A digital audit to discover why your pharmaceutical business website is not receiving traffic

There is nothing more frustrating for a pharmaceutical or health care company than having invested significant resources into building a website and establishing a social media presence for it to result in a disappointing traffic flow.

Unfortunately however, this is all too common as an attractive website and a good company reputation is no guarantee of traffic. Today, the online world is intensely competitive and nowhere is this more the case than in the health and pharmaceutical industries. Industry players have invested huge sums in their digital marketing strategies and without specialist knowledge it can be extremely difficult to elbow into those markets, regardless of how good your content or attractive your design.

However that is not to say it is impossible; the internet is changing at breakneck pace and processes and activity that keep companies on top today may not be so efficient in the future.

The starting point for any improvement is a thorough examination of current digital assets. By using state of the art digital analytics and specialist software, it is possible to study website traffic and internet users’ habits to determine why a site is not generating desired traffic levels.

The results can then be used to build an online strategy to achieve higher performance levels from a pharmaceutical company’s digital assets. These can include a wide variety of actions from small keyword tweaks to entire website redesigns and the creation of new online portals.

Digital Health Coalition issues social media guidelines

An American think tank representing some of the biggest pharmaceutical and health companies in the United States has issued guidance for the use of social media and online forums in the industry. The group, known as the Digital Health Coalition (DHC), has produced a list of seven guiding principles in an effort at self-regulation. This follows the failure of the authorities to issue any definitive principles for online activity.

The health and pharmaceutical industry has always been aware that dispensing online health advice and drug information is a highly sensitive area, yet it is also something for which there is considerable public demand. The industry was hopeful that a lead in this field would be taken by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); however with the exception of some direction of how to deal with off-label information requests, the FDA has not expanded on the industry’s use of the internet.

The DHC has openly stated that the proposed principles are not intended to replace any official regulations regarding the industry’s use of online media, but hope that they will provide a focus and stimulate informed debate on the subject.

A full copy of the principles as released by the DHC is given below:

Social Media and User-generated Health and Medical Content: Guiding Principles and Best Practices for Companies and Users

1) Regulated healthcare companies should endeavour to participate in social media as a means to promote public health, improve patient outcomes and facilitate productive patient/physician relationships.

2) Regulated healthcare companies are not responsible for online user-generated content that they do not control. Regulated healthcare companies are deemed to “control” health and medical content if (i) it owns such health and medical content and has material editorial authority or (ii) it paid for the creation of such content and has material editorial authority over such content.

3) Regulated healthcare companies have a responsibility to report adverse events they become aware of. Regulated healthcare companies should follow the existing adverse event reporting rules in place at the FDA.

4) Employees of regulated healthcare companies should disclose their material company relationship when posting comments/content or engaging in an online conversation relating to a company product or relevant healthcare issue.

5) Regulated healthcare companies should endeavour to respond to questions on sites they control within a reasonable period of time, and to implement reasonable measures to enable timely responses to crisis and emergency situations.

6) Regulated healthcare companies should endeavour to make reasonable efforts to correct misinformation that is factually incorrect.

7) Regulated healthcare companies should endeavour to appoint employee(s) tasked with the role of “patient liaison” focused on representing the best interests of the patient online.

Leading pharmaceutical company to launch Facebook game

Online games are not an area that would normally be associated with the pharmaceutical industry but in March, leading international drug company Boehringer Ingelheim will launch a new interactive game on Facebook.

The trading card style game, known as ‘Syrum’, will see players work from their laboratories as they bid to develop medicines that will save the world from the threat of all kinds of disease epidemics.  Players will begin with seed compounds which they must test to develop a drug which will progress through clinical trials before it is finally taken to market.  The drugs can then be marketed on the game’s Facebook page which introduces an interesting interactive element.

All good fun, but why is such a big international company concerning itself with an internet game? According to John Pugh, Boehringer’s head of communications, the purpose of the game is to ‘to build a new communications channel and to enter into a dialogue with stakeholders’.  The company is hoping to develop a relationship with the online community that raises awareness of what pharmaceutical companies do and why they do it. Ingenious digital marketing some would say.

Players of Syrum will frequently hit obstacles in their quest to produce an effective drug, even at a fairly late stage in the process, mirroring the real life frustrations of companies who have to scrap potential medicines after years of development. The game will also cover other elements of the pharmaceutical business, such as the poaching of research scientists by rival companies and the impact of patent expiry.

Boehringer is hoping to attract players from the pharmaceutical and medical industries but also hopes to attract a wider audience and has had consultations with patient groups to acquire their input.

Over half of internet users access company sponsored sites for medical advice

An American survey has revealed that more than half of all adults look at drug company sponsored information on the internet to find information about health issues and treatments. The information was viewed on either a website or a mobile phone app that was linked directly linked with a pharmaceutical company.

The survey, carried out by Manhatten Research, interviewed 6,634 adults in the United States in the final quarter of 2011 and revealed that 51% of internet users used pharmaceutical company sponsored digital resources. This is promising information for digital marketing in the phrama sector.

For the sector, the results are a welcome sign that the public is not averse to looking at sponsored information when it comes to matters concerning their health. The results showed that internet used the websites as a resource on a wide ranging field of topics including diagnosis, information on illness and disease, management of conditions, possible treatments, drug information and even how to broach subjects with their doctor.

Another finding of the survey, and a further encouraging sign for the industry, was that 43% of those surveyed also revealed that they discussed the prescription drugs identified by their online research with their doctors.

The Senior Healthcare Analyst at Manhattan Research, Maureen Malloy identified helping internet users prepare for raising the results of their online research as a key opportunity for brands which was currently being underutilised.

Other results showed that the use of company sponsored information increased dramatically in the event of people suffering from a chronic condition. Approximately 75% of angina patients and 68% of people with rheumatoid arthritis had accessed online information directly sourced from sites associated with pharmaceutical companies.

A for Analytics

This month we start our A to Z of Digital series and our first letter is ‘A’ for Analytics.

Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data for purposes of understanding how effective your digital presence is and what areas need optimising. It encompasses measuring visitor levels, referrers, i.e. how do people find your site, bounce rates, geography and conversions.

Nowadays, we have a wide range of tools and enterprise level software to choose from to help us measure the effectiveness of our online activity. Some are free like Google Analytics and some like Omniture and Web Trends you need to buy a licence to use. With Google Analytics you can even integrate the software with CRM systems like SalesForce to get a 360 degree view of your customer acquisition process.

The ability to track campaigns at such a granular level gives healthcare marketers the ability to fine tune campaigns and focus their budget on the areas that are contributing the most to helping them achieve their sales and marketing objectives.

Tracking phone calls

When it comes to online tracking, there are also a number of specialist analytics tools that can help you to measure digital performance For instance, ‘Call Analytics’.  Phone call analytics allows you to track exactly what each visitor is doing on your website and even when they pick up the phone to call you. With this level of tracking you are able to report on the exact visitor path, including what the visitor did on your website, before, during and after the phone call and which keyword search, advert, referring website and click caused your website visitor to pick up the phone to call you.

Smartphone Users & App Usage

Using tools like Google analytics you can measure the number of people visiting your site from mobile phones. By monitoring the volume of people that access your site via a smartphone or iPad you will be able to assess whether the level of traffic justifies the development of a site devoted exclusively to mobile platforms and tablets, to help improve the user experience and conversion rates.

If you have developed an ‘App’ for Android or the iPhone then you can also use Google Analytics to track its usage by adding Google tracking tags into the source code of the actual app. There are also more sophisticated app tracking tools like Localytics which allows you to track all the standard metrics such as platform, device type, sessions and unique users but also offers event and screen tracking that will give you the ability to analyse conversion funnels, screen flows, feature usage, content access and advertising performance.

What impact will Apple’s Siri have on SEO?

Are you getting Siri-ous?

Siri is Apple’s new voice recognition app that allows users to control their smartphones using speech by talking directly into their handset.  I’m sure you’ve all see the latest iPhone TV ads showing how you can check the weather, search for restaurants, set reminders and even write and send emails. So, you can understand why so many Apple advocates are starting to say it’s only a matter of time before smartphone users start to dump Google in favour of Siri.  But in my opinion I can’t see this happening and Google will continue to dominate ‘Search’ for some time yet. Let’s not forget that Google has had voice-enabled search functionality for some time on iOS and Android devices, so it’s hard to call Siri an “innovation” when it’s more of an evolution of an existing piece of technology.

However, as digital marketers there are a few things we need to be aware of when it comes to understanding how Siri and voice enabled search results are generated and how this might impact our search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy.

Where does Siri get its information from?

Firstly let’s try and understand a little more about the information Siri is able to access and where that information is drawn from. If you use Siri to search for local information in the US such as “Italian restaurants nearby,” Siri returns results from Yelp instead of Google Places. If you need a quick fact from Siri such as “how many ounces are in two cups?” you will most often get results from Wolfram Alpha instead of Google Calculator.  At present Siri can only look for local businesses in the US, so users in the UK will just get Google search results. So if you say to Siri, “Search the web for a private GP in London” or ask a question it can’t answer it will search Google by default (unless you change the default search engine setting within Safari). How exactly Siri collects and processes information is not fully known, but it’s safe to assume that the program is drawing on well-cultivated public data sources, like Google Places, Yelp and similar sites. If Siri is eventually able to pull information from third party apps, as many predict it will, it could significantly reduce traffic to traditional websites.

Optimising for Siri and Smartphones

So what do you need to do to make your website appear in Siri and related voice generated search? Here are our 5 tips for developing a voice search engine optimisation plan (VSEO):

  1. Optimise for smartphones
    We’re not stating anything new here as smartphones and mobile search capability has been around for some time now. A recent study conducted by Ipsos OTX looked at general smart phone usage and the searching behaviour of over 5,000 adult smartphone users. The study revealed that for many individuals their smartphone acts as a pocket PC and extends their desktop experience. As with more conventional web surfing, search engines like Google are the most visited websites via a smartphone (77% of visits). In terms of what people are searching for on their mobile phone – ‘News’ came up top at 57%, ‘Medical related information’ was the second most popular topic (26%) and ‘Health & Fitness was third at 23%. The message is clear – make sure you can be found via mobile search as both healthcare professionals and consumers are regularly using their mobile phones to search for information.
  2. Build a specific mobile site template as part of your web assets
    Building a mobile optimised version of your site will improve the user experience and usability of your website when it is being accessed via a smartphone and thus users will want to browse more. For web developers that have the right skills, this isn’t a difficult job to do, and many web publishing platforms like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal already mobile-optimised themes that can be integrated into your site portfolio. Furthermore, it’s also worth exploring the use of ‘responsive web design’ techniques. Responsive web design is a term that describes the concept of building a website design in a way that allows the layout to change depending on what screen resolution the viewer has. For example, an advanced four-column layout that looks great with a screen width of 1280 pixels (or higher) could be simplified into a more simple 2-column layout on screens with 1024 pixels width – and further down to a single column on small screens such as those on smartphones or small tablet computers. It is an alternative to building separate mobile sites.
  3. Implement a local search strategy
    In the US Siri’s main source of information comes from the Local Business Review Website – Yelp. Siri also uses data from Google Places, albeit less frequently, but it is still worthwhile creating and optimising a Google Places listing. Creating a well optimised Google Place is vital if you are serious about increasing your chances of showing up in a set of localised voice activated search results in the UK. We’d also recommend that you set up a presence on these other sites too and where possible start to encourage customers to rate your business for maximum exposure:
    – Yelp UK
    – Yahoo Local
    – Bing Local
    – Yellow Pages
    – Facebook Places
  4. Address any potential content access problems
    The use of Macromedia Flash and JavaScript are already “no-no’s” when it comes to mobile optimisation and there are no immediate plans for the Apple operating system to support Flash graphics. Burying important information within PDFs and sub-pages could put your site at a disadvantage, so think carefully about where certain content sits within your site hierarchy and how it is presented. One other important element to consider with regards to content is to add ‘rich snippets’ (microformats) into your HTML.  Google started supporting rich snippets in 2009, and they allow your site to incorporate relevant microdata such as business details, i.e. name, address, URL, and phone number that could help Siri extract important information about your site more quickly. You can also include a ‘review rich snippet’. Review information such as ratings and descriptions can help users to better identify good content positive reviews. Check out the many different kinds of snippets that Google supports, as the number keeps growing.
  5. Monitor the number of people coming to your site from smartphones
    Using tools like Google Analytics you can measure the number of people visiting your site from smartphones. Understanding mobile traffic to your site can give you an indication of whether you need to design your site to accommodate both smartphone and PC traffic, or whether the traffic justifies the build of a site devoted exclusively to mobile platforms with streamlined content and simpler navigation. You can also create segments for different devices or operating systems, so you can compare visits and conversions from Galaxies, iPads, or Android and iPhone devices. If you have developed an app for Android or iPhone then you can also track their usage by adding Google Analytics tracking scripts into the source code of the actual app.