The online physician | needs, perceptions & behaviours impacting healthcare marketers

Online physician healthcare marketers

The online physician | needs, perceptions & behaviours impacting…

Date posted: 16 November 2017


Physicians use a variety of online sources to access information relevant to clinical practice. But how do they find this information? Which sources do they use? And why?

In this summary post, we explore the research findings of Patrick Mikalef, lead author of Online information search behaviour of physicians and consider what healthcare marketers can do to better reach and engage physicians online.  



As healthcare marketers, we know doctors are increasingly using online information sources to complement their medical practice. However, little is known regarding the sources themselves and their ability to affect clinical practice. These are important considerations for our digital marketing efforts and are the focus of this article.

What we already know about physician search behaviour

Their online information needs can be grouped into categories:

  • Research
  • Professional development
  • Patient care
    • Diagnosis
    • Drug/therapy
    • Epidemiology
    • Treatment/therapy
  • Identifying patient information
  • Establishing guidelines for patient care
  • Resolving difficult and rare cases

And the top sources of this information?

  • Search engines
  • Scientific journals
  • Medical databases

In addition to the above, there appears to be growing use of social media by medical professionals for knowledge expansion, which we’ll consider in more detail later in the post.

What does this mean for healthcare marketers?

Firstly, knowing what our customers are looking for online, how they search for it and where they find it is crucial to creating and distributing content. Secondly, if we don’t identify and address audiences’ information needs, why should they pay any attention to it?

Broadly, the content categories listed above provide an excellent framework for healthcare marketers as they develop communications programmes. Specifically, content creators and advertisers can use these insights to develop and distribute information that’s valuable to target audiences.

Physician search behaviour

What we want to find out

In their study, Patrick and his colleagues wanted to address the following questions:

  • How do authoritative and non-authoritative online information sources fulfil the diverse information needs of medical doctors?
  • How does the fulfilment of these information requirements impact self-perceived medical practice competence?

Definitions. Authoritative information sources are regulated by the scientific community so that they adhere to specific standards and regulations, and are regularly revised so that they are up to date. In non-authoritative information sources there is no exercising or accepted community responsible for checking the trustworthiness and reliability of the information provided.

What did they find?

No surprise | using authoritative sources has a positive and significant association with the fulfilment of all types of medical information needs, with a perceived positive impact on patient care, knowledge development and research activities.

Conversely, non-authoritative sources are not found to have any significant impact on fulfilment of doctors’ medical information needs, or impact on patient care, knowledge development and research activities.

Surprise | doctors still use non-authoritative sources. A lot!

What does this mean for healthcare marketers?

Physician search behaviour

For healthcare marketers this research, combined with what we already know, raises some interesting questions, which Patrick and I have attempted to address here:


Q | How can healthcare marketers increase the credibility of their sites and content?

A | We know that high authority sources are perceived to positively impact patient care, knowledge development and research activities. As such, we recommend industry content creators refer to the earlier definition of ‘authoritative’ when creating and sharing content online.


Q | Why are doctors using non-authoritative sources, when they seem to be negatively associated with their impact on patient care, knowledge development and research activities?

A | There is clearly a tendency for health professionals to use community-built content, such as Wikis, YouTube and social media. Why? Because they’re easy places to find, access and consume healthcare information. This would explain why IMS ranks Wikipedia as the preferred source of healthcare information for doctors. Ultimately it’s down to convenience.

For healthcare marketers, this shows that if you create sources that are easy to find, access and consume content from then you’re likely to gain some traction.


Q | When is a physician likely to use an authoritative and non-authoritative site?

A | Patrick’s research categorised physician information needs into: patient care, knowledge development and research activities.

Within this context, it’s easy to see how doctors would consider non-authoritative sites, such as social media and Wikis, as good sources of information for high-level knowledge development: they’re usually free, host rich, multimedia content and are easy to find and navigate. However, they’re unlikely to trusted as primary sources for decisions related to patient care. I hope!

Conversely, high-authority sites are typically gated, tough to navigate and present information in long-form editorial. As a result, the user experience can be laborious and time consuming. However, they are trusted for making informed clinical decisions.

What now for healthcare marketers?

You want your sites and content to have a positive impact on clinical practice. Based on Patrick’s and others’ research, we recommend a combined approach, taking the best elements of authoritative and non-authoritative sources for maximum impact.

Combining the best bits

Authoritative sources Non-authoritative sources
  • Regulated by the scientific community
  • Adhere to standards and regulations
  • Regularly revised and updated
  • Easy to find
  • Easy to navigate
  • Contain rich, multimedia content

As Patrick so eloquently puts it in his paper, the credibility of the source regulates the degree of trust between the provider and the information consumer, which in sequence dictates whether, and how, the information is used. As such, in professional settings where information credibility is an important factor of actual information usage, establishing a position of a trustworthy information provider is critical.


So, start with credibility, then make it relevant, easy to find, navigate and use.

Easy huh?!

Google RankBrain healthcare marketers

Google RankBrain | Healthcare’s 5-step guide to more search…

Date posted: 08 November 2017

Links, content and RankBrain. These are the three most important factors for getting your web pages to rank in Google. If you want physicians and patients to find your content online, this is what you need to be optimising for.

In this post, we’ll take a candid look at what Google RankBrain is and what you can do, in five easy(ish) steps, to help drive more organic search traffic to your corporate, brand and therapy area websites.

Google RankBrain: what is it, and why should healthcare marketers care?

What | RankBrain is Google’s name for a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that helps process search results. It’s part of Google’s overall search algorithm, Hummingbird: a computer program that sorts through billions of webpages to find the most relevant results for a search.

How | I’ll assume that you have only a high-level interest in how RankBrain actually work, so I’ll share this quote from Google’s Gary Illyes,

RankBrain leverages the historical performance of essentially, or nearly, identical queries, to see what worked and what didn’t, and then leverages that information to adjust and improve the delivered results for the current query

In short, RankBrain takes complex, multi-word queries, and helps interpret/translate their meaning to find the best pages for the searcher.

Why | RankBrain helps Google process rare and one-of-a-kind queries, including the kinds of searches that are likely to pop-up in healthcare.

For example, a parent may investigate a child’s symptoms associated with a rare disease that leads to an earlier, more timely diagnosis, or a physician could research the management of little-known side effects that leads to enhanced patient care and outcomes.

Whatever the scenario, the value of optimising webpages for healthcare queries is obvious.

How rankbrain works

What should healthcare marketers do about it?

Nothing. You can’t optimize for RankBrain. Pah!

OK, perhap more helpfully, here’s what you should consider when creating web content you want to rank well in Google Search Results Pages (SERPs):

  1. Put audience needs first
    Google’s ranking signals include, click-through rates (CTR), bounce rates (BR) and time on site. These signals (plus a few others) tell Google about the value of your content to the searcher. As such, the more people click on your search result, the lower its bounce rate and the higher their time on site, the better. So put your audience needs first and you won’t go far wrong.
  2. Optimise for clicks
    One way to do this, is to create irresistible snippets to drastically improve your click through rates. To be featured, create content that answers searchers’ specific questions and provide in-depth answers to doctor and patient queries.
  3. End it
    You want your site to be the last place your audience goes to find information. Why? This tells Google that they found what they wanted on your site. To do this, comprehensively address the needs of your audience. See a theme emerging here?
  4. Big is beautiful
    Larger sites rank better. I’m sorry, that’s just life. Therefore, if SEO is a big part of your digital marketing strategy then it’ll be important to invest in the development of lots of valuable, high quality content that comprehensively addresses audience needs.
  5. On-page ranking factors
    From keywords to content, and on-page dressing, we’ve got you covered. Check-out our previous guides for more details on these.

In summary, none of this is really rocket science. Google cares about the needs of the audience more than yours. Using a bunch of different ranking signals, it will preferentially promote pages that best address searcher needs. As such, if you want doctors and patients to find your content, put their needs first by creating and optimising awesome content that addresses their search queries. Easy right?!

Pharma Marketers Keyword Research

Pharma Marketers’ 5-Step Keyword Research Guide

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.

Coffee and keywords


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.


Let’s go!

#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

  1. Download the free Google Chrome extension, Keywords Everywhere keyword tool
  2. Go to Answer The Public
  3. Enter your seed term and the geography you’re interested in
    1. Click ‘Get Questions’
  4. Download your list of categorised search queries (a CSV file) and convert to Excel
    1. I’m afraid you’ll need to manually transfer [copy/paste] your metrics from Keywords Everywhere (another benefit of a paid service)
  5. Once complete, you’ll have a long list of keywords and their respective metrics:
    1. Search Volume: the average number of times people have searched for a specific keyword and its close variants in the last 30 days
    2. Cost Per Click (CPC): the amount advertisers pay for a single click for this keyword in Google Adwords. Our surrogate conversion metric
    3. 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:

  1. Rank your keywords by volume, CPC and competition metrics:
    1. Have one column for each metric
    2. Conditionally format each column to rank by a relative score
    3. 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.
  2. Group keywords by parent topic
    1. Identify target keywords that are semantically and contextually related
    2. Group them under a ‘parent topic’ to target with a single page on your website
  3. Identify searcher intent
    1. For long tail keywords this is usually pretty obvious
    2. 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

  1. Map your keywords to your customer journey
    Vital questions to consider when mapping keywords to your customer journey include:

    1. What are your business objectives?
    2. Which stage of the buyer journey do you want to target with your content?  
    3. Which topics and keywords (based on intent) align to which stages?
    4. 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:

  1. The website (its authority, size, quality of content etc.)
    1. If you have a large, established, authoritative website, you can feel more confident about targeting competitive keywords
    2. 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
  2. Goals and objectives (branding, exposure, traffic, leads, sales etc.)
    This is where content is aligned with your business objectives:

    1. If the objective is to increase awareness of a particular disease, targeting queries for information and education are appropriate
    2. 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
  3. Budget, resources and deadlines
    1. If targeting highly competitive keywords, you will need to invest more time, effort and money into creating high quality content
    2. If the budget is limited, focus your efforts on addressing the specific queries of a smaller target audience using long tail keywords
  4. The industry and competitive landscape
    1. A competitive analysis using keyword research can help identify content gaps and opportunities for you to address
    2. It will also indicate how easy or difficult competitors will make it for you to rank higher than them for a particular keyword
    3. 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:

  1. A list of target keywords
  2. Grouped by topic
  3. 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.

If you’re not sure how, check out our on-page SEO checklist  and SEO content guide.

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.

Pharma, Why Do We Need SEO Content

Pharma’s SEO Content Guide

Date posted: 26 September 2017


Welcome to the another Method Minute.

Today, we’ll look at SEO content and what you can do to help physicians find your content in search engines. And we’ll provide How To advice that pharmaceutical marketers (and their agencies) can use to plan and execute SEO and content marketing strategies. Together.

Physicians Need Quick Answers. Google!

Google search data shows that almost every physician uses a computer, smartphone, or tablet every day for professional purposes. More enlightening, busy healthcare professionals (HCPs), across all specialties, are turning to search engines first to find the clinical information they need. Not their peers, or HCP-only networks.


Busy HCPs are turning to search engines first to find the clinical information they need. Not their peers
  Tweet This!


Pharma Marketing Impact

As a pharmaceutical marketer, if you’re not creating and optimising content to appear in search engine results pages (SERPs), you’re missing a fantastic opportunity to provide value to your customers in the moments they need it most. This impacts your ability to build relationships and earn their trust. Important if you want to sell to them in the future.

The problem is, we’re just not seeing pharma optimise its content for organic search traffic, despite physicians’ and patients’ reliance on search engines.


At a strategic level, pharma is still developing its content marketing capabilities. This often results in the production of content in a haphazard manner; lacking the consistency and regularity required for success.

Tactically, content is being created by traditional medical communications agencies who are unfamiliar with the creation of search- and social-channel content.

The result, Pharma content isn’t being found by physicians or patients. Instead, audiences are turning to other sources, where you are unable to control the content or customer relationship.

SEO + Content Marketing = SEO Content

Content SEO
Credit. SEO Nick

Define and align

Search engine optimisation is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to your website by ensuring that it appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.

Content marketing is a marketing technique for creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

SEO content is the practice of creating and optimising your valuable, relevant content to drive free, organic traffic from search engines.


Whilst SEO & content marketing are distinct practices, one without the other cannot work. Not with today’s Google it physicians  Tweet This!


Bringing Content Marketing and SEO Together

Content marketing SEO
Credit. Protofuse











Here we’ll share some actionable advice that you can use internally and with your agency to support your SEO content efforts.

Strategically, take the following steps to improve your SEO and content marketing efforts:

  • Align your SEO content and brand goals
    How will your content help you meet your brand goals? Do you need it to increase disease awareness? Do you want to support compliance with product education? Whatever it is, ensure your content and brand goals are aligned
  • Define and characterise your target audience
    Using search and social insights, interviews and questionnaires, create personas for your target audience. Develop a deep understanding of their needs, motivations and online behaviours
  • Raison d’être — set your mission
    Create your content marketing mission statement. Define who your content is for, what you will offer them and how they will benefit. This will guide all your future content marketing efforts
  • Find your Sweet Spot
    Your content marketing Sweet Spot is the overlap between your knowledge and expertise and the needs of your target audience. Use this to articulate your mission
  • Schedule it out
    Now you know who you’re targeting and why, it’s time to populate your editorial calendar. This will ensure your content creation efforts are consistent and regular; key characteristics of a successful content marketing strategy. Only in this way can you build relationships with your target audience and earn their trust.

 Tactically, ensure your agency is creating great content using the following practices:

  • Address an identified want or need
    This is the big one. Put your audiences’ needs first. Think 80:20 when considering the balance of your content. Education/information/inspiration/entertainment makes up 80% and promotion (for physicians only, obviously) 20%
  • Identify target keywords
    Using keyword research identify the search terms being used by your target audience and determine which ones you can be competitive in. Not sure how? See our previous post
  • Use your target keywords strategically
    Include them in your URLs, page titles, headings, sub-headings and body content. Without getting spammy. Write for your audience first and Google second

SEO Content: Key Takeaways

  1. Create great content. Consistently. Great content is relevant, timely and actionable. It supports your business goals and fuels your SEO efforts.
  2. Optimise it for search. Research, identify, utilise and track your keywords. Religiously
  3. Don’t think of SEO and content marketing as separate disciplines. Your SEO campaign will fail unless you integrate content marketing. Your content marketing campaign will fail unless you integrate SEO

Happy [keyword] hunting!

Have you been engaged in SEO content? Please share your experiences in the Comments section below.


Help Physicians Find Your Content: Pharma’s On-Page SEO Checklist…

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:

  1. Pretend you’re a physician. A customer of yours. You’re busy and you need a quick answer to a clinical question
  2. 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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.

Pharma's on-page SEO checklist 2017

Download our pharma on-page SEO checklist 2017 Infographic

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.
    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.

Method Interpretation

  • 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

To Do

  1. 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
  2. Using competitor analysis, compare this to the sites that rank above you for your target keywords in Google. What are they doing differently?
  3. 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.