10 Ways to Optimize Pharmaceutical Sites And Get Regulatory Approval

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world.  Trying to get products approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and making sure products and information are found by healthcare professionals and consumers through SEO is a very daunting task. By comparison, a root canal can seem like a pleasant experience.

Any SEO who has worked in the pharma space knows that it can seem nearly impossible to get SEO best practices implemented across a brand’s site, but things don’t need to be so hard if you implement the 10 techniques and methodologies listed below.

Education: Members of the marketer’s regulatory committee are not experts in SEO. In order to get the regulatory and legal team up to speed, start off with an SEO 101 presentation to explain how search engines work, what they are looking for, why SEO is important and how to achieve the best rankings by implementing SEO best practices through the site design/development and on-going SEO process.

Understand goals, set key performance indicators (KPIs) and show forecast:  Set up a discovery meeting and get a clear understanding of the marketer’s brand, goals and business objectives.  Determine the client’s main KPIs and have a conversation about setting realistic goals, for example, increasing traffic 15% year over year; increasing visibility for all branded terms into the top five positions within six months, etc. Show the incremental lift in traffic, conversions and visibility when you move targeted keywords into the top positions of Google and Bing. Showing a forecast, with realistic expectations, will allow everyone to see the value of SEO and ROI, and also help get things approved quicker.

Site audits and competitive analysis: Audit the site to identify areas of opportunity from technical, off-page and on-page perspectives, and show immediate wins based on priority and business impact. Of course, no one can guarantee what exactly moved the needle, but we know what elements are important and impact search engine rankings. From a competitive standpoint, look into what tactics competitors are using and what keywords are driving traffic to their site, their paid search strategy, who is linking to them, content strategy, mobile strategy, etc.  

SEO strategy: Set up a strategic roadmap and include a plan for increasing visibility, conversions and meeting KPIs based on audit findings and competitive analysis.

Keyword research methodologies: Walk people through your methodology for things like keyword research, page mapping and content optimization. This will give them a firm understanding of why you chose certain keywords (for example, based on relevance, search volume and striking distance).

On-page optimization best practices: When you start to write your titles and meta data, never mention that a particular drug can cure any diseases in the body copy, title tags, alt image attributes, heading tags or any other on-page elements. Always include the primary and secondary keywords in the beginning of the title tag and brand at the end of the title tag, followed by the chemical name of the drug. Be sure to include all trademark and registered symbols.

Link development: Since its Penguin update, Google does not like too many links with keyword-rich anchor text.  Focus on showing the marketer what works from a link development standpoint, and why it’s important to get links from affiliates and partners, utilize new content, direct requests and other link development tactics. Forget internal linking between the family of sites; it just won’t happen.

New content: New content can be very tough to get approved. Focus on the benefits of adding new content and show which competitors are using this approach -- and, as a result, are increasing the number of keywords driving traffic to their site. Always show how competitors that have approved titles, meta data and other on-site elements are optimizing their organic landing pages and where they rank for your targeted keywords. If they are doing it and are successful, incorporate it into your strategy, too.

Technical optimization:  Since all pharmaceutical sites are required to list ISI (important safety information) on all pages of the site, this can pose a duplicate content issue. Before the ISI is created, work with the development and creative team to create the ISI in an image rather than static text on every page. Also work with the development team to create keyword-rich URLs.

Monitor KPIs: Before your recommendations go live on the current site or when your new site launches, perform a baseline performance report and track changes in visibility, traffic and conversions from the baseline to a month after your recommendations are implemented. As time goes on, compare KPIs month over month and year over year to show success, wins and ROI.  Also show how your site stacks against competitors.

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