I was having a conversation about web design and search engine optimization with a life science tools distributor recently, and he asked me how to target a website to a particular region? This got me thinking about search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) for distributors.
One of the limitations of search is that it is difficult to organically target a website to a region, at least in the life sciences. Search engines recognize some searches as inherently local. Search for “pizza” in Google for example and it will read your IP to determine your location and return local results. Search for electrophoresis gel boxes or Ras1 antibodies, however, and that location-specific context isn’t there. Therefore the simple answer to his question: “How do you target a website for a particular region [using SEO]?” – is that you don’t.
The next logical question: is SEO important to distributors? Often, but not always. If you can do a better job of optimizing for relevant terms than your life science supplier(s), then yes, you should optimize for those terms. It would be far better for a potential customer to find you than find a competing manufacturer or distributor. Likewise, if your country or region’s language(s) are different the language that your suppliers’ websites are written in, then SEO may be important as well since your customers may search in your local language (although newer technical and scientific terms are often the same across languages). If you do not have exclusive distribution rights and are effectively competing with other distributors in overlapping regions, then SEO may be very important. However, if your suppliers are well SEO-optimized, if you have exclusive distribution rights, and if your region speaks the same language as your suppliers’ websites are written in, then SEO is not of particularly great importance. In this scenario, which is actually quite common, you should be able to rely on your suppliers to pass along leads to you and in most situations they should have a listing of distributors directly on their website.
Unlike search engine optimization, search engine marketing can very easily be targeted to a particular region. SEM also allows companies to buy a top spot in the search results even if they are not doing so organically. Distributors often ignore SEM, leaving it to their suppliers, but there is no practical reason to do so. Even if you and your supplier are effectively advertising for the same product, having two listings in the paid advertisements only increases the odds that a searching scientist will click on one of them. If your suppliers are not performing SEM, and especially if their search engine rankings are not very high, you should be using SEM to target scientists in your region and get a placement near the top of the search results. So long as SEM campaigns are well-managed, they should be creating a good ROI and be well worth it for distributors.
With about half of life scientists stating that they look for product information on Google before anything else, a strong search presence is not only important to the sales of any life science tools company, but can deliver a great ROI. When deciding on how much resources to devote to search, distributors have different factors to consider than do suppliers. A strong SEO / SEM presence by suppliers can reduce the importance of SEO / SEM for distributors when compared to other marketing channels, but too many scientists use search to find products for it not to be at least a strong consideration in any distributor’s marketing strategy.