Search engines play significant role

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Search data show that many of the most heavily searched brands online are not among the most-advertised. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a potent DTP channel, but how should it be integrated into a media schedule?

Deitra Mara
Health operations specialist

Sleep aids were the top spenders in 2006, but antidepressants placed better among top search queries (Hitwise, Aug. 2006; ClickZ, Aug. 2006). This may not mean the relationship between promotion and search behavior has been overstated. Promotion is one of many factors that determine search behavior. Others include seasonality, demographics, product lifecycle and news events. For some there is still a stigma around mental illness. Individuals may feel more comfortable researching depression in the privacy of the home. While spending the most doesn't necessarily ensure a brand will be among the most searched queries, it will ensure greater awareness and should drive a spike in search queries. Perhaps search serves as a gauge by which to measure the success of promotional efforts. If traffic does not spike after promotional investment, it may be time to reevaluate the media mix.

Anthony Manson
EVP, managing director
Avenue-e Health Strategies

Search engine marketing is clearly a powerful tool in pharma marketing and can drive a significant number of active treatment information seekers to a relevant Web site. As with any channel, the effectiveness is based on the specific strategies employed to capture a percentage of the right patient type and drive them to relevant information. In terms of integrating SEM into the mix, there are three key questions:
• Is the offline target segment the same as the online one? This can determine the optimal messaging.
• Is there an offline campaign that includes an overarching brand promise? This would drive the campaign to ensure consistency.
• Are you measuring the online program and correlating it to the offline activity? If so, you can determine cross-channel impact and map an optimization effort.

Joshua Palau
SEO director
Avenue A|Razorfish

Search plays a role in leading people down the path of checking symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options. Regardless of whether you are a patient, caregiver or a physician, marketers can tailor their message to address a specific need. It is important that search is integrated into a media plan; many people still forget the URL and use search to find it. The top brands on the Web already have a strong search presence. Recently a client of ours launched a new women's health site. Despite traditional media, we saw search traffic for a phrase which did not exist three months prior to launch. We tell clients that they can't think of their page as the only way to optimize their homepage, but to think of search engines as a tool. There is no other tactic that allows a marketer to reach a consumer with an answer at the precise moment they are asking a question.

Bonnie Becker
Director, Health category
Yahoo! Search Marketing

The top advertised brands are not necessarily the top searched brands online. The most heavily searched brands are for conditions considered private such as depression and sexual health, and the Web offers an ideal forum to find info. No amount of advertising will knock these conditions out of their top searched status. That said, advertising does impact search. Take Lunesta: In 2006, it was one of pharma's largest media spenders, and as a result search query volume on Yahoo! for the term “Lunesta” more than doubled vs. 2005. The campaign created demand for info on the brand, influencing consumers to search for it online. It is essential to include search in media planning and ensure search marketing is maximized simultaneously with advertising campaigns.

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