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An introduction to healthcare & medical digital marketing

The use of digital marketing for business purposes has grown year on year and now outstrips the annual spend of TV advertising. It is proving highly lucrative for businesses across all industries, including the pharmaceutical, medical and healthcare sectors.

A private medical practice or consultant can gain more brand exposure and consequently attract more new patients by using measurable digital marketing channels. We’ve put together a run-down of the main types of (non advertising related) digital marketing activities that businesses can explore.

Social Media Marketing

Essentially, this is used to attract fractured customers you may not reach through conventional channels such as direct mail. When used properly, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can become social hubs for your business and help you to reach both patients and medical professionals. Your ‘followers’ and ‘connections’ can communicate directly with you – but more importantly you can also respond and interact with them.

Facebook has over 2.45 billion active users: even if your target market is only a tiny fraction of that, it’s still a huge opportunity to reach people who might not otherwise hear about your company.

It’s very easy to link to your company’s social media pages from your website, and this is a great way for your company to build a list of people who might otherwise browse your website and then leave, never to return.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, means gearing up your website so it ranks highly for certain keywords when users type those keywords into the search engines. When done well, healthcare SEO can vastly increase the amount of patients and healthcare professionals you attract onto your site.

By researching the search-terms used by your target audience, an effective SEO strategy can be drawn up to make sure these words appear prominently on your website. This is something that should be done with the help of a professional, who knows how to use keywords effectively in your site’s metadata and copy.

Content Marketing

Content creation is an important part of digital startegy and the SEO process which comes after the initial on-site keyword optimisation has been carried out. By creating and syndicating high quality pieces of content you’re more likely to generate contextually relevant backlinks to your site. ‘Backlinks’ are links to your site placed on other relevant websites across the web. Done well, this can increase traffic to your website and raise its position in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

A well thought through, strategic approach to content marketing that is tailored your business will enable you to consistently create high quality content and digital assets that get shared online via social media and web links. This approach will help you to build your online reputation which will have a positive impact on your SEO strategy. In conjunction with relevant and regularly updated content, a well designed medical website with clear navigation and conversion points will help you to take full advantage of the highly targeted traffic that lands on your site.

The impact of user-generated content on medical and healthcare marketing

The medical and healthcare industry is constantly changing, particularly in light of developments in modern technology. Digital marketing strategies now involve SEO, social media, and a whole host of other methods to ensure online brand recognition and favourability. However, it’s important to remember, in the midst of these digital techniques, that the voice of the customer is still of paramount importance.  Monitoring user-generated content online is a useful method of gauging public reaction to a particular product or service.

Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies can benefit simply by monitoring the conversations about their brand that are already happening all around the Internet. Many websites, such as netdoctor.co.uk and patient.co.uk, have discussion forums which allow users to create an account and post comments with questions and recommendations. Private blogs are also a good source of opinion based content, and even informal social media platforms such as Twitter can be searched for a mention of a particular product or condition. It is also possible for companies to invest in software which can collate information on public opinion from multiple web-based sources.

The information gleaned from user-generated content will offer a clear insight into public perception of the brand, and this information can then be used to identify the aspects of a current marketing campaign that are working, as well as those which may need revision.

To learn more about how Genetic Digital can help you to monitor the digital environment, get in touch.

How Google’s ‘Penguin’ is changing the face of SEO

Google’s latest update to its algorithm, dubbed ‘Penguin’, was only released on 24th April, but has already had a huge impact on hundreds of companies over the last few months and the way in which they strategise their search engine optimisation efforts.

The update is designed to counter web spam and over optimisation, by penalising sites that employ these underhand techniques with a significantly lower ranking in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Google’s Head of Webspam, Matt Cutts, announced Penguin in a blog post, which explained the principles on which the update is based. In particular, he emphasised the differentiation between ‘white hat’ SEO and ‘black hat’ web spam, highlighting the benefits of the former and the pitfalls of the latter.

The blog post stressed the importance of maintaining a focus of high quality content and user-focused pages under the principles of ‘white hat’ SEO and avoiding any of the ‘black hat’ techniques, such as keyword stuffing, link schemes, or unoriginal, duplicated content.

The online pharmaceutical sector is likely to be as affected as any other area of business, and so it is important for digital marketers in the industry to fully understand the Penguin update, and be aware of what they need to do to prevent their company from being affected – by Penguin or any of its successors. Cutts estimates the update will only affect around 3% of queries negatively, so as long as digital marketers follow and maintain the ‘white hat’ SEO guidelines, it is unlikely that there will be a detriment to their company’s online presence.

If your healthcare, medical or pharma website has been hit by the Google Penguin update then get in touch to learn more about how we can help you fix the SEO problems you might be facing.

2011 Top 5 Web Design Mistakes

Designing and developing websites can seem easy but getting it right is not. Below are our top 5 mistakes that could be affecting your website right now.

1. Incorrectly Using Adobe Flash

This one’s been around for years but is still a major problem. Adobe Flash allows the use of animation on the web. It can be used for something as simple as a blinking button to something as complex as an entire website. Flash is rarely needed in 2011 with new technologies capable of reproducing its functionality across more platforms than Flash supports.

  • Search Engines try to understand Flash but it will never be as readily indexed as standard text. That means your audience will be visiting your competitors site because they simply won’t know yours exists.
  • Flash doesn’t work on the iPhone or iPad, both of which are increasingly used in the Medical, Pharma and Healthcare industries.

Why it’s important: Mobile web browsing is increasing exponentially. If your site can’t be seen it’s not worth having.

2. Ignoring Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) should be considered for every site but is hugely important when patients and medical professionals are involved.

  • 75% of consumers use the Internet to search for advice about health, medicines or medical conditions
  • 81% of physicians use search engines like Google to research medical related info

Basic SEO can be achieved using a few simple techniques that can make the difference between you or your competitor being found by a potential or existing customer. For starters:

  • Always use a page title that accurately describes the purpose of the page. This is what will show up in Google so keep it short (max 70 characters) and appealing (to encourage people to click it!)
  • Always include accurate, concise headings. Headings not only help the search engines understand the nature of the page they also help users find the information they need quickly.
  • Always use plain text. Plain text is what the search engines understand so don’t be tempted to use images, PDF files or anything else instead.

Why it’s important: Your competitors are in Google. If you’re not, you’re losing business.

3. If It’s Broke, Fix It!

This really covers a multitude of sins but essentially boils down to sites not being maintained properly and becoming out dated.

The 404 error (techno speak for a missing page) can be a major irritant for site visitors who expect to find what they’re looking for without having to jump through hoops. Most often, 404 errors occur because a site has been redesigned or restructured and the content has moved. By using ‘redirects’ a 404 can be avoided. A redirect is a hidden instruction that automatically routes a user to the correct location when they try to visit an outdated page. Redirects should be implemented every time a site is restructured or a page is moved. And just to cover all eventualities, use a ‘friendly’ 404 page that recognises the error and advises on what to try next.

Out of date information can be equally damaging, particularly if it’s medical related. Ensuring a site can be readily maintained by using a powerful yet simple Content Management System can help avoid this.

Missing pictures, broken downloads, slow loading pages, duplicate pages, contradictory information, doesn’t work in an old web browser, doesn’t work in a new web browser, doesn’t work full stop! There are plenty of things that can go wrong with a website so good reporting and a comprehensive maintenance routine are essential.

Why it’s important: You have seconds to engage a visitor. A badly maintained site = a lost visitor.

4. No Call To Action

So you’ve ditched the Flash, optimised the site, got bang up-to-date information and the visitors are coming. Now what? One hot topic in web design right now is Conversion Optimisation which is the technique of encouraging visitors to perform goal oriented tasks. The task could be downloading a brochure, placing an order or completing a contact form for example.

Without setting specific goals and having calls-to-action that channel users toward those goals you risk wasting a visitor. If someone comes to your site, finds the information they’re after and then immediately leaves they’re far less valuable than if they go on to volunteer their contact information.

Having a call to action and making sure it’s optimised is key to a successful modern website.

Why it’s important: You’re wasting budget if you’re not getting the most from every visitor to your site.

5. No Tracking

You ditched Flash, optimised, informed and converted. Or did you? Tracking, reporting and analysis is hugely important in understanding not only how your site is currently performing but how it can be adjusted for improved performance.

There are many reporting options available but the one which has quickly become the standard is provided free by Google. Google Analytics is a web based service which requires a small amount of code to be added to every page on your site. At it’s most basic it can tell you how visitors arrived at your site, the search terms they might have used, which pages they viewed, where they exited, how long they stayed, the most popular pages and much more.

By monitoring site analytics, and making use of the more advanced options to track online marketing campaigns, you can identify patterns in visitor behaviour that allow you to introduce changes to help increase your chances of converting visitors into customers. Furthermore, you can more easily identify which areas of your online marketing activity are delivering the highest quality of visitors and focus more budget on those activities thus reducing budget waste.

Why it’s important: To improve your site you have to know how it’s performing.

Bonus item: Ignoring Mobile

According to research, half a billion people accessed the internet using a mobile device worldwide in 2009. Usage is expected to double within five years as mobile overtakes the PC as the most popular way to get on the web. If your website doesn’t accommodate mobile users you could well be cutting off a significant proportion of your audience.

 

There are lots of mistakes that can be made when developing websites, the list above is just a few that we think are paramount right now. It would have been easy to write a top 10 but we’ll save the rest for when we talk to you!