How to make private content available in search engines

Guest Blogger | 16th June 2014

This post was written for Blue Latitude Health by optimisation expert Alec Cochrane.

Data from a 2012 study by the Manhattan research shows that 80% of healthcare professionals (HCPs) use search engines as a starting point when looking for information relating to their practice. Only 15% will use (and trust) pharma owned websites.


One of the challenges with pharma content marketing is how to increase the “indexability” of a web page, whilst adhering to the strict regulations we’re often bound by. With a pharmaceutical website, content can be made available via three levels of authentication:

Open – publicly available for anyone to view

Self-Authentication – where the user is asked to confirm that they are a registered healthcare professional with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ button

Full Authentication – requires prior authorisation from an official body who has screened and authenticated identity, either through a third party body or through a pre-purchased list.

Search engines index content by sending a ‘robot’ to crawl through the page to discover content and links. Content that cannot be accessed by a search engine robot will not be indexed and will not be found when a user searches.

Promotional material by pharma is strictly regulated by a series of codes that dictate the level of authentication required to view the content. It is set up this way so that pharmaceutical companies cannot encourage members of the public to go to their doctor and ask for a particular branded medication.

Medical information however is usually strictly regulated, and can have different levels of authentication. We see this in offline channels where self-authentication via a telephone is a common occurrence. The regulation on this area is a grey-area, and somewhat deliberately so. Regulators want to ensure that pharmaceutical companies are abiding by the code, rather than just providing strict rules that stunt innovation.

The challenge with medical information is to make sure that: firstly, it is not promotional, and secondly, that you are not soliciting for requests. By doing this, it reduces the risks associated with producing website content and allows many countries to use a self-authenticated site. Of course, one of the real challenges of implementing this system is that quite frequently a site will contain content with a variety of different risk levels.

We believe that there is a simple solution to this problem - by making every page contain elements that are open, self-authenticated, and full authenticated. By splitting content up like this it enables you to think on a more macro level about what information should be behind barriers:

  • Open section of the page: title of the page and safety warnings
  • Self-Authentication part of the page: any on-label medical information content
  • Full Authentication part of the page: any off-label medical information or promotional content

What would this look like on a page? Below is an example of how you could split up a page into the variety of different content types to give different information at each stage: 

  • A user would be able to see the title of the page when they arrived at the page from a search engine without any authentication – this would confirm that it was what they were looking to find
  • To get a summary of the article they would then have to confirm that they were indeed a health care professional by clicking a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ button – this would give them enough information based on what we deemed was low risk (e.g. a summary of the content on the page)
  • If that piqued their interest, to get access to the rest of the article they would then have to fill in their full details either from a registration or through a professional ID lookup via a third party.

The advantage of this approach is that you can ensure that your site will be indexed within search engines as more of your content would be "crawlable", rather than held behind a barrier the search engine bots cannot reach. Any words or images used in the open or self-authenticated sections will now mean that this page is indexed within a search engine. Making sure that this content matches the key words and phrases that people are searching for is the next challenge, before you even think about working out how to be higher up in the rankings.

With the right knowledge and expertise, you’ll be able to achieve so much more with your multichannel strategy

Read more about how best practice content strategy in pharma and healthcare by clicking the button below.

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