Four simple tactics for shaping patient and provider conversations.


Lesson one: Begin with a well-thought-out web content strategy.

More and more, pharma, biotech and medical device firms are looking to content strategy to engage users, retain business and solve content problems online. High bounce rate is one such problem. Bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who view one page on your website, then leave without browsing further. These visitors might leave because:

  • They aren’t finding the information they want.
  • The site is confusing or hard to navigate.
  • Content is irrelevant or off-putting.

Analytics firm Kiss Metrics estimates that the average site’s bounce rate is 40.5 percent1, and the user’s average time on a site is just over three minutes. For many pharma and device websites, bounce represents a serious liability. The problem is that users are going somewhere else for information—somewhere you don’t have a voice in the conversation. Whether you have a breakthrough drug or an up-and-coming device, when you’re not part of the conversation, your product is vulnerable to misinformation, negative critiques, and lost sales. A well-thought-out content strategy combats high bounce rates by:

  • Anticipating user needs and providing useful content,
  • Simplifying navigation, and
  • Segmenting content.

Let’s look at content strategy and see why more companies are considering it a competitive asset.


The term “content strategy” has been in use for more than a decade. The field developed in response to the unique problems that occur when content—mostly text, but also images and video—goes digital. For online marketers, these problems involve keeping users onsite, getting them to the right information, and generating conversions. For site content managers, these problems include creating, cataloguing and refreshing pages of content. Created to fit the needs of both groups, content strategy is broad and inclusive, as adept at supporting cutting-edge websites as it is at managing exacting legal reviews (Figure 1).


Content strategy recognizes that users are human beings with unique demographics, education levels, needs, and concerns. Websites that acknowledge and address these variables have a better chance of connecting with and retaining their intended audiences. Users want meaningful interactions. On your site, that may mean finding specific information, evaluating a product, or making a purchase decision. The tone of the interaction is also important: Users should feel that you respect their time and take their needs and interests seriously. If forced to come up with a definition, you might say that:

Content strategy is the creation of intelligent systems allowing human beings to interact meaningfully with digital content.

Content strategy bridges the gaps between brand strategist, copywriter, designer, information architect, and developer. It asks everyone to ask new questions about site content and come up with answers together. Because of this, content strategy is uniquely poised to unify your online presence, instill more trust in your brand, and help sell more products.


Your website is a stand-in for your brand. The colors, imagery and language of your site convey your product’s personality. The quality of your site evokes your product’s quality. And the usability of your site conveys whether your brand is friendly and credible or not. Meanwhile, the greater Internet offers reviews, rumors, and outside information about your product that may be positive or negative, well-informed or ill-informed. The good news is that your website is a place where you shape and guide the conversation. If you satisfy your customers, you may keep them from going offsite. But even if they do, you’ve influenced the conversation by clearly presenting your own information. Here are some content strategy recommendations for improving usability and credibility.


The most important test of your website is whether users can quickly and easily accomplish their goals. The first step is anticipating your user’s needs. Users may visit to:

  • Get more product details.
  • Evaluate the side effects of your drug.
  • Get in touch with a human representative.

Recognize that user needs and opinions differ depending on the kinds of users you have. Physician-focused prescribing or purchasing information can be alienating when it appears alongside patient information. Create separate sections of your site for physicians and patients. Then consider more specific segmentation within each group based on specific user needs. Of course, giving users options isn’t enough. Provide them with a distinct starting point and use calls to action to create a clear pathway through your website and to a conversion. The patient website for Vaser body-shaping systems by Sound Surgical Technologies ( features recommended next steps at the bottom of each page, based on where the user is along the sales funnel (Figure 2).

“Conversion” doesn’t always mean “sale,” of course. Instead, it may mean downloading a coupon, signing up for more information, or finding a physician. Give the option for conversion on every page. Too many calls to action can overburden the user. Make user decisions simple and more users will follow through. The website for Cochlear Americas ( features generous white space, with pertinent decisions on each page (Figure 3). Every click on the Cochlear site lets users know that they’re going somewhere.


Many pharma and device companies—often because of regulatory concerns—use dry, flavorless language in their website copy. Others don’t even think about tone, addressing patients the same way they would speak to clinicians—or worse, their internal marketing teams. Tone matters, and many sites are showing that “lighter” language can sometimes be both appropriate and more engaging to consumers. An example is copy from the Pepcid website (, which tells users, “Your search is over. What a relief,” and acknowledges that heartburn is “different for everybody and no fun for anybody” (Figure 4). Language like this helps form a connection with Pepcid users, lowering their anxiety level and making them more open to diving deeper. The fact that the site is simple, snappy and beautiful goes a long way toward building trust and keeping users on-site.

By considering tone, you can also help users make choices on your site. Consider these questions when creating site navigation:

  • When filling out a form, is it more natural for users to “Save” the page, “Submit” their information, or “Finish” the form?
  • Are they more likely to download a “Voucher” or “Coupon”?
  • Does “Free” indicate your generosity or your product’s lack of value?

User testing and surveys can help create an optimized site where potential customers feel confident making decisions.


No product—or website—lives in a vacuum. This is blindingly clear in the pharma, biotech, and medical device arenas, where new studies and products appear almost daily. Fail to acknowledge these advances, and your website— and brand—will quickly appear out of date. Maintain the credibility of your site by adding information that reflects your changing product space. Schedule regular site updates every two or three months. If your site includes a blog or news section, update it at least once every two weeks. Refreshed content can also improve your search ranking. In 2010, Google launched a new web indexing system called Caffeine, which takes freshness into account when providing search results. “Searchers want to find the latest relevant content, and publishers expect to be found the instant they publish,” Google said.2 Today, content freshness affects roughly 35 percent of search results.3


Use data to optimize your content. Besides taking steps to reduce home page bounce rates, also examine where users give up after leaving the home page. If a user exits your site on a low-value page, it may indicate that they are confused or frustrated because it is difficult to get to meaningful information. Evaluate the content on that page to see if it can be improved—or removed. Your site may be seen as successful if users are exiting after downloading a coupon, completing a form, or spending time on a page with crucial information. Identify high-value pages, and make it easier for users to access them. Finally, consider split-testing your content. Create two or more versions of high-value pages, and test them to see what content users respond to best. One easy way to test messaging is through Google AdWords—those three-line ads that show up in search results. Create multiple versions of the same ad and determine which headlines connect the best. Then apply this learning to your site content.


This is one of the most dynamic periods in the history of the medical industry. Patient and physician choice in treatments and devices is at an all-time high, while the ranks of qualified sales reps are shrinking4. We are fast approaching a point where marketers’ success will be heavily influenced by their ability to convert through their websites. Content strategy offers concrete tactics to improve online content, connect with customers, enhance credibility and keep users engaged. Most of all, it reminds us that the web is a two-way street. By treating all users with consideration, you increase the chances that they will reward you with their time, respect and money. When you shape the conversation, both you and the customer win.

1. “Bounce Rate Demystified.”
2. “Our new search index: Caffeine.” June 8, 2010.
3. “Giving you fresher, more recent search results.” Nov. 3, 2011.
4. “The Doctor Won’t See You Now.” content/07_06/b4020046.htm Bloomberg Businessweek, Feb 5, 2007.





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