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SEO for Pharmacies and the Pharmaceutical Industry: Capturing Customers and Elevating Sales

Digital Marketing
SEO
February 18, 2024
13 min
Content

Promoting pharmaceutical products today is a real challenge, where competition is relentless: consumer expectations are high, the number of online pharmacies is rapidly growing, and physical networks are transitioning to the online realm. To stand out in this "red ocean," pharmaceutical companies need a customer-centric approach to marketing and pharmacy SEO.

Promoting pharmaceutical websites is quite challenging because they are in the YMYL* (Your Money or Your Life) category, closely related to health and life. Besides, paid ads are prohibited to use for pharmaceutical products in many countries. That's why in this niche, the most significant traffic acquisition channel is organic search.

*Your Money or Your Life—this category includes all sites providing information that impacts users' health, safety, and financial well-being.

In this context, pharmaceutical SEO is not a luxury but a strategic survival tool. The high level of competition requires not only a thorough analysis of keywords but also the subtle adaptation of the content and technical aspects of the site to emerge as leaders in this dynamic segment.

Therefore, SEO in the pharmacy industry:

  • is suitable for attracting consumers at the top of the funnel;
  • works well with services (pharmacies) and products (manufacturer medications).

What exactly are the specifics and peculiarities of search engine optimization for pharmacies and pharmaceutical products, and how do E-E-A-T factors come into play? We reveal these aspects in the article. 

SEO for Pharmaceutical Companies is a Path to Increase Sales

Traditionally, the connection between pharmaceutical companies and patients has been secondary in comparison to relationships with medical institutions. Now, consumers expect pharmaceutical companies to become more accessible, humane, and actively engage with clients.

Thanks to digital services, solutions, and the use of marketing tools that help patients access reliable information, pharmaceutical companies can establish stronger relationships and boost sales.

pharmacy

"Like any business or company, the primary goal of a pharma search engine optimization is to increase sales. Most often, this involves elevating a specific list of products to the top (based on profitability or agreements with the manufacturer) or securing a spot in the top 5 on the first page of search results”. Kseniia Vasilyeva, Team Lead at SEO Department

Pharmacy SEO Particularities 

While SEO for retail often emphasizes filters or categories, in pharmaceutical search engine optimization, the focus is primarily on products, and they need to be highlighted. However, the challenge arises as the product descriptions cannot be altered, as they must strictly adhere to the instructions approved.

“Unfortunately, issues arise with product descriptions as pharmacies are forced to use texts prepared by manufacturers. Consequently, creating content for a pharmacy's website is associated with the risk of duplication. Thus, gaining a competitive advantage over platforms that have been in the market for a long time can be challenging and complex”. Kseniia Vasilyeva, Team Lead at SEO Department

What's the solution? Enriching content with clusters of relevant keywords.

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Pharmacy Keyword Analysis 

Approximately 7% of all Google search queries are related to healthcare, totaling around 1 billion search queries daily.

Every touchpoint and micro-moment are crucial—from searching symptoms on Google to a telemedicine video call with a medical consultant.

According to PwC, 77% of doctors note that 'modern service methods' lead to satisfactory results for patients.

Consumers demand more engagement and personalized experiences from healthcare and pharmaceuticals. Consequently, marketing in the pharmaceutical industry must stem from a holistic understanding of its clients and create customer journeys to enhance patient opportunities.

The pharmaceutical industry is unique because its marketing efforts typically focus on increasing awareness and education rather than promoting a specific brand. This is explained by the fact that, unlike other industries where brands usually dominate discussions about a particular product, consumers interested in pharmaceuticals seek information about specific illnesses and symptoms.

When engaging in marketing for a pharmaceutical product, the first step is to determine whether it will be used by patients or healthcare professionals, rather than consumers. If your pharmaceutical product is intended for patients, your SEO strategy will be focused on researching non-branded (or generic) keywords and content that informs patients about their health conditions and treatment options.

“The primary target audience for pharmaceutical companies includes doctors, pharmacists, and medical experts as potential buyers of medications who will recommend them. Redirecting the consumer to the pharmacy is essential—informing, educating, and guiding them to the final purchase”. Kseniia Vasilyeva, Team Lead at SEO Department

This is not the primary engagement strategy but an additional, albeit effective one. The main emphasis is always on 'price, instructions, reviews, analogs,' and then we focus on describing symptoms or actual illnesses. According to this strategy, the struggle to engage consumers who are not regular pharmacy customers is secondary.

Based on Which Main Pharmacy Keywords Are Searched 

  • price + buy;
  • medicine + instructions (find out about consequences, what can/cannot be combined);
  • medicine + reviews;
  • medicine + analogs;
  • description of symptoms (headache + tablets, stomachache + what to drink, etc.)

This is a list of keywords related to pharmacies. For pharmaceutical companies, the situation is somewhat different—they cannot use keywords like 'price,' 'buy,' etc., but 'instructions,' 'composition,' and 'indications for use' are applicable.

According to this strategy, the secondary focus will be on broader consumer engagement who are not regular pharmacy customers.

Product Card and Traffic in the Pharmaceutical Industry

There is an official instruction, but it is enormous. Remember what paper instructions for medicines look like? People need to spend a lot of time to find answers to their questions. What do we do? We help save people's time by creating a product card since this is where the main traffic is concentrated.

“Using Ahrefs, we look at the specific queries people enter into search engines to quickly get answers about medicines and record the frequency of these queries. For example, the most popular is 'how to take this and that.' In the product card, we add short answers to these queries according to the instructions. Thus, we get a snippet for the most common consumer queries about the application of a specific medicine”. Kseniia Vasilyeva, Team Lead at SEO Department

For each query, you need to create a corresponding page that describes everything the user needs. Some pharmacies even practice disease glossaries where symptoms are described, and medicines are indicated.

The pharmaceutical industry has a unique approach to keyword research and optimization because the majority of efforts to attract users are based on attracting new patients for the treatment of diseases and conditions beyond the competence of a specific brand. This requires a multi-level approach where an individual keyword strategy is developed for each disease/condition. Different keywords are intended to attract patients looking for specific treatment methods.

Medical Expertise and Authoritativeness (E-E-A-T)

In pharmacies, it is crucial to promote individual products rather than categories. Unlike other niches, the E-E-A-T factor is of paramount importance here.

Essential elements include

  • Author pages with a full biography.
  • Reviewer pages with a full biography.
  • 'About Us' page.

Authoritative, expert, and reliable – this is how SEO content for the pharmaceutical industry should be, according to E-E-A-T factors.

pharmacy seo
“Trust is crucial here, as opposed to eCommerce, where assessors pay much more attention to adhering to E-E-A-T factors. Content should be created by specialized experts. For instance, cardiologists write texts exclusively on topics within their specialization. The narrower the specialization, the more authors are needed”. Dmitryi Kotilevsky, Team Lead at SEO Department

Where to Find Authors for the Pharmaceutical Themes? 

If it's pharmacies:

  • Engage your pharmacists.
  • Collaborate with clinics.
  • Search for experts on medical professional media portals.
  • Encourage students from medical institutions with subsequent verification by professional doctors.

The main thing is that all this information should be presented on the page, and the specific content should be expert and inspire trust.

“In recent years, with each core update, pharmacies have significantly increased organic traffic, provided they comply with E-A-T factors. Now, E-A-T factors are a strategic necessity for the niche. If they are not addressed, there is a risk of a critical impact during a core update”. Kseniia Vasilyeva, Team Lead at SEO Department

Local SEO for Pharmacies 

Everyone is looking for medicines in pharmacies in their city. If someone has a headache, they want to buy a pain reliever today, not wait for it to arrive by mail in two days. Therefore, it is more convenient to order and visit the nearest pharmacy.

It's important not only to localize for each city but also for each product. When people search for service providers in their city, you want to appear at the top of the results. The simplest way to optimize your site for local search is to add location keywords to page titles, categories, and content on the site.

Promodo’s Success Stories in Pharma Search Engine Optimization

Pharmacy SEO Case Study #1

Duration of the campaign: Over three years.

Tasks to accomplish: Increase in traffic.

List of activities:

  • Partially implemented E-A-T factors.
  • Implemented brand pages.
  • Added a medication directory.
  • Added an ATX classifier (currently refining).

When the first results appeared:

At the very beginning, the traffic was low—around 100 sessions. Over time, each stage of the work yielded its results. Growth on articles began after 1–2 months, while on new product pages, it took about six months.

pharmacy seo
Blog: Updating old metadata, and adjusting current articles

On the traffic graph, you can see the blog post traffic. We analyzed and updated the metadata, and improved the titles and descriptions for the articles.

pharmacy seo
Creating analog pages on the product page

Here, we've isolated the traffic for analogs. We observed that there was zero traffic initially. After adding analogs, traffic began to appear. Furthermore, we added reviews to the products as separate pages. Why? The reason is that there are many queries, such as "drug name + review."

pharmacy seo
Creation of product review pages

Typically, these reviews are found on the product page, but this page is not optimized for them. In the pharmacy niche, there is demand for queries like "product + reviews," so we are creating a separate page with a unique URL that will be optimized specifically for these user queries. The graph highlights the results of the pages optimized for "product + reviews."

pharmacy seo
Creation of instruction pages on the product pages

For example, a person finds a blister of tablets at home without packaging. The person goes online to learn about their usage: how often to take them, whether to take them before or after meals, what not to combine them with, and so on. We create separate pages specifically for such queries.

Pharmacy SEO Case Study #2

Duration of the Campaign: From July-August 2020 to February 2023.

List of Activities:

  • Conducted a comprehensive technical audit and built the website in terms of structure/catalogs (content population, etc.).
  • Configured SSR (Server-Side Rendering) as the site was on React, providing a significant boost when search engine bots started recognizing it correctly, resulting in growth up to the update.
  • Worked for six months on enhancing E-E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) factors, which yielded positive results in the summer of 2021 (added all possible pages, authors, licenses, etc.).

Dedicated significant time to the blog, which contributed a substantial portion of traffic. Topics were carefully chosen, authors were added, and content, anchor links, and interlinking between articles and products were optimized.

  • Constantly improved website loading speed, regularly checking and fixing issues with developers.
  • Addressed regional targeting during the wartime, though it did not yield significant results (as it was not fully implemented at that time).

When the First Results Appeared

The project was launched in the summer (July-August). Initial results became apparent after two months (September-October), but there were almost no indicators before that. The growth was significant, ranging from 1,000 to 1 million.

pharmacy seo

Over three years, we witnessed impressive results.

“Our team conducted a comprehensive audit and revamped the site structure, yielding significant results immediately. While we didn't have the chance to delve deeply into E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) factors initially and faced a setback during one of the updates, addressing the E-E-A-T paradigm became a top priority. For several months, our focus was exclusively on refining and enhancing E-E-A-T factors, and with the next update, we experienced a sharp spike in growth. Emphasizing blog management, we consistently added new content and improved its structure and depth”. Dmitryi Kotilevsky, Team Lead at SEO Department

Moreover, the pharmacy's website was built using scripts, and Google's bot has its own methods for processing such sites. While the bot efficiently reads what is written in HTML code on a page, when half of this code is loaded with a script, Google's bot may not always interpret it correctly, potentially missing half of the page due to this implementation.

“Another critical aspect was configuring SSR (Server-Side Rendering) because Google couldn't see part of our content. Quickly adjusting the site's capabilities to align with Google's requirements, we achieved a significant boost in traffic”. Dmitryi Kotilevsky, Team Lead at SEO Department

Pharmacy SEO Case Study #3

Completed Tasks:

  • Added new metadata.
  • Acquired high-quality backlinks.
  • Worked on E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) factors.
  • Updated product descriptions, reviewed texts by the editorial team.
  • Removed duplicate information on the website.
  • Created a product directory (where different manufacturers of the same medication "Paracetamol" are consolidated under one page).
  • Worked on improving website loading speed.

Duration of the Campaign: One year.

Tasks to Accomplish: Goal - Increase in traffic, outperform competitors.

When the First Results Appeared:

For the new pages, results were evident almost immediately with continuous growth from month to month. The most significant growth occurred around six months into the campaign when most of the enhancements were implemented.

pharmacy seo
Creation of analog pages on the product pages

pharmacy seo
Creation of product review pages

Creation of instruction pages on the product pages

pharmaceutical seo
Creation of product directory pages

Conclusion

Metadata, texts, links—everything is critically important, as for any other website. However, we emphasize some different aspects here. Pharmacies need to act following the current legislation of the country where they promote the pharmaceutical brand; mentions of self-medication and similar nuances must be clearly addressed in the content.

In addition, pharmacies face the issue of standardized product descriptions provided by manufacturers. What to do? There are not many options. Additional blocks, such as reviews, product analogs, and extra information, may be possible. However, changing product instructions is limited.

Furthermore, when launching pharmaceutical SEO, the focus should be on E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) factors. E-E-A-T factors are too crucial considering human health and related medical topics.

Finally, content. The content of blogs, categories, and other materials must be carefully considered. It's desirable to involve professionals with medical education for writing medical materials. Texts should not be arbitrary; they should be based on facts. Blog authors should be experts, and their involvement in healthcare should be confirmed by qualified specialists. 

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Published:
February 18, 2024
Updated:
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