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Is Paid Search Over For Pharma Marketers?

Posted by | 5:17pm on Monday, April 13, 2009

Sponsored ads can still be a healthy part of a pharmaceutical brand’s marketing mix. 

Lindsay Millsap, Search Engine Marketing Strategist at Siren Interactive, contributes this post:

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent out an unprecedented 14 warning letters to some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical giants regarding misleading Internet ads, also known as paid search advertising or sponsored ads. Sponsored ads are the pay-per-click ads featured in the sidebars of most major search engine results pages, including Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft Live.

The FDA’s Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC) accused the drug companies for three main violations:

  • Omitting complete risk and indication information associated with the product
  • Not including the drug’s full name in the ad
  • Not including details of the drug’s limitations, such as age, gender, drug interactions, etc.

Including all of this required information into a 70-character ad is, shall we say, difficult.  But does this mean the end of paid search advertising for Pharma marketers?  Not at all.  Sponsored ads can still be a healthy part of a pharmaceutical brand’s marketing mix. After all, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which is the combined use of SEO and sponsored ads to promote a website in the search engines, is an invaluable form of online marketing, especially as search engines continue to grow as a leading source of disease and drug information for both patients and healthcare providers.

SEM should remain an integral part of your online marketing strategy. More than ever, these new standards emphasize the importance of SEO as part of your SEM strategy. In addition to paid search campaigns, now is the time to focus on developing a solid SEO strategy to optimize your website, ensuring your site’s most important content ranks high in the search engine listings. To see if you are you on the path to a successfully blended SEM strategy, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is your site user-friendly? Just remember – audience first, search engine second. Using regulatory-approved language, write user-friendly content that is rich with relevant keywords and speaks to your audience.
  2. Is your site accessible? Be sure your site is accessible to search engine crawlers. While Flash videos are impressive, they impede crawlers from accessing your site.
  3. Have you indentified target keywords? Perform keyword research to identify the keywords your audience is using to find your website.
  4. Is meta data in place? Confirm that title tags, description tags, and URLs are optimized with keywords relevant to each page.
  5. Are your links optimized? In conjunction with an HTML navigation, include keyword-rich links to other content on the website, as well as to external websites.
  6. Do you work closely with an SEM partner who has a strong understanding of pharma regulations?

Finding the right balance of SEO and paid search will deliver more qualified traffic to your website. This “Search synergy” is key to an effective SEM program. Start with optimizing the website to improve organic rankings, and then utilize paid search campaigns to drive traffic to key pages. But as we all have learned, be sure your ads comply with known standards. These best practices will help to ensure a successful SEM strategy for promoting your brand online.

(Image courtesy of Redvers via Flickr)

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Siren Interactive
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  • Rare Disease Relationship Marketing Experts
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