Search and Social

Pharmaceutical Search Engine Marketing: 8 Keys to Effectively Planning and Executing a Pharma SEM Campaign to Help Launch a New Drug

by Ian Orekondy on July 19, 2009

How to Launch a New Drug Using Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Prepare Early (start planning at least 3-6 months prior to expected FDA approval)
  1. Study past similar drug launches and the impact of key events on search demand. What impact did the FDA-approval announcement have on search demand? Did pre- and post-FDA approval announcements impact searches for the drug’s brand name? How was unbranded search traffic impacted? How does the launch of an offline DTC campaign impact both branded and unbranded search demand? Tip: Google Insights for Search is a great way to research past drug launches, or you can work with the SEM paid search specialists at your strategic online marketing partner agency to conduct this research for you. Many drug launches miss out on key opportunities to capture site traffic and CRM signups of HCPs and potential patients; especially at key moments, such as when the FDA announces their approval of the drug. Here we can see that search demand for Cimzia surged 5x upon the announcement of FDA approval for Crohn’s Disease and 3x upon the announcement of FDA approval for Rheumatoid Arthitis:

2. Secure adequate budget. Once you’ve studied cases and examples of similar drug launches, you need to translate this into a model that forecasts search traffic and spend. While the research may show daily and weekly spikes in traffic around key events, the model is probably best done on a monthly basis, beginning at the moment the FDA approves the drug and running through the next 12-16 months. This model should be detailed with forecasted costs per click; traffic forecasts and notes explaining key assumptions on a monthly basis.

Build the campaign (begin at least 2-3 months before expected FDA-approval):

3. Conduct expanded keyword research. Use a strategic framework that makes sense for your brand. A good starting point is to think about translating the Search Funnel to the “Patient Pathway”. For example, build out several keyword lists related to Symptoms –> Condition –> Treatment –> Brand Name –> Generic Name –> Doctor –> Competition

A different approach is required to effectively target healthcare providers (HCPs), and this will be the subject of a separate post, but don’t forget to consider primary care providers (PCPs), as well as specialists, pharmacists, nurses etc.

4. Develop Text Ad Messages and testing matrix. Create a plan for what you want to test. Include key performance drivers, such as testing headlines to ensure you are capturing the attention of searchers by staying relevant to their search queries, and testing calls to action to ensure you are setting up your landing pages in a cohesive manner that helps drive on-site conversions (e.g. relationship marketing registrations; aka CRM signups).

5. Be clear about the objectives of each keyword category; defining success metrics for each. This will allow you to develop and test messages that reflect different objectives for different keywords. For example, if symptom-related keywords are part of your campaign, then you may be targeting these keywords with the goal of increasing condition awareness and not necessarily with the goal of driving CRM signups. Therefore, the ways you define success will be different and should impact how you develop the ads for symptom-related keywords. Understanding the nuances between keywords and how they impact success metrics and ad copy development is one of the signs you’ve got an experienced, pharma SEM strategist.

6. Develop and Register Vanity URLs. Depending on the keyword list and aligned success metric, unbranded vanity URLs will likely be necessary to develop and register, in order to maximize site traffic where educational and CRM sign up goals can be achieved.

Get Your Campaign Reviewed and Approved (ideally, at least one month prior to FDA-approval)

7. Educate your Medical, Legal, Regulatory committee on FDA DDMAC Guidelines. Make sure they understand the key issues and how they impact the performance of your search engine marketing campaign performance. Again, your strategic online marketing agency should provide you with a formal POV on this topic. It should include specific creative examples so that your MLR commmittee can understand how the guidance translates to actual creative. Having your pharma SEM strategist present during the MLR reviews of the SEM campaigns is critical.

8. Ensure tight coordination with the search engines’ editorial teams. Each engine has slightly different rules regarding what can be said within text ads, how you link to various landing pages and how Vanity URLs are to be implemented. Again, your SEM agency should already have deep relationships with the engines, and will help ensure an expedited review and approval process, so that you can launch as quickly as possible following the FDA’s approval of your branded drug.

Did you find this helpful? Anything you disagree with? Questions?

Please leave a comment below, and follow me on Twitter @iano1000

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