculated decision, based on how realistic you think it will be for your web pages to rank highly for a given keyword and topic. Influencing factors include:
- The website (its authority, size, quality of content etc.)
- If you have a large, established, authoritative website, you can feel more confident about targeting competitive keywords
- If you have a small, young site, it’s often better to target long tail keywords that are less competitive and have greater specificity of search intent
- Goals and objectives (branding, exposure, traffic, leads, sales etc.)
This is where content is aligned with your business objectives:
- If the objective is to increase awareness of a particular disease, targeting queries for information and education are appropriate
- If you’re looking to convert prospective customers into prescribing physicians, addressing queries related to your product are more likely to create lead generation and sales conversion opportunities
- Budget, resources and deadlines
- If targeting highly competitive keywords, you will need to invest more time, effort and money into creating high quality content
- If the budget is limited, focus your efforts on addressing the specific queries of a smaller target audience using long tail keywords
- The industry and competitive landscape
- A competitive analysis using keyword research can help identify content gaps and opportunities for you to address
- It will also indicate how easy or difficult competitors will make it for you to rank higher than them for a particular keyword
- We’re not going to cover competitive keyword analysis in this article, as the tools required are subscription only. However, your agency should include this as part of their keyword report and recommendations
#5: Create Your Content
By now, you should have:
- A list of target keywords
- Grouped by topic
- Mapped to your customer journey
These topics and keywords should create a win-win for your business and customers.
Use these to brief your agency and review their content outlines against them to ensure a natural inclusion in page dressings and body content.
Just remember, write for customers first, Google second!
Have you had successes, or challenges with keyword research and SEO content?
Please share your experiences and advice in the comments section below.