Search engine advertising (SEA) is a form of paid advertising in search engines. Paid ads achieve the highest position in Google and can be identified by the green cube that says ‘Adv.’ SEA can be very handy if you want to enhance the online presence of your brand or product. This marketing technique is already used by many companies in different industries, but what is it that makes it so special for marketers in the pharmaceutical industry?
Before the setup of an SEA campaign you start with keyword research. This analysis shows what terms, those that are relevant to your product or service, have the highest amount of search volume. Besides this you look at the number of competitors that are advertising for these search terms. The more companies advertise for certain search terms, the more expensive it is to advertise. This is also dependent on the relevancy of the ad with regards to the search query and the quality of the landing page the traffic lands on. If these are in perfect condition, the search term becomes cheaper.
The work does not stop after implementing an Adwords campaign. It is important that the different ads are being monitored. Through constantly analyzing the relevancy of the keywords, the texts, click-through-rate, number of impressions, cost-per-click-bid, competition, search behavior and the path to conversion on the landing page, you make sure that you get the best out of your budget. To set up an SEA-campaign a lot of time and specific knowledge of Adwords is needed. If this is not available within the organization it might be smart to hire an agency.
So why is SEA interesting to pharmaceutical companies? Patients are increasingly self-reliant and more often than not take matters into their own hands. They want good information and look for it themselves. This presents opportunities for marketers of, for example, OTC drugs. Because consumers look for information on diseases or sympoms themselves, it is a good choice to use this information for advertising in search engines. This is after all the place where people look for it. With commercials on television you reach a large group, but not specifically the group that is looking for your product. A strong online presence in Google enhances brand awareness relative to your competitors, that often also advertise online.
The demand for, but also the supply of OTC medicines is enormous. Some consumers look for a product they already know about, while other people look for solutions for certain symptoms or a disease. There are less strict rules that apply to advertising for OTC drugs than advertising for other medicines. As a marketer you can prepare for this by deploying Adwords. For example, if a consumer is looking for an anti-itch product, he can use the search terms ‘anti-itch creams’ (see image below). If the search engine results page displays your website as one of the first ones, the landing page contains relevant information and looks appealing, then this will probably lead to more conversions. You are offered the chance to educate visitors of your page on a certain problem, and at the same time you offer a solution. Besides this you can refer to (online) shops where the product is available.
Both Google and the government have different rules that pertain to advertising for medicines. The demands of Google per country are also different. It is very important to note this.
In Dutch law there exists a distinction between two kinds of advertisements for medicines: advertising for prescription medicines and advertising for OTC medicines. Public advertising for prescription medicines is forbidden by law. It is permissible to advertise by the professionals, like doctors that prescribe the medicine. For self-care medicines public advertising is permissible, but you do need to conform to specific rules. The advertising cannot be directed at children and the claim cannot be made that the product is better than another product. Besides this there should be stated clearly that it is a medicine.
For medical devices and health care products other rules apply.
For Google regulations per country are different. They might differ from country to country if advertising for prescription drugs, self-care medicines and (online) pharmacies is allowed. The Netherlands allows advertising for self-care medication and pharmacies. It also allows for pharmacies to advertise for search terms of prescription medicines. Manufacturers of medicines have to be certified by Google to be allowed to place advertisements. Seeing that there are many rules and these can differ per sector and per country, it can be wise for organizations to use an external agency for these matters.
SEA offers many opportunities for marketers in the pharmaceutical industry. By meeting consumers halfway in their search for solutions for certain afflictions, you can connect them to the organization. By referring the consumer to an (online) outlet, you offer information on the different afflictions and a solution at the same time. If the consumer suffers from the same kind of afflictions in the future, there is a big chance that they will return after a positive experience.