Channel Planning Content Strategy Display HCP Marketing Patient Marketing

Winning Domain Strategy in Pharma Websites

A critical dependency for effective cross-audience engagement

For pharma marketers, website domain strategy often feels like a test of patience and resources. Unlike any other industry, pharma brands must navigate an already complex web ecosystem while balancing numerous demands and needs – content for two distinct audiences  (patient vs. professional), scenarios in which a single brand is approved for multiple indications, and the bright regulatory lines mandated for product vs. disease education content – to name but a few challenges. Before starting to promote your website, evaluate options to establish a domain strategy that best supports your brand’s unique makeup. Here I highlight two important considerations for pharma domain strategy:

  1. Should branded HCP and Patient content be hosted on the same or separate domains?
  2. Should specialized domain extensions such as .health be considered as alternatives to .com?

HCP and Patient Domain Strategy:

Here are two commonly used domain strategies to address patient and HCP content. Let’s review them both alongside key benefits for each:

Option 1: HCP and Patient websites hosted on separate domains, i.e. brand.com and brandhcp.com:

  • Distinct domains allow a brand to double-serve SEM ads, creating freedom to customize campaigns for distinct audiences. Fully dedicated patient and professional ad copy associated with overlapping keywords drives better click through rates, lower cost per click and greater site engagement.
  • Serving two ads against one search term creates a more dominant brand presence on the search engine results page (SERP), effectively squeezing out competitors.
  • If the brand develops well optimized site content, separate domains create conditions for more organic listings, further contributing to SERP domination.
  • Some companies have added a wrinkle to this strategy by aggregating professional sites across an entire brand portfolio across a single top-level domain (see Pfizerpro.com) for the added advantage of total content depth and integration of enterprise-wide professional resources.

Option 2: HCP content hosted as a subfolder on the same domain as patient content, i.e. brand.com and brand.com/hcp:

  • In cases where total depth of content is constrained, a very narrow keyword set is deemed critical, or paid media budgets are limited, this approach can have SEO benefits for top relevant keywords as the SEO “juice” isn’t split between two websites.
  • The brand loses the opportunity to dominate the SERP with multiple SEO and SEM listings, so this becomes a decision driven by quality over quantity, and dependency on organic vs paid.

For these reasons, I recommend that pharma brands (with financial and content resources ready) promote both HCP and patient campaigns using the two-domain strategy to maximize presence. If a brand has limited promotional resources, then consolidating content on one domain may often be the optimal route to take.

Domain Extensions:

Among top-level domain extensions, .com remains the US industry standard, but options continue to grow, and health marketers now have the .health extension to consider.  A site may only register for .health after being assigned an Industry Access Token, which identifies the owner as a qualified member of the health industry. Regardless of the domain you choose, the function will be the same.

The role of specialized domain extensions in search results has been a topic of both negative and positive speculation, but as the trend towards extension fragmentation continues, it’s likely search will favor specialized URLs. In fact, as early as November 2015, SearchEngineWatch’s Jennifer Wolf predicted algorithms will value specific URL nomenclature.  With an eye toward the future, pharma marketers should secure .health TLDs for their most valuable websites. On the fence? Consider that both Pfizer and Google have already registered theirs.

Wanting more digital pharma insight? Access my whitepaper for examples of current best practices, case studies and anecdotes illustrating real-world applications of all 8 principals for digital pharma marketing success:

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