Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requires a lot of moving pieces to come together at the right time in order to be able to implement recommended best practices. Often the recommendations themselves can pose challenges for industries that are especially regulated including businesses in the Healthcare and Financial Services spaces. This time, we’ll cover Healthcare and Pharmaceutical sites, and next time Financial Services. Note: we will also be covering Retail and B2B SEO challenges later in this series, but first let’s focus on legal issues and ways that we have found to help mitigate their workflow-stopping nature
What Is the Most Common Concern?
In most cases, the primary concerns from a legal/compliance perspective are related to targeted keywords. Often, humans search differently for products and services as well as pharmaceutical drugs than by using the actual name of the product or service. This often leads to SEO recommendations that are rejected due to the actual keyword phrase(s) being targeted. For pharmaceutical companies, many of the condition and symptom-related keywords that are often searched may not be fully optimized for on a site, due to “fair balance” requirements (see this recent Pharma Forward article for a recent update on this topic).
The best solution we have found to honor fair balance and other keyword-level concerns is to push back and “make sure” we can’t target the specific keyword on a page, and then to compromise by using a semantically connected word that is acceptable for all parties. Fortunately, the evolution in search engine’s crawling and indexing of content and ability to match semantically-relevant content to “popular keywords” play well into this compromise. Of course, the best part about this type of deal is that the content becomes more user friendly since it doesn’t force keywords into the experience.
How to Preemptively Tackle Legal Issues
Legal and compliance restrictions are not going anywhere soon, especially as the FDA continues to focus in on online pharmaceutical companies. SEO education is probably the best way to help find common ground for marketers and legal teams, in order to streamline the time often taken to get through recommendation iteration to the final product.
SEO for large and more complex organizations typically works best when there are a number of educated champions and evangelists throughout the various marketing, IT, and Legal teams. In addition, C-Level and VP executives that are sponsoring SEO should be made fully aware of the regulations that are able to be interpreted differently. Sometimes, the best catalyst for change and growth of a marketing campaign is to know when and where to push established boundaries, and ensure that everyone is on the same page in supporting user-relevant content that falls within the guidelines. Simply saying “no” every time there is even a question of concern is the lazy way out, and those organizations that are willing to push the envelope are likely to outperform those that are complacent.