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How to use SEO correctly

How to execute digital: Faisal Ahmed discusses the best ways pharma companies can make sure their sites are picked up by search engines

How to use SEO correctly in pharmaIn the third of our series discussing the practical steps pharma companies can take to establish themselves in a digital environment, we look at search engine optimisation (SEO) - one of the most important factors in getting people to our websites.

It's an area that often gets forgotten about by pharma, despite figures that show 150 million people in Europe actively search online for healthcare information every week, while Google says healthcare related topics are its second biggest search terms.

So do you really want to drive awareness of your brand/disease area/product?

If 'yes' then read on….

What is SEO?
To help your organic search results you need to concentrate on two things: on-site SEO, which is internal coding on your website (both mobile and PC based), and off-site SEO, which includes sites that link through to your website. This off-site SEO can be press releases, related links and social media websites.

On average 96 per cent of users do not go past page one of search results, and searches at the top of the page are regarded as legitimate information.

So the right SEO can really help you get thousands of visitors to your website, while not thinking about SEO can have you buried on page 10 of the search results, where no one goes. 

Top Google search results for 'Gout'

Top Google search results for 'gout'

How do these search engines find my website?
Search engines use software called spiders; they trawl the internet for words related to what you type in search engines and then they index these pages. To find more websites, the spiders visit links on that site that are related to the appropriate content and then index them. Typical things these spiders look for are keywords appearing in the page's content, title or images. Google says it uses over 200 various methods to relate your site to the keywords searched for.

How does Yahoo and Bing recognise my website?

  • In the visible page text, include words users might choose as search query terms to find the information on your site
  • Limit all pages to a reasonable size. We recommend one topic per page. An HTML page with no pictures should be under 150kb
  • Make sure that each page is accessible by at least one static text link
  • Don't put the text that you want indexed inside images. For example, if you want your company name or address to be indexed, make sure it is not displayed inside a company logo.

How does Google recognise my website?

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don't deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users. This is commonly referred to as cloaking
  • Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link
  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content. Make sure that your metadata elements, such as 'title' and 'alt' tags are descriptive and accurate
  • Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100).

Taken from Webmaster sites from Yahoo, Bing, Google

When you're planning SEO, think...

  • Research – Have a think about what search terms or words you want your website to appear under in search engine results. Try typing a few terms in yourself to see what comes back and bear in mind you're looking for no more than 15 words for your title tags.
  • Get suggestions - Google has an amazing free tool that helps you research keywords (Google keyword calculator) it allows you to see how many people search that word and makes suggestions on words people may also search for.
  • Get meta - Implement your strategy by making sure your selected keywords are present as meta tags on your page. However, be patient – you won't see results straight away and it can take months for the impact of your SEO to kick in with the search engines. Changing keywords too often means you'll never know what works.
  • Create a content plan - Google loves content so make sure you upload new content regularly.

Quick tips

  • Let the search engine know you exist. Submit your website to search engines via the following:
  • Your website will have various sections/categories which can be given titles in your coding. The IT team who build and maintain the website call this meta descriptions, data or tags. Think of these as what users will type into search engines to find you. For example think of your disease area or brand.
  • Search engines also look at what images appear on your site so make sure these are named in a relevant way. These are called 'alt tags'. You can see this on most sites when you hover your mouse over an image. File names of images can also be picked up by search engines, so make sure images are named correctly like stamp_out_gout.jpg instead of dc00001.jpg.
  • A site map is simply the structure of your website, and is usually a simple page on your website that lists every page you have. You can submit your site map to the search engines listed previously, which allows them to index all the pages on your site.
  • Off-site SEO is links from other sites. This can helped by simply making sure that you add a link to your site from any social media pages, blogs and corporate sites, and always include a link in any press releases you send out. Make sure you register your brand on any social media sites too. For example

I hope this helps with your thinking. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or ask us on Twitter and Linkedin.

Faisal Ahmed - Life Healthcare CommunicationsThe Author
Faisal Ahmed is head of digital at Life Healthcare Communications. Ahmed was previously part of the start-up team at Amazon, and was later responsible for digital strategies at 90 football clubs, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the World Rally Championship. He was also previously head of digital at Langland, winning over 30 awards for his digital work.



Other articles in the series:

Get stuck into digital - the right way!

Website build and usability

4th January 2012


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