Pharma SEO — the guide to organic growth

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the odd duck of multi-channel pharma marketing. Because your audience is not real patients or doctors but a set of mercurial, proprietary algorithms, none of the same rules apply.

We've seen many promising brands fail to incorporate SEO into their online ad strategies, out of a belief that it's "cheating" or that it doesn't apply to HCPs.

If this was ever true, it's not anymore. SEO is a valid means for starting conversations with doctors, nurses, and their patients by bringing in visitors who will be excited by your content.

How "optimization" is misleading

We commonly hear from SEO beginners who think that it's synonymous with keyword stuffing — filling your website with as many keywords as possible in order to get on the first page of Google results.

In reality, SEO has one big thing in common with other kinds of advertising: sheer reach may be necessary for success, but it's not sufficient.

If all you do is bring as many visitors as possible, you can't guarantee your website will be relevant to them at all. For all you know, your hits are surging because you've become a meme on some corner of Tumblr.

Instead, true search engine optimization involves bringing in the right visitors — the ones who will give you lead information and become loyal repeat customers.

SEO pharma strategy hacks

The pharmaceutical industry relies more heavily than other sectors on unbranded products. Most treatments are advertised separately from the parent company; often, a corporate logo and fine print are the only indicators of who manufactures the drug.

Pharma parent company advertising traditionally focuses more on feelings and storytelling, while ads for specific treatments lay out symptoms, courses of care, and coping mechanisms. Strategies are evolving, but it's still common to silo each product.

That means every product needs its own distinct SEO strategy. Within each silo, however, much of the conventional SEO wisdom applies. A few basic hacks are critical to lay the groundwork for good SEO:

  • A site that runs without significant slowdowns and is responsive to mobile browsers
  • Measures taken to make the site secure and trustworthy
  • High-quality content, laid out in a way that makes it easily discoverable. In other words, the first few steps toward SEO are the same as the steps for making a good website, period.

Organic growth tips

After that point, the tools and tricks get more specific.

The first thing to focus on is your keyword strategy. Different types of keywords will attract different groups of readers.

Since treatments are often marketed toward specialists or specific types of patients, pharma sites should take advantage of long-tail keywords. These are longer keywords that move you up in the search rankings for more specific searches. "Herniated disc treatments," for example, is a long-tail keyword, while "back pain" is not.

Crafting intelligent content around these long-tail keywords will bring you another significant SEO boost in the form of backlinks.

Google's algorithm accounts for popularity as well as relevance (it's one of the things that elevated their search engine to begin with). If you write content people want to share — irrespective of it being an advertisement — you'll move up in the rankings.

To build a more specific SEO strategy for your pharma clients, talk to a Watson Clark marketing manager today.