In today’s world, digital presence is more important than ever. And try as you might, you may be shooting yourself in the foot if you’re not properly optimizing the digital experience for doctors, patients, and other visitors to your website. By definition, search engine optimization (SEO) combines strategy and tactics to increase visitors to your website by earning a high-ranking placement in the unpaid search results page of search engines such as Google.

In the pharma world, we have a lot of opportunity to increase the experience. How? Put marketers in the shoes of those searching your site. Marketers typically focus on brand language, buzzwords, and the like. But with search use so prevalent today, website optimization is critical to success. These 17 tips, listed in order of importance, will help you do that properly.

1. Keyword Management

The key to creating successful keywords: Use the words that people will actually type into a search engine, rather than just the right word. You do this by writing in a way that would fit natural language queries or voice-based searching. For instance, take “diabetes.” This word appears everywhere. So, instead of trying to stand out with that keyword, focus in on search behavior, long tail keywords and questions. For this example, “diabetes injection” offers less search volume (but still a good amount), making it less competitive and a better keyword to use. Another keyword tip: Include the subject in title tags.

2. Quality Content

Your website must have quality content and landing pages. And in today’s SEO, that means no duplicate content or keywords and no old content. This includes no duplications in H1s (the header tag, or the <h1> tag in HTML, will usually be the title of a post or other emphasized text on the page, the largest text that stands out), title tags, meta descriptions, URLs or base content. Also, make sure the ISI information doesn’t follow through on every page the user visits. That’s duplicate content!

3. Meta Data

Title tags and meta descriptions need to have quality researched keywords to help users and Google know what the site is about and fully optimize guidelines on character count. For example, Title Tag: Healthcare Advertising Company | GSW–A full-service agency that helps healthcare brands speak to people. A meta description with natural language will increase your click through rate.

4. Effective URL and H1 Management

Create SEO-friendly URLs and H1s by including the subject, while again, not duplicating keywords. URLs need to go to the appropriate page and have similar keywords to what their meta data has. Some examples:

The good site will use keywords with no duplicates:


The bad site will have duplicates in URL and lack of keywords:


5. Relevant Images Have Alt Tags

While images on websites are beautiful, Google can’t read the text within them. Optimize those images by giving them a title and description, and make sure they don’t take too long to load (see more on this in our eighth tip).

Too many times, we’ve seen pharma websites that have a beautiful landing page with an image, but the only content on the homepage is ISI information. When you have an image, include the keywords above the ISI information on the homepage, which allows Google to index the homepage appropriately with your key search terms. All the information a user needs should be on your homepage, rather than just showing a pretty picture.

6. Mobile-Friendly and Multiple Browser Capability

With mobile surpassing desktop use, we take a mobile first approach to ensure our content is usable across the entire spectrum of screen sizes. Your job is to make sure that no matter what type of device your potential customers are using, your website will load properly and provide a great user experience.

7. It’s All About the Links

Links give your site credibility. You should be using both outbound and internal links. Outbound could include linking to a reputable site about the disease your product treats. Back links are partner sites that link to your page. That way, you position yourself as a credible source of information. Interlinking lets the user click around within your site, getting them to additional information quickly. But never buy links! Buying links to your website is a good way to get blacklisted.

8. Page Speed and Load Time

If a website doesn’t load quickly, or takes forever to get to new information on other pages, I for one, am going to go elsewhere for research. Ensuring speed on your website keeps the user engaged with your site.

9. No Hiding

A couple of ways things are hidden on a website include:

  • Expandables: I see these used a lot, but wish I didn’t. If your user has to complete more than two steps to read your content, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Search engines don’t pick up that content, so it’s a big waste of time if you put your well-crafted content in an expandable.
  • Hidden Links/Text/Content: I’m not sure why people do this, but they do. Sometimes pages will contain hidden links with invisible text, but if you click on them, they will take you out to a bad site. That also gets you blacklisted.

10. No Intrusive Desktop Interstitials

Have you ever met someone who likes a pop-up on the screen when they’re trying to read the content on a website? We strongly recommend against using them, but if you really want to, at least make sure they don’t cover any of your content and that it’s easy for the user to close if they’re not interested.

11. On-Page Site Map

Give the users a way to find information quickly by providing an on-page site map (you’ll typically find them at the bottom of a webpage). Google uses them too, to help users find your information.

12. Technical SEO

It’s always good practice to make sure you replace broken links and that you have 301 (or permanent) webpage redirects, which send users and search engines to a different URL from the one they originally requested.

Another favorite used in this area is schema markup. Schema markup is an HTML snippet that provides topic-related information to search engines, enriching the search results and helping drive users to the most relevant of information. Schema markup can also assist Siri, Google Home, and Alexa to return more relevant search results in response to voice searches by users.

13. The User Experience

Use a team of people who do nothing other than aim to understand the experience the user encounters when visiting a website to ensure the functional design makes sense and works for visitors. User experience should tie back to the general objective of your website. Don’t just set up a website for the purposes of having one. Instead, optimize your site for users so that it helps you achieve your business goals.

If people must use the search bar of your website to find basic information that should be included in the site map, that is a major red flag. If you’re seeing that, it’s time to rework the website’s organization.

14. Incorporating Social Media and Curated Content

Social media is a wonderful way to interact with key audiences. Make sure social is a part of your website and that the information from your website is easily sharable on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Another great SEO tip is to include curated content on your site. This is the content that others write on your behalf, like reviews. This content is great because it’s unique content written using natural language.

15. Site Measurement Goals

Goal setting is as important in SEO as it is everywhere else in business. You have to track and measure to see how you’re doing against that goal. When you set up your SEO, you need to set up your measurements and analytics too, to ensure it’s working for you and not against you!

16. Incorporate a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Section

FAQs tend to be written in a way that would include more conversational keywords and different variations of keywords that are more likely to be used in natural language.

17. For Some, Local SEO Can Also Be Effective

When using these tips, local SEO can be focused on optimizing your online presence so that web pages will be displayed by search engines when a user enters a local search for products or services. When implementing local SEO, focus on:

  • Procuring a business listing in Google.
  • Ensuring that you’re included in online directories and citations with your name, address, phone (and clean up any duplicates so as to not cause confusion about which listing is the accurate one).
  • Encouraging your customers to post online reviews.
  • Optimizing your keywords based on location and relevancy. A good example is: Italian restaurant | Westerville, OH.
  • Building links to other local businesses.

For any company, big or small, focus on these tips and dedicate resources to create an excellent, optimized website. The investment is worth it.

  • Stephan Saba

    Stephan Saba is SVP, Digital, Media & Experience at GSW, a Syneos Health company. Stephan heads digital, media, and experience for GSW, a Syneos Health Company, based in Columbus, Ohio with offices in New York, Pennsylvania, and Canada. For more information, visit


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