Alternative Media: Search-Engine Marketing: Click, Click ... Are You There?

Pharma marketers turn to pay-per-click advertising to boost their product's reach.
Mar 01, 2007

Alex Porter
Are your static banner ads underperforming? Are you paying through the nose for the perfect ad position only to discover that your click-through rates are in the low single digits? Chances are that your tricked-out, flashy pharma ad is being ignored because people aren't proactively looking for the information that it's offering.

An alternative that is proving to be quite successful is search-engine marketing (SEM), a set of Internet marketing methods that increases the visibility of a Web site in search-engine results pages (SERPs). According to Pew Internet & America Life Project, approximately 45.7 million Americans use the Internet to search for information about pharmaceutical products. More than 26 percent go online to research prescription drugs.

There are three main subsets of an SEM campaign, and they can be deployed independently or as a combined effort:

Whos Spending Online?
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Marketers bid on keywords that correspond to their Web site. The highest bidder receives the top advertisement position when readers search for that particular keyword. Popular keywords can be very pricey, costing upwards of $10 or more per click. Every time a consumer clicks on an ad, the marketer gets charged by the search engine.

Paid Inclusion Marketers pay a flat fee to be guaranteed inclusion in a search engine's natural listings. However, Yahoo! is currently the only search engine offering this service.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Companies can boost their site's organic search ranking by improving their Web site's structure and content. Sites that are more relevant to a keyword naturally will rank higher.

All three of these SEM methods open the door for pharma marketers to reach their target audience online. But for companies looking to use this new mode of communication to its fullest potential, PPC marketing is the most effective method. Not only is the consumer initiating the communication by "actively researching" a topic, but the pharma marketer is in control of the placement and messaging of their ad. This gives companies flexibility in changing their messages and creative— and in the way they reach consumers.

PPC Campaign Nuts and Bolts

TOP 10 Tips for a Successful Pay-Per-Click Campaign
PPC marketing is the process of purchasing text-link advertising from search engines so that an ad and a link to the company Web site appear in the sponsored listings (typically at the top and righthand side of the search results). The order of these listings is based on a number of factors, including the cost per click that the advertiser is willing to bid, the click-through rate (number of times a consumer clicks on the ad compared with number of searches), and the relevance of the landing page to the search query.

Launching a PPC campaign is not a highly technical process, but it does require a certain level of understanding and time commitment to make it successful. Before launching a PPC campaign, make sure that you have taken care of all the essentials. Here's your must-do list:

  • Develop a Web site rich in content, with an easily identifiable theme.
  • Identify keywords and keyword phrases related to the pharmaceutical product, health condition, or disease.
  • Write ad copy specific to the keywords.
  • Explore and consider all search engines, including major search engines, lesser-known engines, and healthcare Web portals.
  • Identify methods of measurement (i.e., cost per click, click-through rate, and conversion percentage) to measure campaign success.
  • Develop a process to adjust bid prices and desired position in order to optimize the campaign's ROI.
  • Track, measure, test—and test again.

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