Commentary

Do Pharma Brands Still Need Consumer Websites?

The digital landscape in consumer healthcare has changed. Consumers are no longer limited to finding answers to health questions on websites like WebMD.com or on a manufacturer’s brand.com. Branded experiences and engagements are now taking place on distributed content platforms managed by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. 

Not surprisingly, brand leaders may be starting to question the value of their consumer websites.

From a Central Hub to an Interconnected System

The Cybercitizen HealthU.S. 2018 report from the Decision Resource Group shows that consumer brand sites are no longer the hubs at the center of a consumer’s digital experience. U.S. consumers are engaging with search (65%), social media (58%), and online video (50%) at higher rates than they are with pharma websites (42%).

However, that same report also shows that branded consumer sites play a critical role for patients in the treatment journey. Twenty-seven percent of patients engage with a pharma site post-diagnosis, and these engagements are encouraging consumers to take action: 44% of consumers that access a brand site post-diagnosis request a medication by name.

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Rather than abandoning pharma brand websites, brands should optimize their experiences for key moments in the consumer journey.

Given the realities of consumer engagement in healthcare, there are three essential functions of a consumer brand website:

Support organic search behaviors with intent-driven and personalized content. 65% of U.S. patients use search to find answers to their health-related questions, according to the Decision Resource Group study cited above.

More specific to pharma brand sites, 48% of U.S. adults also have used a search engine to research prescription medications, according to a 2016 Decision Resource Groups study. Consumer brand websites enable pharma manufacturers to support these queries with deeply structured content. 

Brand site pages also provide greater control over content formatting and interactions. Pages can be optimized for scannability and comprehension; social media postings do not provide this level of control.

New technologies have also made it possible to implement dynamic content on brand websites. Callouts can be displayed based on entry point and site behavior to help guide visitors to the most valuable content.

Complement organic engagement with paid search and retargeting.Many of the same optimizations that improve organic visibility of brand sites also improve paid search quality score. This reduces costs and improves conversions. Optimizing a branded domain for search can cost significantly less than attempting to optimize content across distributed platforms for the same queries. 

Additionally, site retargeting allows brands to re-engage consumers as they organically browse the web. This continuation of messaging allows brands to stay top-of-mind and ultimately increase consideration for further action.

Support non-indexable and emerging technologies.Consumer brand sites can also increase visibility of non-indexed features such as voice skills, native apps, and chatbots. This approach can help drive installs by linking to app stores and directory listings from indexable landing pages.

Brand sites can also be optimized to answer natural language queries. Google and Bing create “featured snippets” (quick answers pulled from the most topically relevant pages) from trusted websites that are displayed in search results and returned via smart assistants. Optimizing for voice requires a mix of specific content and technical methods that acknowledge, augment, and prioritize voice-first content.

Putting these recommendations into action

By understanding the consumer journey, optimizing around search behaviors, and providing connections to emerging technologies, we can connect patients and caregivers with the right information about treatment options and help drive positive actions.

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