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5 Ways Pharma Marketers Can Take the Guesswork out of SEM


The high art of separating patient and professional search audiences

The scope of multichannel messaging knows no bounds, healthcare marketers authoring ever more messages for more channels and tracking more data because of it. Nonetheless, taking the time to use all available tools for intuiting and properly routing patient and professional audiences in paid search efforts remains a top priority. This is a marketing concern before it’s a regulatory one – it’s simply best practice to divide these two audiences in the name of sound marketing fundamentals, but the way to do it right is not as obvious as it appears.

Solid data from in-market campaign feedback always trump assumptions about bright lines when it comes to keyword allocations that maximize a paid search campaign’s performance. Here I’ll review five tactics for data-driven audience alignment:

   1. Trust audiences to self-identify

Presuming that patients don’t query clinical terms is a fallacy – in fact, for newly diagnosed patients, much of what they first learn about their disease comes from a conversation with their doctor. When clinical terms are classified as “HCP keywords,” and excluded from patient campaigns, a large swath of the patient audience is inevitably driven to the HCP website.

Two separate domains (one for each audience) further allow ads to be double-served on the most relevant keywords, enabling users to see both and choose accordingly. When a given keyword performs well for one campaign but not the other, we learn the keyword belongs to just the one. This approach allows user-supplied data to decide whether a given keyword is relevant to consumers, HCPs or both.

   2. Use negative keywords specific to each audience

Once a term is designated as specifically HCP or consumer-oriented, it can be applied as a negative keyword to the opposing campaign. We might find a patient-related keyword like “definition” (as in “What’s the definition of metastasis?”) to be a good candidate for a negative in an HCP campaign. We might equally find an HCP-related keyword like “package” (as in “brand package insert”) to be a good candidate for a negative in a consumer campaign. This data can be sourced from the Search Terms Report.

   3. Monitor use of the crossover link

Branded drug sites for patients typically have a “For Healthcare Providers” link, while sites for professionals typically have a “For Patients” link. Anyone who finds themselves in the wrong place can easily access the appropriate information “on the other side.” By identifying patterns found among users of these links, insights can be derived to better divide traffic sources.

   4. Monitor conversion activity on the other side

It’s not uncommon for an HCP campaign to accidentally attract and refer consumers, i.e. visitors enter the HCP ad, but complete conversion activities on the consumer side as they navigate their way to more digestible consumer information. True HCPs aren’t doing this. Again, conversion data is the beacon from which more precise divisions of audiences can be mapped.

   5. Be crystal-clear in HCP ad copy

Ad text should repel those who aren’t the right audience. Many consumers aren’t familiar with the acronym “HCP,” weakening its usefulness as a qualifier. With the advent of , there’s more space than ever to be clarify the ad is “for Healthcare Professional.” Take advantage.

Actually be data driven

When it comes to paid search keywords, making irreversible decisions before data has been returned from a live campaign betrays the very achievable ideal of making “data-driven decisions.” These tactics support evidence-based marketing, obviating the need to guess beforehand whether a term “sounds like an HCP keyword” or not. Following the data will ensure each audience finds the information that best meets its needs.

Wanting more digital pharma insight? Access my whitepaper for examples of current best practices, case studies and anecdotes illustrating real-world applications of all 8 principals for digital pharma marketing success:

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