5 Tips on How to Make SEO Work for Pharma


Anyone that has worked with any form of pharma brand knows how challenging and frustrating the space can be.  This is especially evident when you are trying to implement SEO best practices on the site.  The goal for most pharma sites is to gain share of voice from their competition with an ancillary motive to funnel users to some form of a KPI for engagement measurement.  Here are some tips on how to make SEO work for Pharma sites:

  1. Find an Internal Champion
    I have found that locating an individual within either the brand or the organization that you can make your SEO ‘Champion’ is tremendously effective to getting things done.  He or she is a person that can simply get things done and most importantly get answers for you.  This person needs to be your liaison on branding, marketing, IT, and regulatory.  For example if you need approvals on optimizations and a brand person isn’t getting back to you, call your ‘champion’ to reach out and get an answer.  The other role of the ‘champion’ is internal SEO evangelist.  They are constantly preaching and keeping SEO top of mind within their organization to increase productivity and efficiencies.
  1. Educate, Educate, Educate
    If you are new to the SEO space or even a veteran and have a pharma client, I cannot stress enough how important education is to getting things done.  If your main brand and marketing contacts aren’t on your side, none of your recommendations will make it through regulatory.  The entire organization needs to at least understand the basics of SEO and possibly some advanced techniques so that you can effectively service the client.  One suggestion I have is to get some training time with the regulatory teams.  For the most part, they are comprised of doctors and lawyers who are trying to protect the organization from federal fines for miscommunication of their products.  Teaching them how the search engines work and how your recommendations can align with their corporate governance goes a long way to getting everything approved and live on their sites.
  1. Bend but Don’t Break
    For most clients you want to ensure that they abide as close to SEO best practices as possible, but for pharma this may not be in the case.  In such a highly regulated field, there are certain things that the brands need to abide by so that they can have an online presence.  The majority of the time this clashes with SEO.  Being flexible with site development, but having a firm stance on major red flags goes a long way in developing a standing relationship with the client.  They know that you have the sites best interests in mind to be successful, but that you also understand their limitations.
  1. Compare and Contrast
    Showing quick wins and positive movement not only helps in getting your recommendations implemented, but sets a foundation for future initiatives.  Even something as simple as saying that you were ranked for in the 14th position last month for a keyword, and this month you ranked in the 8th position, receiving x% of incremental traffic.  This shows to the brand that all of their work pushing is paying off and that the more recommendations they implement, the better the results will be over time.
  1. Get the Competitive Juices Flowing
    Monitor your top competitors closely!  It is a great way to hedge them against your client to say ABC drug just implemented SEO and are not out ranking us for the first time ever.  Continually observing and reporting to the client what their competition is doing within the SEO space will not only increase rapport, but it will give you leverage when trying to implement recommendations that may have been deprioritized on their end.

Keep in mind that not all pharma companies are the same.  Some are extremely conservative and others willing to do whatever it takes to hit their numbers.  Regardless of their stature, understanding the place of SEO within their marketing mix and how you can navigate it, will ultimately lead conversations on where the best practices align with their online presence.