SEO for pharmaceutical companies helps websites attract qualified traffic, build brand credibility, and drive business growth. Cost can range between $3,000 and $10,000+ per month. SEO within a highly regulated healthcare industry can be a challenge, but this guide will show you the way.

Stricter regulations, complex topics, and resource-rich competitors — these are just a few challenges pharmaceutical companies face when it comes to SEO.

The good news?

You can bypass these challenges with the right approach, which will help you rank higher in search results and attract more organic traffic.

We spoke with Sam Yadegar, CEO of HawkSEM, to better understand the unique challenges and strategies in pharmaceutical SEO.

“The stakes are higher in pharma SEO,” says Yadegar. You’re not just trying to sell products. You’re providing information that impacts people’s health decisions.”

He and his team work with several clients in healthcare and pharma, and they know optimizing a site demands a responsible, compliance-focused strategy that meets regulatory guidelines. This often involves collaborating with medical and legal experts to ensure content is accurate and properly reviewed before publishing.

“Transparency and attention to detail are paramount,” Yadegar adds.

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can address this industry’s unique marketing needs through best SEO practices and tactics.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is pharma SEO?

Pharma SEO involves optimizing a pharmaceutical company’s website to rank higher in organic search results for relevant keywords.

When someone searches for health information or pharmaceutical products, your optimized site is more likely to show up at the top of search engine result pages (SERPs).

Here’s an example:

Example of organic search results for the query “medicine for sore throat”

SEO includes:

  • Keyword research
  • Content creation
  • On-page optimization
  • Link building
  • Technical SEO

These core components collectively help you attract more organic visitors to your website. And build it as a reputed source of information for patients and healthcare professionals online.

7 SEO best practices for pharmaceutical companies

These SEO best practices for pharmaceutical companies will help you build a strong foundation that brings sustainable organic traffic growth:

  1. Conduct thorough keyword research
  2. Develop a versatile content strategy
  3. Ensure regulatory compliance in content creation
  4. Build high-quality backlinks from reputable medical sources
  5. Optimize technical SEO elements for better performance
  6. Prioritize accessibility and inclusivity in SEO efforts
  7. Implement comprehensive performance tracking and reporting

1. Conduct thorough keyword research

Identifying the right keywords connects your pharmaceutical company with people looking for the health information and products you offer.

This means delving into terms specific to your industry — drug names, health conditions, symptoms, and treatments.

You can use Keyword Planner (or paid keyword research tools like Semrush or Ahrefs) to discover the keywords your target audience is searching for.

Keyword research on Google Keyword Planner to discover new keywords

Understanding the language your audience uses can guide your content creation, ensuring it meets their needs and queries.

For instance, if you find a high volume of searches for “natural diabetes treatments,” you can create content addressing this topic, backed by scientific research and your products’ benefits.

Keyword research is the foundation of a strong SEO content strategy that helps you rank higher on SERP.

2. Develop a versatile content strategy

Your content should speak to every relevant audience segment — from patients seeking information to healthcare professionals making prescribing decisions and distributors looking into logistics and supply chain insights.

So, start by identifying your main audience segments and their unique needs and interests.

For example, patients might need educational content on diseases and treatments, while healthcare providers look for in-depth research and clinical trial results. Distributors may benefit from content on storage and handling requirements.

Implement this strategy by creating a content calendar that includes topics for each relevant segment, ensuring regular publication across all areas.

Here’s how a typical content calendar looks:

An example of how a content calendar looks on Google Sheets

Use different content formats (like articles, videos, and infographics) to make complex pharmaceutical information accessible and engaging.

Tailoring your SEO efforts to include keywords relevant to each audience segment will increase the visibility of your content across diverse searches. This will make your brand a trusted information source for all relevant stakeholders in the healthcare and pharmaceutical supply chain.

3. Ensure regulatory compliance in content creation

Complying with FDA and FTC guidelines can boost your website’s search rankings. Search engines favor sites that provide safe, reliable, and legally compliant information.

FDA’s website talking about prescription drug advertising

To ensure compliance, create a checklist based on these guidelines for every piece of content you produce.

This includes verifying claims, balancing promotional material with risk information, and including necessary disclaimers.

Regular audits with your legal team can help catch any oversights, ensuring your content remains within regulatory boundaries.

This diligent approach keeps your site on the right side of the law. It also builds trust with search engines and users, which enhances your online visibility and credibility.

4. Build high-quality backlinks from reputable medical sources

Earning backlinks from reputable medical sites (such as universities and healthcare institutions) improves your website’s authority in the eyes of search engines. This leads to higher rankings.

These backlinks act as endorsements, signaling that your site is a trusted source of information.

To attract such backlinks, focus on creating research-based content, detailed guides on specific conditions, or analyses of recent medical advancements.

Connecting with reputed medical sites for collaboration or guest posting opportunities can also increase your chances of earning quality backlinks.

High-quality backlinks can boost your organic search engine ranking and drive referral traffic from these authoritative sites.

5. Optimize technical SEO elements for better performance

Optimizing technical SEO elements ensures search engine spiders can efficiently crawl and index your site. This directly influences your online presence in search results.

  • Improving page speed makes your site more user-friendly, reduces bounce rates, and encourages engagement, which search engines interpret as signals of a quality site
  • Making your site mobile-responsive caters to the growing number of users searching on mobile devices
  • Organizing your site’s structure, creating sitemap, and fixing crawl errors can boost your rankings by making it easy for search engines to navigate and index

There are several tools you can use to do technical SEO audits. PageSpeed Insights is a popular tool to audit your site for speed and user experience (UX).

A sample report of PageSpeed Insights

These technical optimizations form the backbone of a successful SEO strategy. They enable search engines and users to interact effectively with your site.

6. Prioritize accessibility and inclusivity in SEO efforts

Enhancing your site’s accessibility ensures people with disabilities can comfortably access your on-site information.

Free tools like Accessibility Checker can scan your website to find out if it has accessibility issues.

Accessibility Checker to see if your website is accessible or has accessibility issues

You should typically start by adding descriptive alt text to images for users who use screen readers.

Ensure your website is navigable through keyboard commands for those unable to use a mouse. Use the right color contrast between background and foreground content to ensure proper legibility.

Also, add captions to your videos to make your website’s content accessible to deaf or hard-of-hearing users.

While these improvements don’t directly alter your SEO rankings, they do lead to a more positive UX, encouraging visitors to spend more time on your site.

This increased engagement tells search engines that your site is valuable, potentially indirectly benefiting your rankings.

7. Implement comprehensive performance tracking and reporting

Consistently tracking your SEO progress allows you to double down on what works and change course when needed.

Use Google Analytics to understand how users find and interact with your site. Find out which web pages bring the most visitors.

A sample Google Analytics report showing the most visited pages on a website

Google Search Console (GSC) helps monitor your site’s performance in search results, showing you which queries bring users to your site.

Regularly review these metrics and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.

For example, if certain (highly relevant) keywords are driving more traffic, you might focus more on content around those terms.

At HawkSEM, we use ConversionIQ. It’s our proprietary marketing tool, enabling us to track all key metrics of SEO marketing campaigns centrally.

Accurate measurement and ongoing adaptation based on real-time insights from ConversionIQ have helped us continuously improve our clients’ SEO performance and achieve their digital marketing goals at scale and speed.

All HawkSEM clients get free access to ConversionIQ. Want to learn more? Contact us.

Advanced SEO tactics for pharmaceutical companies

SEO best practices will build a strong foundation and get you on par with competitors. These tactics will take you ahead of your competitors on SERP:

Target long-tail, question-based keywords

Targeting long-tail, question-based keywords helps you attract highly qualified traffic to your pharmaceutical website.

For example, content that answers “how to manage side effects of [drug name]” directly addresses a common concern, making it highly relevant to someone experiencing or prescribing that medication.

To implement this keyword strategy, start by researching questions your target audience is asking online. Use tools like Semrush that also show question-based keywords.

Keyword research on Semrush, showing a list of question-based keywords

Then, develop high-quality content that provides clear, well-researched answers to these questions.

Ensure your articles, blog posts, or FAQs include these long-tail keywords in their titles, headings, and throughout the content to maximize their visibility in search results.

Pro tip: Avoid keyword stuffing or sacrificing readability for the sake of SEO. Your priority should always be providing value to your audience.

Create comprehensive condition-specific content hubs

Creating comprehensive content hubs focused on specific health conditions helps you establish your pharmaceutical brand as an authority in your therapeutic areas.

You can attract and engage users at every stage of their journey by providing in-depth, well-organized information on a particular topic.

Start by choosing conditions closely related to your products or expertise.

Then, create a series of content pieces covering various aspects of the condition, such as symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and ongoing management.

Organize these pieces in a clear hierarchy on your site, with a central hub page that links to all related content.

Ensure there’s internal linking between these pages to guide users through their learning journey.

This streamlined structure helps search engines understand the depth of your content and improves the chances of your pages showing up in relevant search results.

Establish thought leadership through original research and insights

Establishing thought leadership through original research and insights positions your pharmaceutical company as a trusted authority in your field.

Publishing case studies, clinical trial results, and expert analysis provide valuable resources that healthcare professionals and patients rely on for the latest information.

Start by identifying topics where your company has unique insights or data that can contribute to ongoing conversations in your industry.

Collaborate with your research team to compile this information into accessible formats, such as whitepapers, webinars, or blog posts.

Promote your content through social media, industry forums, and email newsletters to reach more audiences.

Building a reputation for thought leadership attracts backlinks and can enhance your SEO. It also establishes your brand’s credibility, building trust within the medical community.

Implement relevant schema markup for rich snippets

Implementing relevant schema markup for rich snippets enhances your website’s visibility in search results by giving search engines a deeper understanding of your content.

This means that when users search for information related to health conditions, treatments, or medications, your pages can appear more prominently with additional details that catch their eye, like star ratings or FAQs.

Implement relevant schema markup for rich snippets

To do this, use schema types such as MedicalWebPage, Drug, and MedicalCondition on your relevant pages.

Medical Web Page

Tools like Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper can help you add this markup to your site.

Structured Data Markup Helper

Once implemented, test your pages to ensure they’re correctly set up.

This improves your visibility on SERP and boosts your click-through rates by making your listings more informative and appealing at a glance.

Collaborate with patient advocacy groups

Working together with patient advocacy groups and medical associations can influence your SEO by enhancing your brand awareness, authority, and trustworthiness online.

When these reputable organizations share or link to your content, it signals that your website is a credible source of information.

To start, identify groups whose missions align with your therapeutic areas. Then, propose collaborative projects like webinars, informative articles, or community events.

This will get your content in front of a more engaged audience and increase the likelihood of generating high-quality backlinks to your site. These backlinks can be key in improving your site’s domain authority, which can lead to higher rankings in search results.

Engaging with these groups can become a powerful endorsement, boosting your visibility and credibility in the healthcare space.

Engage users with visual and interactive content formats

Engaging users with visual and interactive content formats quickly captures attention and enhances understanding — especially for complex pharmaceutical information.

Visuals like infographics can distill complicated data into an easy-to-understand format, making it more likely for users to stay engaged.

Interactive content, such as quizzes or symptom checkers, provides value and encourages users to interact more deeply with your site.

So, identify key pieces of content that could benefit from a visual or interactive makeover.

For instance, an infographic could effectively summarize the effects of a medication, while a quiz could help users learn about potential conditions based on their symptoms.

Integrating these elements into your content strategy makes your information more accessible and user-friendly. It increases the chances of shares and backlinks, which can lead to improved SEO performance.

Work with SEO experts to rank higher in search results

SEO requires time and resources. Planning and executing an SEO strategy for pharmaceutical companies is more nuanced and challenging. So, if you’re looking for help, work with experts.

HawkSEM is a leading digital marketing agency that works with brands like Microsoft, Nike, Honda, and Verizon.

We offer end-to-end SEO services.

Over the years, we have worked with a number of healthcare clients, enabling their online growth through data-driven strategies.

Happy Ears Hearing Center, one of the top audiology practices in Phoenix, saw an increase in organic keywords ranking by more than 245%. We helped them increase their organic traffic by 396% and local conversions by nearly 44%.

“Pharmaceutical SEO is a highly specialized field that demands a deep understanding of both digital marketing and the healthcare industry,” says Yadegar.

“Our team has years of experience working with pharma companies to create SEO strategies that are effective and fully compliant with all relevant regulations. We take the time to understand each client’s distinct needs and goals, and we develop customized solutions that deliver real, measurable results.”

Frequently asked questions

How is pharmaceutical SEO different from other industries?

Pharma SEO differs from SEO in other industries mainly due to strict regulations and the need for precise, clear information.

Here, keywords and content must not only appeal to search engines but also fit legal health standards. This means being extra careful about the words used to avoid misleading health information.

For instance, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) has the PhAMA Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices document, which was published in 1978 and is regularly updated. The PhAMA code defines standards for ethically promoting pharmaceutical products, which you should follow.

Also, the audience for pharmaceutical sites often looks for detailed, scientific data, making the content creation process more complex.

You’re expected to provide accurate, useful health information in a way that aligns with pharmaceutical industry standards, SEO guidelines, and users’ need for easy comprehension.

Similarly, relevant backlinks must come from reputable sources like medical journals, emphasizing the need for high-quality, trustworthy content.

So, when working on the SEO of a pharmaceutical company’s website, you must care about more than just getting to the top of search results. You must focus on responsibly sharing health information that meets legal standards, is medically accurate, and is understandable to the general public.

What are the benefits of SEO for pharmaceutical companies?

Implementing the SEO best practices and tactics will ensure your pharma products and information reach the right audience. Here are some ways it will help your pharmaceutical company’s website:

  • Increase its visibility to prospective customers searching for relevant health information or products
  • Improve its organic search rankings to get ahead of competitors
  • Boost organic traffic, leading to more inquiries, leads, and potential sales
  • Build credibility and trust by consistently appearing at the top of search results for relevant queries
  • Reach the target audience of healthcare professionals and patients actively looking for your offerings

SEO is also a cost-effective marketing strategy, offering a higher ROI than PPC and traditional advertising. Read: How to Plan an SEO Budget to Maximize ROI (+ Calculator)

How much does SEO for pharmaceutical companies cost?

Costs can range from $3,000 to $10,000 and up per month. It can vary depending on whether you’re handling it in-house or outsourcing to an agency. If you’re managing SEO internally, the overall cost will be influenced by factors like:

  • The competitiveness of the keywords you’re targeting
  • The amount of content you need to produce
  • The size and experience of your in-house SEO team
  • The tools and resources you invest in

On the other hand, if you choose to work with an external SEO agency that specializes in the pharmaceutical industry, you can expect to pay anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000 per month. However, this cost could be higher if you adopt a more aggressive SEO strategy that involves:

  • Targeting a broader range of competitive keywords
  • Producing a higher volume of blog posts, landing pages, and other content assets
  • Implementing advanced technical SEO optimizations
  • Investing in more extensive link-building campaigns

Ultimately, the exact cost will depend on the scope and complexity of your SEO needs.

The takeaway

Approach SEO for pharmaceutical companies in three broad stages:

  • Understand your industry’s digital content regulations and compliance
  • Build a strong foundation for your site that aligns with search engines’ guidelines and recommendations
  • Implement smart tactics to dominate competitors on SERP for high-value keywords

Sound complex?

Book your free consultation today and talk to our SEO experts. No strings attached.

Asif Ali

Asif Ali

Asif is a content marketing specialist, writer, and consultant. For over a decade, he has collaborated with 100+ brands, helping them increase top-line revenue through strategic inbound campaigns. Perpetually curious about zero-cost growth hacks, he's always up for a conversation about side hustles and Harry Potter.