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SEO strategies for pharma companies

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Aditya Saxena, Vice President – APAC, iQuanti explains that the role of SEO in pharma is not direct selling but maximising share of voice within each area of specialisation/focus

In 2001, a research by Boston Consulting Group classified patients into four different categories based on the severity of their medical condition and their attitude towards physicians: accepting (11 per cent), informed (57 per cent), involved (23 per cent), and in-control (9 per cent). All the categories (except the first) used the internet to understand more about their disease and treatment line.

Increasingly patients have evolved to participate in their treatment, especially when their disease is either life-threatening or impacts their lifestyle.

When it comes to using the internet to seek medical information, we have observed certain traits in user behaviour:

  1. Topical depth is the key: For example, when users are seeking information on leukaemiathey are more likely to rely on a source that is focused on cancer, it has depth in content around the topic, rather than a website with limited topical-depth due to a broader focus across medical conditions.
  2. Site experience: When users seek information on medical conditions, they are genuinely trying to fill in information gaps. Site experience that offers content that intuitively addresses the likely questions and concerns of a user around a topic is a winner.

For pharma and medical information sites – it makes sense to take the user needs as a starting point when thinking about search engine optimisation. Based on our experience, the following are some SEO strategies for pharma:

Build a content strategy that enables comprehensive depth around topics

Conducting in-depth keyword research to understand all direct and allied questions and the topics users research when faced with a particular condition is a critical first step. We recommend a comprehensive competitive assessment around each topic, to identify content gaps and then building a content strategy and calendar that addresses each element of the content gap. It is also essential to factor in prioritisation of gaps, based on relevance and demand, into the content calendar to drive SEO impact. For specific diseases or specialisations (e.g., Cardiology) or line-of-treatments (e.g., Chemotherapy), in terms of coverage, the content needs to be comprehensive to ensure that users consider your site as an expert and also don’t need to navigate out to find answers to all their questions.

Focus on website authority

A healthcare site qualifies as Your Money Your Life (YMYL) as per Google. In the case of YMYL sites, search engines are meticulous in ensuring that only authoritative content makes it to the top.

For your website to be considered reliable, you need to focus on the following:

  • Work with authors who have expertise in the topic covered. Showcase credentials of authors that validate their expertise (e.g., Academic Qualifications, Publications, Social profiles)
  • Citations and data points should back all claims mentioned in the content.
  • Seek citations of your content from other reputed sites and build backlinks to your site.
  • Moderate user-generated content (e.g., comments on posts)to weed out spam.
  • Consult with your legal team before publishing any content

User experience is important

Appealing user experience will lead users to spend more time on your site. Design the user experience of the site, keeping in mind the needs of the target user (medical professional or a patient). As a starting point, we often find it useful to start with real-life use cases when either a medical professional or a patient seeks information, and searches for it on a search engine. Using this understanding to map the user journey, build information architecture of the site, and deploy content assets that meet the needs of the journey are critical elements of a successful SEO strategy.

Be technologically sound

If your site has genuine technological concerns, it may prevent it from ranking well or ranking at all. Some of the key factors we recommend focusing on from an SEO perspective are:

  • Indexability of your content: Are search engine crawlers able to read and index your content? If they are not, they will not be able to rank your content at all.
  • Usability factors: Page load speed, that is, how much time it takes for your pages to load entirely and become interactive. If your page takes too long to load, you may lose the visitors, which would negatively impact SEO performance. Similarly, setting up the sitemap and robots.txt file is essential. Robots.txt tells crawlers about sections they can crawl. Having a proper sitemap in place helps search engines discover new content quickly.
  • Be mobile-friendly: With time, across all industries, the share of SEO traffic from mobile has been on the rise. It is thus essential to ensure that your site is mobile friendly. You could either create a separate website altogether or create a subdomain within your corporate website. If your corporate site is old and requires much technical effort to tweak, it may make sense to create a new website.

In conclusion

In the case of the medical and pharma industry, the role of SEO is primarily around being found when a user is searching for information. Hence, the end-goal for SEO effort should be to maximise the share of voice within each area of specialisation/focus. Eventually, achieving that would ensure that your brand is directly or indirectly known by your target audience, through the valuable content you provide in their process of information discovery.

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