A 2011 survey performed by BioBM found that when looking for a new laboratory product, 90% of life scientists will first turn to one of two places. Half of that 90% will first turn to colleagues for recommendations, and the other half will turn to search engines (and the search engine of choice for scientists is overwhelmingly Google). Ensuring that your products are held in high esteem by a large enough number of life scientists to influence the 45% that turn to colleagues first for product recommendations is a complex, difficult problem, as well as one that takes a significant amount of tiime and money to tackle. Being seen by those 45% that will turn to Google or other search engines, however, is much easier and cheaper. Consider this: an Enquiro / Eyetools eye-tracking study (Enquiro, “Enquiro Eye Tracking Report I: Google”, March 2005) found that 100% of people performing Google searches will see the top three search results. Not to understate the competitiveness of organic search, but if your search engine optimization efforts are sufficient to get you into the top three search results for the relevant terms, you can more or less guarantee yourself that your products will be seen by 45% of scientists who are looking for your kinds of products. That is huge.
Now while much of the life sciences is competitive enough that getting into the top three positions in a search term is not a trivial task, you can still make a significant difference in your web traffic (and subsequently your leads and sales) by, for example, going from the fourth page of a major search term to the second page. Various research has shown that 70-90% of searchers do not go past the first page, and 90-99% do not go past the third page. Also, the aforementioned Enquiro / Eyetools study found that the position on the page makes a huge difference as well. While 100% of study participants saw the first three results on a search page, only 10% saw the 10th result. Moving from 9th or 10th to even 5th or 6th can make a big difference.
So… What do you need to know to help prop up your search rankings? Instead of writing a book on the topic, we’ll just list some tips below. If you have any questions or would like some elaboration, feel free to contact us.
- The page title is very important to SEO. The meta description is important to the searcher, but is irrelevant to SEO. Using the wrong title HTML (meta_title= instead of title=) can significantly hurt your SEO.
- Content is king. Nothing will improve your SEO better than more content, especially if you don’t have a lot of content to begin with. What is “not a lot of content”? Under 100 pages is certainly little enough content that more content can yield an easily noticeable improvement. If you are looking for ways to increase content while staying relevant, look into content marketing methods, such as blogging.
- If you have content on external websites, try to bring it onto your site. For example, some companies have a primary website and then an online store at a different URL (either because of the restrictions of the e-commerce platform they are using, or just due to poor planning). Many companies have off-site blogs. These things should be brought onto your primary site so your SEO is not diluted across multiple sites.
- Links back to your site are also very important for SEO. Google also determines contextual relevance, so links back from more relevant sites are more important, as are links from more popular (read: high traffic) sites. Just as an example, we recently did a very fast back-link campaign where we deployed about a dozen relevant links via product news releases and the client saw an average 13 place jump in search rankings for relevant terms.
- Don’t try to fool Google. They know most of the tricks, and trying to trick them will likely either hurt your SEO or get your site completely de-listed. (see the Wikipedia article on “spamdexing” for a good list of what not to do)
- Site traffic is highly important and creates a bit of a chicken-or-egg problem. Traffic is a very important factor in determining search engine rankings, but in order to get a lot more traffic you need better search engine rankings. Honestly, it’s not as much of a conundrum as it sounds. The key is trying to maintain the upward spiral (better SEO → more hits → better SEO → more hits, etc…).
- Checking your search rankings manually is a pain. Seobook.com used to have a Rank Checker plugin for Firefox that allowed you to save up to 100 desired search terms and then to see if you are in the top 200 results on Google, Yahoo, and Bing and output the results as a csv file, which you can open in Excel. Unfortunately, last I checked it was no longer working. Until it’s up and running again, the rankchecker.net SEO tool should hold you over.
- Trial-and-error is okay. Play with your content and see what works.
Another strategy worth noting is to become the first result for an ancillary search term. Regarding ancillary results, allow me to give an example using a company that I’m familiar with. Next Advance manufactures a high-throughput bead-mill homogenizer for disruption and lysis of tissue and cells. There are a lot of companies that sell homogenizers, many of which are larger than Next Advance and have been around for a long time. This crowding makes it relatively difficult to get to the top of search results. For the search term “homogenizer”, Next Advance first shows up on the fourth page of the results, as result #34. However, they know that “homogenizer” is not the only thing their potential customers are searching for, so they also optimized for less competitive terms. If you search for “tissue homognizer” they are 5th. For “liver homogenization” they are first. By enacting SEO strategies that allow them to leverage these alternate terms, they can drive a lot of traffic from search without having to compete for the highly competitive terms.
SEO is a great marketing tactic, especially for small companies on a limited marketing budget. It’s a low-cost, high-ROI form of internet marketing that can put your life science company directly in the sights of your potential customers by being where they are looking: search engines. It’s not rare at all for SEO to be a company’s highest-ROI form of marketing, and given the massive amount of scientists that are turning to search engines for product information, that shouldn’t be a surprise. With a meager budget and some sustained effort, you can help your company drive web-derived leads and sales through SEO.