Pharma companies are shockingly behind when it comes to search engine marketing.

Typically, with any highly regulated industry, it is often slow to adapt new trends or take advantage of new opportunities in search marketing. Or there just isn’t enough legal clarity as the regulators (the FDA in this case) are slow to react. The pharma industry has been one of those areas.

Pharma marketing is highly regulated due to the nature of its sensitive products. When it comes to advertising, its unique requirements can become hard to navigate and work within. Marketers have to balance compliance issues on one hand and the rules of the advertising platforms on the other.

This is a tricky task. What pharmaceutical marketers may not know is that Google has been willing to bend its own rules a little specifically for the pharma industry in order to work with those compliance challenges and find solutions.

These days an estimated 49% of drug-related searches are done online. Studies have shown that people using mobile devices for research on various drugs are more likely to buy them. Therefore, it’s foolish to ignore the importance of search engine marketing for pharma companies.



PPC For Pharma Companies

Pay Per Click advertising is one of the cornerstones of digital marketing. In the pharmaceutical industry, the competition can often be so immense that you cannot overlook any avenue of advertising. Yet, surprisingly, PPC ads have been grossly underutilized.

PPC ads can instantly increase the reach and exposure of your pharmaceutical products. And, of course, this leads to an increase in both site traffic and sales. PPC advertisements also help you target very specific groups of people within specific locations who are actively searching for solutions to their health needs. And when someone is searching for your type of product, these are critical moments to win online.

Google studies have shown that 5% of searches are health related. Yet, despite that, there are typically very few pharma advertisers on many popular searches.

Here are some of the top PPC marketing tips for pharma companies to consider:

  • Hire a PPC Specialist – There are a lot of hurdles to navigate in this cateogry. Often, the best place to start this process is simply by hiring someone who has been there before and worked with Google and Bing’s pharmaceutical teams. An agency that has represented pharmaceuticals and managed PPC ads will know what can and can’t be done and help you get the most out of your marketing dollar. Nothing can be more frustrating that doing all the keyword research, coming up with ad copy, getting it approved through your legal, then launching the campaign only to see you’ve had several major mistakes in that process and the results fall flat. So with that in mind, below are some of the key things to consider when launching a PPC campaign.
  • Mobile Compatibility – Today’s generation uses the internet on the go. We all carry smart phones which allow internet surfing at high speeds. As an advertiser, your moment of truth can take place on a subway, at a restaurant, waiting in a doctor’s office or any number of other places where searches are occurring every second of every day. Therefore, it’s vitally important to have a mobile friendly website. If your site is not loading fast or is a poor experience, not only will the user bug out quickly, but Google is now making that part of both their PPC and SEO algorithms.

Your first job as a pharma marketer online is to make sure that your company website is fast and mobile friendly. Any failings in this regard will reflect very heavily on your search results and ultimately sales. This is one of those areas you can control completely, so invest well here.

  • Simple & Relevant Ads – This is a tough balance. On the one hand, you’ve got to get your ads through legal. On the other, few people searching Google have time to understand the hidden meaning behind ads stuffed with scientific names and legalese that doesn’t make sense to them. When looking at search ads we make decisions in a fraction of a second. Your message has to be concise and relevant. If someone is searching for a birth control pill, the ad needs to speak to that in the title and be backed up by the body copy and as many other relevant ad extensions as possible. And when someone clicks on the ad, it should take them to its relevant landing page and not just any generic page. It’s too easy to disconnect with someone who is searching Google and for them to press the back button and move on. Relevancy is your challenge and goal in search marketing. This is a common mistake we see.

Note: There are some specific types of advertisements you can’t do if you are labeled as a “black box” drug. Also, refer to the FDA’s fairly recent industry guidance for ads with character limitations:

  • Tight Campaign Themes – To keep that relevancy, it’s important that your campaign themes are tightly constructed. This allows you more opportunity to micromanage your ad copy and produce relevant, compelling campaigns. Additionally, this will help your quality scores in the Google account, which in turns lowers your costs per click.
  • Domain Names – Google had given pharma companies the opportunity to use different domain names than their final landing page (vanity URLs). This exception was set up specifically with pharma company legal issues in mind. (The average business would not have their ads approved with this tactic.) Google now has various domain placeholders in ads that mask the domain name from appearing. So you can have ads with no mention of product but talk about treatments and how a prescription may help with various health issues. This helps you speak to the traffic. This, again, is something they don’t provide for other industries. Some examples:


  • Locations – Generally, if you are in the U.S. or Canada, the full array go Google pharmacy PPC tactics are available to you. If you want to target outside those locations, there are only a few approved countries. Additionally, you can tightly geotarget your ads within the U.S. to specific cities and locations, if desired – even as tight as 1 kilometer around a location (like the address of a hospital or medical complex). And you can raise and lower bids depending on the quality of traffic you see from different locations.
  • On-Site Analytics – If this was a typical ecommerce situation, you would know how every dollar spent brought in revenue. Often, pharma companies won’t know that final sale. To optimize and test the effectiveness of your PPC campaigns, pay close attention to your on-site metrics. Stats such as time on site, average duration, bounce rate or utilizing Google Smart Goals can help you fine tune your campaigns for better results.
  • Retargeting – Because the pharma industry is highly regulated, you do not have opportunities to take advantage of areas like Retargeting on Google. Again, as stated above this is due to the unique nature of the products and services and privacy issues. Most people value complete discretion when facing any health-related issue, so having ads follow them on the internet becomes a problem.
  • Unapproved Pharmaceuticals and Supplements – Google has an assortment of banned pharmaceuticals. For most pharmaceutical manufacturers this won’t be an issue, but if you are unsure, please review the following list of unapproved products:
  • Pharmaceutical Certifications – To advertise some health care products on Google, they may require a certification. If you use a PPC agency, they can file this paperwork for you but you will need to provide Google with an agency authorization letter like the below example:


Google AdWords Agency Authorization Letter

Date: [insert date]

To the Google AdWords Team,

I, [insert your full name and job title within the pharmaceutical manufacturer company], authorize [insert name of the agency you have employed to manage your AdWords activity] and its partners and affiliates to use Account ID: [XXX-XXX-XXXX – ten digit customer ID] to advertise [insert the domain name of your brand’s website] on behalf of [insert name of company that owns the website].

I confirm that [insert the domain name of your brand’s website] is the property of my employer, who has authorized me to act on their behalf with regard to the application of our agency, [insert name of the agency you have employed to manage your AdWords activity], for healthcare-related certification of the above AdWords account.

I understand that I need to contact Google AdWords if I wish to have the certificate removed from the account. Please process the certificate and apply it to the above account.

Kind Regards,


[Insert your full name and job title within the pharmaceutical manufacturer company]


What Is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is a term that describes all your endeavors that help you attract more traffic through the natural search engine results (basically, any results that aren’t paid ads in search). It involves making use of quality content, page optimization, right selection of keywords, link building, etc.


Importance Of SEO For Pharmaceutical Companies

A flourishing search marketing campaign depends on your SEO tactics. Without focus, you will be just one amongst many who came and faded deep into the millions of search results. The right SEO efforts will make your site visible to your potential product users, to doctors and other healthcare professionals alike.


How Does SEO Help Pharma Companies?

SEO helps pharma companies in a couple main ways, namely:

  1. Establish Trust & Building Authority – As you know, it’s important for those who are in need of the proper medicines get them in a timely manner. Maintaining the quality of medicines is also equally important. If any pharmaceutical company is able to deliver promptly on these two fronts then it is well and truly on its way to establishing trust. You are an authority on that particular health issue.

SEO is also about being an authority in your niche. The more the search engines think of your site as an authority, the more they trust it, they higher it will rank. The higher it ranks, the more that trust is conveyed to the person doing the search. That person is much more likely to trust a site on the top of the search engines than 3 or 4 pages in.

Search engines look at a variety of complicated signals to understand what you are an authority for. If you are new to SEO, let’s simplify this a little.

The first place to start with SEO is a good understanding of your best keywords. This is where you want to establish a beach head and what you want those signals to convey. Whether it’s press releases, social media, site content, news articles, mentions on other sites, the more you have those signals talking about your keywords and pointing people to your site, the better. If you provide an allergy pill, be an authority on keywords about that allergy.

Because it’s keyword-oriented, you can build some synergy with your PPC efforts mentioned above. A good PPC campaign can tell you where you are getting the best traffic from and help point the way toward the keywords you should invest time in for SEO.

  1. Building Brand, Reputation Management and Sales – SEO gives you an opportunity to educate users about your brand. If you aren’t in the mix of the conversation, then a lot of things can fill that vacuum. As new prescription and over-the-counter drugs are created, approved and grow in usage, so does the buzz surrounding the products. The more active you are with online content, the more valuable the search real estate you will own, the more you can educate traffic on those keywords to build your brand and manage your reputation.

In search, targeted traffic almost always means sales. Through quality content and various optimization tactics to align your signals, SEO can drive your brand to the top of your category. It’s important to invest here and to do so with experts. But it’s also important to do so with as much focus within your niche as you can. As you dominate your most specific keywords, start expanding to broader keywords. It’s a long-term process that is built up step by step … and remember, content is king. The more you can produce, the better. Your SEO company or expert will thank you.


Get Going!

As mentioned, because of the regulatory nature of this industry, it has been slow to adapt search marketing tactics that most businesses have been doing for the past 10 to 15 years. While this presents itself as a challenge, it’s also an opportunity. This is particularly true in PPC search.


Don’t delay. Get after it!