Finding the Right Keyword Strategy for Both HCPs and Consumers

In the pharmaceutical advertising space, the struggle to segment out healthcare professionals (HCPs) and consumers is constant. Both audiences shop on Amazon, search for products and services on Google and download their music from iTunes. When they head to search engines, how do marketers segment each audience to guarantee each is directed to the correct web property?

While behavior for HCPs and consumers is similar across much of the web, when HCPs use search engines for professional reasons, their behavior changes. Understanding this shift in behavior helps us to deliver paid search advertisements to the right audience. In order to achieve optimal results and follow industry best practices, separate accounts should be set up to accurately target each audience. With each audience behaving in a unique way and showing specific behavioral tendencies, having target keywords, ad text and landing pages specific to their needs is crucial for success.

First, we must understand the search behavior of each audience.

Consumer Search Behavior

When it comes to healthcare, specifically prescription drugs, consumers have specific search patterns they follow. Based on research provided from Kantar and Google, the top pharma-related reason a consumer heads to Google or Bing is to research the drug they were just prescribed. Consumers also have a high tendency to research symptoms before heading to the doctor to help with self-diagnosis. Further, consumers are big responders to advertisements. Mobile search traffic usually skyrockets with the addition of a TV or online video campaign.

When selecting your target list of keywords and setting up a paid search campaign, the previously mentioned information can be extremely important to developing your strategy. Consumers attempting to self-diagnose create a high frequency of searches related to symptoms and various disease states. It is therefore essential to ensure symptom-related keywords and disease state terms are part of your unbranded strategy. You’ll also need to make sure your branded campaigns are adequately covering consumers’ needs for information after they are prescribed, and after they have been exposed to your advertisements.

Healthcare Professional Search Behavior

HCPs who use search engines for professional purposes show unique behaviors. Based on CMI/Compas’ proprietary research tool, Media Vitals, and research provided by Bing and Google, HCPs’ search behavior has specific characteristics that help us segment them into their own experience.

While consumers are extremely active on desktops and laptops throughout the day at work, HCP traffic on mobile devices and tablets rises during work hours. With HCPs on their feet, heading from patient to patient, mobile phones and tablets are the easiest way to access clinical information. In terms of search queries, HCPs also search differently. According to Media Vitals, 72% of HCPs use strictly technical medical terms when searching for professional reasons.

Another unique behavior of HCPs lies in what drives them to search for branded terms. Prior to or during consult, HCPs will look to brand websites for specific information. From dosing and administration information to contraindications, certain information is needed for immediate access. HCPs often use very specific long-tailed search queries in cases like this. The key to providing HCPs with a positive user experience is to ensure your ads call out the specific keyword searched—while also driving users to the specific landing page. This will help boost your quality score, which is critical for successful search marketing overall.

Understanding this user behavior can help you formulate a list of target keywords, a measurement plan and a landing page strategy that fits an HCP’s needs. If you don’t have an HCP-specific search campaign, these users become extremely frustrated—and may be left searching for information on your consumer site. HCPs are able to see 20 to 30 patients per day. By creating a separate HCP account, you can cater to their needs, provide them with the proper user experience and achieve exponential results.

In some cases, a specific HCP website is not available and HCPs are directed to consumer content. When this occurs, HCP bounce rates can be more than double industry benchmarks. Requiring immediate information, HCPs can become impatient and unwilling to navigate the entire website to find what they need.

Keyword Research

Keyword research for HCPs and consumers also varies. Due to the higher volume of consumer-focused keywords, many tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner, Übersuggest, SEMRush, Google Trends and others contain a plethora of keyword data. This data—along with a website manuscript and a deep understanding of the disease state and the drug promoted—can help you formulate the right list of keywords for your consumer targets.

Selecting a set of HCP-specific keywords can be more difficult. Due to lower volume, many long-tailed, technical search queries do not populate the tools mentioned above. This is where a deep knowledge of HCP search behavior can help formulate your target set of keywords. Since HCPs look for specific content while in or heading to a consultation with a patient, it is important to make sure all long-tailed queries are covered with exact match keywords. The use of broad match aggregates long-tailed queries to very generic keywords and ad text and can cause a poor user experience.

Managing the Overlap

Certain keywords, such as brand name related queries, may be relevant to both consumers and HCPs. In this case, it is extremely important to develop an overlap strategy to ensure you do not inflate your own cost-per-clicks (CPCs). Dedicating websites to each audience can be integral to setting up audience specific accounts. One major benefit of having separate HCP and consumer sites: You have the opportunity to “double serve” (i.e., both a consumer ad and HCP ad can be shown at the same time). As search engine results pages fill up with news, videos and Google’s Knowledge Graph, it is more important than ever to take up as much real estate as possible by double serving. Continuously monitoring the CPCs of these overlap keywords can help you eliminate inflation and keep your costs down.

Continuously watching the onsite behavior that these overlap keywords drive is also important. Based on performance, adjustments can be made to bid position and presence to ensure you are getting optimal results. One additional key opportunity comes from ensuring that the links between your HCP and consumer site are tagged properly. This level of tracking will allow you to see which keywords are driving users to the incorrect web property. This will enable you to move keywords back and forth between consumer and HCP campaigns.

Pre-qualify With Ad Text

While not related to segmenting keywords, the ad text you use is essential to guaranteeing your audience reaches the right resource. Only limited character counts are available within ad text on Google, Bing and Yahoo, so search engine marketing managers need to ensure they pre-qualify the searcher by calling out the website being advertised as geared to consumers or to HCPs.

To target consumers, many of the top campaigns running on Google now specifically use the tag line “Information For Patients,” or something similar. In most other cases, just ensuring the search query is called out within the ad text is acceptable.

For HCP specific targeting, pre-qualifying users is a must. Specifically calling out “HCP” or “Physician” within the ad text can help reduce clicks from consumers. At times the term “Professional” can be used, but the meaning of the term “professional” can confuse consumers and actually entice them to click, thus landing on the wrong web property.

In the online world, one size clearly does not fit all. But following these suggestions will help you better segment HCPs and consumers, and allow you to deliver the right message.

  • Justin Freid

    Justin Freid is Chief Growth & Innovation Officer at CMI/Compas. Justin is focused on finding opportunities for CMI/Compas and its clients to grow, from building new tools and partnerships to leading sales and marketing efforts.


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