Pulse 2020 hosted by Silverlight Digital and Google in New York City

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to attend Pulse2020, a Silverlight Digital + Google collaboration diving into the latest trends in search and digital best practices for healthcare marketers and brands. We heard from doctors and subject matter experts on different Google-related topics from search habits to SEM conquesting and how they are affect healthcare stakeholders. These are our key takeaways.

A Doctor’s Perspective: Digital’s Role in Healthcare

During a panel discussion featuring four practicing physicians, it was clear that digital technology has a purpose in the daily routine of healthcare professionals. Resources like patient-friendly videos and testimonials, particularly from credible healthcare sources, have proven to be helpful conversation tools, combating the “rabbit hole” of sometimes frightening information a patient can find doing their own Google searches.

Digital technology has also alleviated the burden of sifting through printed journals and pages of published materials. Apps now provide to-the-minute updates on academy guidelines and online drug interaction tools mean the information is quickly and easily accessible. The doctors cautioned, however, that the most popular search results can be misleading, preferring to lean on trusted and reputable sources.

Health as Wellness: A Shift in Search Trends

It’s no secret that people turn to search engines to answer questions, and not just to find out what wine pairs best with dinner or where the closest coffee shop is. As consumers became familiar with conducting searches, something called the “Dr. Google” phenomenon emerged and googling symptoms and reading about diagnoses became second nature. The latest data analysis of healthcare searches uncovered three interesting trends.

Users are focused on being better

Think of this as a shift in mindset. Being healthy isn’t just about “getting better” when you’re sick, but about “being better” by living a healthier lifestyle. People are thinking more about the long-term impact of their decisions on their health and are incorporating healthier diets and simple exercises into their routines.

From being informed to being empowered

Users are finding a new strength to their voices when it comes to advocating for their own health. Fewer than 35% of people have great confidence in medical leaders, with most people turning instead to search engines for answers to their healthcare related questions. “Why” questions outnumber “what” and “how” questions, and, interestingly, 77% of health searches use the “look like” image search tool. Online tests for immediate answers to questions like “Do I have ADHD?” have also gained traction.

A holistic approach to treatment

In a similar trend to “being better”, people have also shifted from treating their condition to treating themselves. While users aren’t looking to replace modern medicine, searches for complementary or personalized treatments are on the rise with notable spikes for alternative medicine searches on YouTube. Some examples of these searches include foods or ingredients that may help alleviate symptoms, exercises or stretches for pain relief, music or sounds for relaxation, and tips for dealing with stress and anxiety.

Conquering Conquesting: Securing Your Position for Paid Search

Building a customer base, especially in pharma, takes invested time and effort. It’s no surprise then that we see brands piggy backing on competitors’ success. One of the ways brands do this is by conquesting competitive search terms in an effort to capture that traffic.

How to recognize conquesting

The first step to protecting your brand from conquesting is to recognize when its happening by looking of these key indicators:

  1. Sudden increase in cost of your brand terms
  2. You may lose the top ranking for your brand’s name
  3. Dramatic changes in CTR that you can’t explain
  4. Content sites and OTC brands have entered the space
  5. Inability to spend at regular budget levels

React strategically, not emotionally

Skilled marketers use conquesting as a tool to force their competitor’s hand, counting on an emotional response to this aggressive marketing tactic. Before bidding on their terms or doubling down on your keywords, consider the following strategies:

  1. Re-evaluate your bid strategy to put a larger emphasis on mobile. Paid search ads drive higher CTRs on mobile than desktop.
  2. Optimize your sight actions
  3. Evaluate the risk/reward for increased CPC
  4. Improve your ad copy to help increase CTR organically

It’s important to remember the influence that organic search has, as well. Many users scroll passed the paid results to find the top ranking organic results for their search query. Sharpening your SEO will help solidify a top position in the organic results and give you a better chance of hanging onto those loyal users.

Last, but not least, don’t lose track of your KPIs. Track success and optimize based on your own performance and progress versus focusing on competitive activity.

Kelly Lemenze
Digital Strategist, CDM Princeton