According to the latest findings from Manhattan Research, more than 100 million people in the U.S. are going online for health information. DTC marketers should understand that each consumer pursues his or her online health research differently, and that their individual approaches change for each health problem they investigate. The amount of time they spend online depends on how important their health problem is.

DTC marketers may be happy with their product websites’ unique visitor and total visit numbers—but they also need to understand that it’s just one stop on the consumers’ quest to collect the health information they need to make treatment decisions. Depending on the health condition, there is an excellent chance that these online health-information consumers are also going to go to health portals and use social media to see what others have to say about available products.

So how can you keep people engaged with your product website? First, conduct research with your target audience to find out what information they are looking for around health issues. Second, integrate health information from credible third parties via shared or purchased content. Finally, ask some of your thought leaders to write content that specifically addresses the needs and wants of your audience. Consumers usually like to read content written by healthcare professionals, and it’s always good to include a short bio of the author.

But you can’t do it just once. Your online health information has to be updated regularly to continually engage your audience. This is especially true if you have a lot of return visitors to your site. Brands are media today, and you should develop a media plan to update the content on your site regularly, and not only when your product, or the health condition it treats, is in the news.

Your objective in updating content is not to make your site word heavy. Rather, your goal is to help your customers and consumers cut through the clutter of information overload. Ask one of your thought leaders, for example, to comment on relevant recent health news. The more information you provide, the more consumers will consider you a “go to” source for health information, and this greatly enhances your brand.

The one thing you should not do is overhaul your site every year, changing the look and feel just for the sake of change. Arbitrary renovation will confuse regular users; it’s going to drive them away. Consumers don’t have the time to relearn site navigation when sites upgrade. Moving the cheese too much will frustrate them, and they’ll look elsewhere for health information.

A good online brand experience starts with great research and insights from your target audience, and continues with a usability study to ensure that consumers will find your site easy to use and understand. The more time and effort you put in, the better the results you will get out.

  • Richard Meyer

    Richard Meyer has worked in healthcare marketing for more than 12 years and is the author of www.worldof dtcmarketing.com and www.newmediaand marketing.com. He is the Director of Online Strategic Solutions.

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