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The importance of SEO when trying to reach HCPs online

Written by Hannah Weaver

The importance of SEO when trying to reach HCPs online

Covid-19 has reshaped the way clinicians and other healthcare professionals (HCPs) look for information, new medicines and technologies. In the past, in-person demonstrations, conferences and meetings with sales representatives were a tried-and-true method of reaching and engaging healthcare professionals. 

Even before the pandemic began, medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies were pivoting to offer more of their information and sales services online. In fact, according to a 2019 ePharma survey, only 54% (down from 67% in 2018) of doctors surveyed had met a sales rep in person in 2019. 

While paid advertisements and email marketing are common routes for disseminating information about new products, many companies underestimate the impact of SEO.

In this blog post, we take a closer look at the importance of SEO when trying to reach HCPs online. We also cover the challenges of online marketing today and what you can do to ensure your information and products are easy to find.

What is SEO and how does it work in the healthcare industry?

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. In short, it is a way of ensuring that when people search for your content using Google or another search engine, they will be able to find it with relative ease. 

SEO is also about predicting what a person is actually looking for when they search for nonspecific topics. For example, someone searching for ‘ovarian cancer’ is most likely looking for an overview of the symptoms. Someone searching for ‘choriocarcinomas’, a type of ovarian cancer, is probably already informed about the basics. It could be that they’ve recently been diagnosed and want to know more about the treatment options. 

A specialist SEO medical copywriter can help identify reader needs and ensure that the content is optimised so it appears on the search engine results page. They will thoroughly research the keyword (the term the reader searches for) to find out precisely what information they’re looking for, and structure the content accordingly. They will also research related keywords – for example, a doctor searching for ‘immuno-oncology drugs’ might follow up with a search for ‘immuno-oncology drug contraindications’. Having all this information on one page helps make your organisation a reliable and comprehensive source for HCPs.

Challenges in how HCPs research online

While HCPs are increasingly moving online to find information and products, this audience presents a unique set of challenges.

They may not start with a Google search. Every clinician has individual preferences, but some stick to sources they trust, like MedScape or the BMJ

However, research shows that 38% of HCPs commonly visit manufacturer’s websites for information. They might search directly for your brand or for a product you offer. Applying SEO to your content helps ensure they can find exactly what they’re looking for.

For example, using SEO best practices means a doctor searching for ‘CGM children’ (or ‘continuous glucose monitor suitable for children’) will find information about your glucose monitors at the top of the search engine results page.

The 2019 ePharma study found that HCPs are increasingly trusting of pharmaceutical companies’ websites, especially those that act as a partner in the pursuit of better health outcomes, rather than the promoter of a single product. The HCPs said they would like to see more data on efficacy and outcomes, as well as clinical insights that they cannot get elsewhere.

Further research found that nearly 90% of HCPs say they continue to look for and consume information related to their profession outside of work hours. This community is highly motivated to continue learning and to keep on top of new drug and product developments in their field – the key is making sure they find what they’re looking for.

Patients vs. HCPs

It is important to take a different approach when writing for HCPs than for the general public. Searches from the general public tend to be very high volume (e.g., ‘cranberry juice for UTIs’), related to symptoms or home remedies, and use colloquial terms.

HCP searches, on the other hand, may be highly specific and use medical or technical terminology. They often use long-tail searches – which use more than three words – while trying to locate information on dosage, chemical compounds in the products and possible allergic reactions, the results of clinical trials, and more. 

For example, research found that the top 10 oncology-related searches from HCPs included:

  • Immuno-oncology drugs
  • DNA damage response pathway
  • Gene therapy market

These searches require very different responses to those from the general public, which included ‘cancer treatment’ and ‘what is chemotherapy’. While patient searches are high volume, HCP searches are high value – one HCP referer may be responsible for dozens of patients in a single day.

In conclusion

In a 2022 report, nearly 50% of physicians said they’ve never had a question for a sales rep that they couldn’t find the answer to online. This shows the increasing need for medical companies to provide robust and detailed content written with HCPs in mind.

In addition, the pandemic has significantly decreased contact between sales representatives and HCPs, dawning a new era in digital communication. It is more vital than ever for healthcare organisations to recognise the importance of SEO in their marketing strategy.

By ensuring your content is SEO compliant, HCPs will find your information and products easily as they try to find new and effective solutions for their patients.


Sources:

Pharmaphorum

Healthlink Dimensions

Bionest

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