Alternative Media: Spruce Up Your Site - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Alternative Media: Spruce Up Your Site
Take advantage of the latest Internet tools and bring your Web site into the new millennium


Pharmaceutical Executive



FIVE Signs of "Web Site Malaise"
Is your work fully integrated? Your organization may be launching remarkable efforts in silos. There may be a new patient program, a successful new division, a new physician campaign. But great marketing is about more than just great programs and creative—it's about integration. Add the information to your site in a way that includes the full brand and company message. Activities undertaken in the offline world should always be evaluated for their appropriateness online.

Optimize for Search

Healthcare has always been a popular subject for online users. Today, 95 percent of those looking for health information use search engines—and the Internet is the second-most important tool for finding health information, trailing only physicians.

In fact, each day, eight million American adults look online for health information—the same number that, on a typical day, pays bills online or uses the Internet to look up a phone number or an address.

So are these users finding your site? No matter how good your content or design is, if your site isn't optimized for search, the answer to this question is "probably not."

By using a combination of organic and paid search engine optimization tools, your organization can ensure that the patients, doctors, and consumers make it to your site. This technique involves choosing keywords that are well-suited for your site. Companies also can bid on premium keywords to guarantee a higher search-engine ranking (see "Search-Engine Marketing: Click, Click...Are You There?" in the March 2007 issue of Pharmaceutical Executive). For your organization, optimizing for search can translate into qualified Web traffic, higher brand awareness, and maximum ROI.

Once you get people to your site, your Web face-lift will keep them there.

Build a Social Network

There's no denying the drawing power of a compelling Web site—but introducing a user-interaction feature to your site can get visitors to keep coming back. Today, consumer-generated content is the fastest-growing segment on the Web. According to Visible Technologies, a Grey Healthcare Group alliance company, 1.5 million new consumer comments are written on the Web every 24 hours. As the Internet continues to evolve, the traditional paradigm of pushing communication to the user is no longer as effective as it once was. Instead, consumers and patients are using social-networking tools such as health-information forums and Web portals to search out information about their ailments.

By offering consumers the ability to leave comments on branded and unbranded blogs, Web forums, and traditional Web sites, you create a moving flow of information to complement your otherwise static site. Companies can spur dialogue by offering topics pertaining to a particular disease and ways to treat it. This type of Web environment helps build stronger relationships with patients by empowering them to share information with others.

Adding a social-networking component to your existing Web site, or partnering with an association to create a new one, can raise the value of your brand as more people want to participate with you and talk about the issues. If you want to start small, try adding the ability for visitors to leave comments on informational postings. Expand on this by implementing a Web forum where patients can register and write about their conditions so that other users can read and respond.

With social-networking technology, pharmaceutical companies can get a faster and better handle on the language and experiences of patients and physicians, and use that knowledge to better market to consumers. Having a Web site that facilitates patient dialogue will ultimately be a choice you have to, and should want to, make.

Time to Act

In just a short time, healthcare and the digital world have evolved considerably, taking the Web-marketing paradigm with them. Whether your Web site needs tiny tweaks or total brand realignment, it's time to get started. With the proper investment, your organization can reap the rewards of growing customer engagement, stronger brand loyalty, and deeper public trust.

Sharon Callahan is president of Summit Grey. She can be reached at


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