Date posted: 14 September 2017
Hello and welcome to the another Method Minute | Pharma Blog.
Today we’re looking at the value of organic search traffic to pharmaceutical marketers and what you can do with on-page SEO to attract more targeted, intent-driven physicians or patients to your website. For free.
Before we begin, try this:
- Pretend you’re a physician. A customer of yours. You’re busy and you need a quick answer to a clinical question
- Type a common customer question into Google that you believe your web page should rank highly for in a search engine results pages
How did you get on?
If you’re not happy with the result, this article is for you.
We’ll provide actionable advice for brand managers, medics and digital marketers (and their agencies) on how to optimise web pages for Google and physicians, using our 7-step on-page SEO checklist.
First, Let’s Briefly Consider Why Pharma Needs On-Page SEO
Physicians Are Searching
Research by Google shows that healthcare professionals (HCPs) are using search engines daily to find the information they need for clinical practice. Unfortunately, this traffic is not going to pharma industry websites:
- The average physician performs 6 Google searches a day for work
- 68% of physicians use search engines during a patient consultation
- 84% of physicians search on condition related keyword terms
- Only 7% of physician search traffic goes to pharma industry websites
Where is Pharma?
Given HCPs’ high use of search engines, it is likely that there are two core reasons for the low organic search traffic to pharma websites:
- Pharma content isn’t addressing doctors’ information needs
- Pharma websites are not optimised for organic search queries
Either way, physicians are finding the information they need from someone else. And that’s not good: it’s a missed opportunity for you to engage your customers, provide value, establish a relationship and build trust. Important if you want to sell to them in the future.
This article and infographic will help you (and your agency) quickly assess your on-page SEO ranking factors and tell you what you can do to optimise them to help you get your content found.
Starting with Google
Essentially, I want you to think of Google as a nice guy. He wants to give his searchers (your customers) a prioritised list of web pages (not websites) that he thinks best meet their needs. Google does this by trying to understand the topic and intent of their queries and then ranking the web page results by their relevancy and authority i.e. how trustworthy they are.
For example, if Dr James types What is the most effective drug for treating IBD into Google, Google is likely to interpret this as:
- Topic: IBD treatment options
- Intent: information request, conducted during the interest and consideration phases of the marketing funnel
As such, Google will suggest a comparison, or information web page (not a product web page) that provides a comprehensive review of the different treatment options available to the physician. In this case, the top ranking web page is from the Mayo Clinic doing exactly that.
The Mayo clinic web page ranks highest for two reasons:
- Relevancy: the web page contains content that is highly relevant to our search query – in topic and intent. Content is also fresh and of high practical value
- Authority: the webpage is authoritative and trustworthy. Google judges this by looking at the number other high-authority sites linking to/referencing it and by the age and size of the domain
Now let’s look at what you can do to improve your on-page SEO ranking factors, to improve your chances of ranking higher in Google’s organic search listings and being found by customers.
The infographic summarises the key information you need to optimise your web pages immediately. The content that follows the infographic offers more detail to support your understanding.
On-Page SEO: 7 Steps to Getting Your Content Found
Let’s take a look at some of the most important on-page SEO ranking factors, to see what you (and/or your agency) can do to assess and optimise your web pages for Google Search rankings: getting your content found by physicians, HCPs or patients.
#1 URLs: Targeted, Short and Sweet
Just like your title tags and your body content, Google (and physicians) use your URLs to understand what your page is about. Make it easy for them: keep your URLs short and include your target keyword. Easy.
#2 Title Tags: Keyword Targeted and Persuasive
Title tags, the clickable, blue headlines for a given search result in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), are important because they tell Google and your audience what your web page is about. They are an important SEO ranking factor and can determine whether or not someone visits your web page.
To rank highly AND receive clicks to your web page:
- For Google, give every page on your site a unique title and include your target keyword at the front of your title tag. Google values these more highly. Keep the character count under 60 to ensure they display properly in SERPs
- For physicians, use compelling, accurate and persuasive language that captures their attention and prompts action i.e. to click on your web page link
3# Header Tags: For Structure, Consumption and Targeting
These are your page titles (H1), headings (H2) and sub-headings (H3). Not only are they good for SEO, but they also help structure your content and make it more consumable: helping busy readers quickly absorb the main points of your content without reading it all.
To rank highly AND boost content engagement:
- For Google, wrap your page title in a H1 tag and include your target keyword. For your headings and sub-headings, wrap them in H2 and H3 tags, respectively
- For physicians, use your titles, headings and sub-headings to give structure to your content and convey your key points. Don’t get spammy with your target keywords: put the audience experience first.
4# Body Content: Relevant, Consumable, Targeted
Google has said that content is one of the top three ranking factors for organic search.
For the pharmaceutical industry, what makes high quality content from an SEO perspective?
- It addresses an identified customer need. Using keyword research and searcher intent, high quality content addresses physicians’ information needs and/or helps them to complete a specific clinical task
- It looks good. Doctors are people. People like good design and navigation. Well designed content makes it quick and easy for physicians to find the information they need and get on with their day. Don’t make them hunt around your site, or bounce back into Google to continue their search: both are negative ranking signals
- It makes good use of target keywords and related terms. Don’t stuff your content with keywords – this is ineffective, risky and looks terrible – use keywords and related terms naturally in titles, subtitles and body copy. A good rule of thumb, is to include your keyword once within your first 100 words and once every 200 words after that.
Just remember, you’re writing for doctors first, Google second.
#5 Keywords and Searcher Intent
Keywords are the words and phrases (search queries) physicians enter into Google when trying to find answers to their clinical questions.
Keyword research (ideally conducted before you create your content) allows you to identify the information needs of your target audience and develop content, using the same and similar keyword phrases they do, to comprehensively address their needs.
Target keyword selection: considerations
- Singular keywords
- High search volume
- Very competitive to rank for
- Lack searcher intent
- Long tail keywords, or keyword phrases
- Lower search volumes
- Less competitive to rank for
- More specific searcher intent
Searcher intent relates to the objective of the searcher and strongly aligns with their position in the marketing funnel. The four categories of searcher intent, with search examples and what they mean for physicians and pharma are:
- Navigational e.g. Medscape login
The physician is familiar with the product or service and wants to get back a known site using Google, rather than using a specific URL
- Informational e.g. Safest biologic for severe psoriasis
The physician is conducting research to compare and inform a future prescribing decision. Possibly a good opportunity for you to provide a comprehensive review of the different therapeutic options available
- Commercial e.g. Side effect profile for Drug X
The physician is interested in prescribing your product and wants to know more before doing so. Provide comprehensive, high-quality content to answer all the relevant clinical questions your customer may have before prescribing
- Ready to buy e.g. DrugX.com
Much of the conversion occurs offline in pharmaceutical sales; however, online opportunities do exist to generate leads that convert physicians from prospects to prescribers, by including calls to action, such as: ‘Request a call, or visit from us’, ‘Try our eDetail’, ‘Request an information pack’. Or sending them promotional content via email, if they have opted-in for that
Whichever keywords and intent you target, address the identified customer needs first, with high quality, valuable, relevant content. Worry about Google second.
#6 Internal Links
An internal link is a page link, or ‘hyperlink’ that points to another page on the same website. Link tags can contain images, text, or other objects, all of which provide a “clickable” area for physicians, HCPs or patients to navigate your site.
Internal links are important for SEO, because they help establish an information hierarchy and spread link juice (ranking power) between pages on your site. By linking to priority pages on your website, you are telling Google that those pages are more valuable than the others and that they should rank higher.
Priority pages to link to:
- Homepage – introducing customers to your company, your products and your services
- Cornerstone content – the pieces that you are most proud of. The content that reflects your business, communicates your mission and are extremely well written. They are usually evergreen pieces, that are of high value and utility to you and your customers
#7 Social Signals: Create a Buzz
It is believed that social signals (likes, shares, follows, comments etc.) are a positive ranking factor for your web pages and their content. Both directly, and indirectly.
Think of it as social validation – like external links from authoritative sites – it’s a natural way to enhance your authority: demonstrating to Google how trustworthy your audience thinks you are. As a result, we should pay attention to them.
As a minimum, include prominent social sharing buttons next to your high quality content. Even better, participate in social sharing sites. If you don’t have a Twitter account, Facebook fan page or LinkedIn profile you’re missing out.
Build a network that can help you share your content.
Regulatory Compliance and On-Page SEO
The PMCPA states Generally speaking it would not be unreasonable for a company to try to ensure that its sites are ranked high on lists when the search is for that company or one of its medicines (brand or generic).
It would be questionable for a company to try to ensure that its product website was ranked highly when a more general search term was used. Such activity might be relevant if a complaint were received that a company was promoting a prescription only medicine to the public or encouraging members of the public to ask their health professional to prescribe a specific prescription only medicine.
- On-page SEO is not acceptable when trying to rank your brand/product site for related therapy area keywords. For example, if you have a brand site for Drug X that treats rheumatoid arthritis, it would not be acceptable to try to rank for ‘chronic pain’, or ‘inflammation’
- On-page SEO is acceptable when trying to rank your therapy area website that is a service to medicine, or the public. Just ensure that content intended for HCPs is gated and that there is clear separation from any brand site
- Either personally, or through your agency, get a report noting the keywords you are currently ranking for and the search traffic that they bring to your site
- Using competitor analysis, compare this to the sites that rank above you for your target keywords in Google. What are they doing differently?
- Look at your on-page SEO ranking factors. They are within your control and can quickly and easily be optimised. Helping customers find your content more easily
Have you had successes, or challenges with your on-page SEO efforts?
Please share your experiences and advice in the comments section below.