SEO for Pharma: Why it is important and how to do it | Varn


19 June 2020

SEO for Pharma: Why it is important and how to do it

It is more important than ever for companies to have an online and digital presence to build brand awareness, trust, improve reputation, provide valuable information and to drive sales and enquiries. However, to reap these benefits, a company must visible in the results for common search terms.

Despite the population’s increasing reliance on search engines and websites as a source of information, many Pharmaceutical and healthcare brands do not focus on harnessing the power of online marketing, often due to a lack of understanding of Search Engine Optimisation or uncertainty of how to optimise their web presence whilst remaining compliant in their highly regulated industry.

Why SEO is important for Pharma

Having a good online presence is particularly important for Pharmaceutical companies due to Health Care Professionals (HCPs) increasing use of search engines as a source of information. Google conducted research, with the following key findings:

  • Physicians spend twice as much time using online resources compared to print
  • On average, HCPs perform 6 professional searches a day
  • Only 17% of physicians searched using terms related to pharmaceutical manufacturers
  • 46% of physicians search for symptom based keywords
  • 84% of physicians search for condition related keywords

As well as HCPs using the internet as a research tool and to stay up to date with recent developments in the medical industry, patients are also beginning to spend more time researching symptoms, treatments and prescriptions. Therefore, it is imperative the Pharma companies invest time focusing on their online presence so that they can produce valuable content for both HCPs and the general public and also to improve brand trust and awareness.

How to improve the SEO of a Pharma website

There is a range of ways that Pharma companies can improve their SEO, with the best course of action depending on the resources they have available, the build of their site and the current level of optimisation across the site.

Varn are specialists in Pharma SEO, and we have explored what works when it comes to optimising SEO and maximising return on investment for Pharma businesses. Every Pharma company should begin by ensuring that its site is optimised for the SEO factors in the list below:

1. Identify Audience

In order for a site to be visible in search results for relevant queries, you must first identify who the audience of the site is. The majority of Pharma sites have distinct areas targeting the public and HCPs. These areas must be clearly defined and separated on the site as the content and keywords being targeted will vary significantly and should be focused on meeting the needs of the audience. In addition, it is particularly important on Pharma sites to ensure these areas are clearly signposted and are compliant with pharmaceutical marketing regulations such as those outlined in the ABPI code of conduct (for UK sites).

2. Identify Keywords and Search Intent

Now that you have identified the types of people who will be browsing your website, you need to identify what types of phrases and keywords they will be searching for and what their intent is. Searcher Intent is simply what the searcher is hoping to find from their search. Generally, there are 3 main types of intent; Navigational (looking for a specific website or webpage), Informational (looking for information such as an answer to a question) and Transactional (looking to make a purchase). The majority of searches in Pharma are informational and can often be categorised into searches about Symptoms and Diagnosis, Treatments, and Community (if living with an ongoing condition).

Once you have identified the types of keywords that people will search to find your site, and know the type of information they are looking for, you can create a keyword strategy, ensuring each of the pages on your site are optimised for one of your target keywords.

3. Site Structure

Once you have a clear keyword strategy and have identified the pages necessary for targeting these searches, you can create a clear and concise site structure. The most important pages on your site should be near the top of this hierarchy, which should then filter down to relevant subpages. Benefits of a good site structure include better user experience as it will make it easier for users to navigate to the information they require, and also it is helpful for webcrawlers as they crawl and index your site.

4. On-page SEO

Again using the keyword strategy that you created in steps 1 and 2, you need to ensure that the elements on each page optimised to target these keywords, both to inform the user, and also to indicate the topic of your pages to search engines. The target keywords should be included in a user-friendly URL, in H1 and H2 headings on each page and in the page’s metadata. These elements should be unique to each page, reflecting the content of that page only. You should also ensure that you add optimised and unique copy to each page which is informative and useful to a site visitor.

5. Backlinks

Backlinks remain a crucial factor in SEO as they help to generate traffic, increase brand awareness, build trust and improve organic rankings (as they are a key factor in Google’s algorithm). In Pharma, it is particularly important to focus on obtaining links to your site from other high-quality sites by implementing an off-site SEO strategy.

6. E-A-T

Over the past couple of years, Google has appeared to have increased the focus on E-A-T (which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness), especially in the medical industry, with algorithm updates favouring sites which can prove their authority. Sites are expected to provide information on the expertise (such as qualifications, education or personal experience) of the content creator to give evidence of expertise. Similarly, authoritativeness is reviewed by assessing the reputation of the brand and website, focusing on reviews, references and news articles. Lastly, trustworthiness can be built by providing accurate and in-depth information that correctly cites other trustworthy sources.

7. Schema

As previously mentioned, a lot of searches in Pharma are informational searches. For many informational searches, Google chooses to show a range of SERP features based on the type of content it thinks best suits the search intent. For example, this could be an image pack, video or most commonly a featured snippet (the box sometimes shown at the top of results pages directly answering the search query).

Pharma companies should include a range of content types on the site, providing content in the form that Google deems as most appropriate for the target keywords. Identifying opportunities to rank in the featured snippet box (otherwise known as position 0) can increase the number of clicks through to your site, as it increases site visibility in search. It can also improve trust and build brand awareness.

8. Technical Aspects

As with websites in all industries, it is important to ensure that the site is built to work on mobile devices and that it does not take a long time to load. Again, Google’s research shows that this is particularly important for Pharma as 62% of physicians that they surveyed said that they were likely to abandon the mobile website if it was not optimised for a smartphone.

Varn is a specialist pharma SEO Agency and we hope that these tips have helped you to begin optimising your Pharma website to perform better in search.

At Varn we combine our deep knowledge of SEO techniques with our extensive experience of medical communications and compliance, helping you to grow your pharma brand and business faster within the compliance framework.

Article by: Katie, Technical SEO Expert More articles by Katie

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