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Tag : SEM

Intent to Purchase

We’re avid fans of search marketing for demand generation-focused campaigns (both search engine marketing and search engine optimization). Even as other platforms begin to offer enhanced levels of targeting to match the capabilities of search engine marketing, and even in situations where one can identify specific customers (through data mining, for instance), we believe that for most life science companies SEM & SEO offers superior value for demand generation. Why? When properly targeted, searchers have the greatest amount of commercial intent. In other words, they are more likely to be looking for information to help them make a purchase than are scientists targeted via other channels.

As a bit of a case study, I’ll use a recent scenario. I was discussing marketing with the owner of a small life science company who does a reasonable amount of sales through e-commerce. He was complaining about the cost of CPC advertising on Google AdWords. The company does a lot of blogging, and the blogs were disseminated quite broadly to many large life science-focused groups on LinkedIn. He bragged that the traffic resulting from blogging was extremely inexpensive (the effective CPC was probably 5% – 10% of the CPC through AdWords), the unique viewers per month was very high for a company of its size and traffic was still increasing at a good clip (most traffic was a result of the blog). Sales, however, weren’t where he felt they should be.

This case illustrates two points. 1) unique visitors is a vanity metric – it doesn’t mean anything unless you can convert those visitors to sales at a satisfactory rate. 2) Not all marketing channels will produce viewers with the same commercial intent. In fact, the intent to make a purchase can vary wildly across channels. Simply reaching your target market with just about any message is usually good for the purpose of awareness (although awareness is useless if the audience doesn’t have a reason to remember you and you don’t regularly re-engage them) but for demand generation you need to reach the audiences that have the intent to purchase a product, and specifically a product such as yours. Targeting anyone in your target market often doesn’t do the trick, especially if your target market isn’t extremely well defined.

If you think about what customers do when they are considering a purchase, it makes sense that search is the medium of choice for demand generation campaigns. They either a) have a brand in mind already and go directly to that brand, eschewing shopping around, b) ask a colleague for a recommendation or c) look for information through search engines. These three behaviors encompass almost every scientist when considering a purchase. There is only one of those things that you can have a significant effect on in the short-term and that is making sure you show up where they search. You can try to create a positive and memorable overall brand experience to influence the brand preferences of the scientist and his / her colleagues, but that isn’t something that can be done over the short term and often requires that customers have a significant degree of experience with your company in the first place (hence why attempts to generate demand via brand-building alone are something of a catch-22).

Small life science companies often don’t have the finances or time to wait around for campaigns to pay off in the long-term. Most need to see an ROI in the short-term to stay afloat. To generate those shorter-term revenues your campaigns need to focus on the places where you can target not just your target market, but the members of your target market with commercial intent.

"Looking to increase your advertising ROI? Do you want to know the messages and channels that will allow you to most efficiently drive demand? Contact BioBM. Our experienced life science marketing managers will help your company create and deploy campaigns to build demand for your products and grow your revenues."

When Search Ads Don’t Work Pt.2

life science search engine marketing & optimization About a month and a half ago we wrote an article about times when search advertising isn’t worthwhile, focusing on the results of a study by eBay Research Labs. However, that study highlights just two specific instances when search advertising isn’t profitable; there are many more instances when search advertising would not be able to play an effective role in demand generation for life science marketers, and we discuss these here.

The most obvious example is when your product isn’t simply something that scientists aren’t looking for. This is most common with services and software, but sometimes occurs with other products as well, especially those which are non-essential to life science research. You can attempt to expand your targeting to include ancillary terms (for example, if you manufacture an accessory to a product then you might advertise for the terms related to the main product). However, this often leads to a low clickthrough rate, which both increases cost-per-click and decreases the frequency that your ads will be shown, which may lead to lackluster campaign performance. Additionally, if search volume for a given term is too low, most SEM platforms (AdWords, Bing Ads, etc.) simply won’t show any ads.

Another example is when the people doing the searching aren’t the people you need to sell to. For example, in the situation of suppliers of very high-end equipment, most of the search traffic may come from lab techs but the decision-makers may be director-level individuals. It may be that this ultimately doesn’t matter – it may still be worthwhile to advertise even if only 1 out of 100 clicks is relevant – but this can dramatically increase the cost per conversion, which is a much more meaningful metric by which to measure ROI.

Chemical / biochemical companies often face a unique problem with search marketing. Depending on the substances they sell, they need to take care to not be flagged as an “online pharmacy” by ad platforms, which can result in account suspension.

Additionally, for low-cost items it is often the case that search engine marketing isn’t profitable on the initial sale, especially for distributors and for manufacturers of lower-value products who often operate on fairly thin margins to begin with. In order for SEM to have a good return in these situations, it is imperative that life science suppliers continue to re-engage with customers in order to drive repeat sales.

As we said previously, search engine marketing is a fantastic tool and can work wonders for lead generation but we should not blindly expect results from it. Regardless of the situation, SEM should be carefully monitored and coupled with appropriate analytics and CRM such that results can be measured, informed decisions can be made, and campaigns can be improved over time.

"Want to more effectively reach your target market? Talk to BioBM. Our life science advertising management services will help you identify the most effective channels, create compelling advertisements, and ensure the effectiveness of your campaigns over time with optimization and analytics. Contact us for more information."

When Search Ads Don’t Work

life science search engine marketing & optimization

Regardless of who you are or what you’re looking for, one of the most common ways to look for products and services is the mighty internet. An unpublished BioBM study found that among life science researchers, 45% will turn to search engines first when looking for a product or service – roughly the same amount as will ask a colleague first – and almost all scientists will perform an internet search at some point in their buying journey. Given the near-ubiquitous prevalence of search as a tool to find products and services, search engine marketing just seems to make logical sense. If you have a product, and someone is looking for that product, then put up an ad, they’ll click on it, and bingo – for a few bucks you’ve targeted a highly relevant member of your target market who is even looking for product information right now! Simple, right? Not always…

There are, in fact, multiple scenarios in which search engine marketing can fail. One of those reasons, however, is a bit more difficult to detect and can actually cost you a lot of money.

eBay Research Labs recently published a study where they set out to determine if brand keyword search ads, in other words keywords that contain the brand name of the company, were worthwhile. Unsurprisingly, they found that such advertising was not effective; in these circumstances people were using Google as a navigational tool and when paid search was turned off, and therefore paid traffic dropped to zero, their organic traffic increased by roughly the same amount.

The much more interesting question that they asked was: “What would happen if we simply turned search advertising off altogether?” The answer to this may seem obvious. If someone searches for “used Gibson Les Paul” (an example they use in the paper) a number of guitar resellers appear in organic search prior to eBay. As this is also the case for many other product-specific terms, eBay’s search ads help direct traffic to eBay when they would otherwise be directed to other sellers / resellers, and thereby increasing eBay’s business. It seems to make logical sense.

eBay wasn’t satisfied with that assumption, however, so they took a sampling of United States geographies and turned off all search ads, leaving search ads in the rest of the country on as a control. What happened to their sales? Largely, nothing. Looking at the sales and advertising data in conjunction with customer data, they found that search advertising is only cost-effective on the least active customers; those whose last eBay purchase was not recent and who made few purchases in the past year. However, eBay is a very popular company and those infrequent purchasers constituted a small percentage of searchers. Therefore, when cost effectiveness was calculated, search advertising had an astonishing -75% ROI. In other words, for every dollar they spent in search advertising, they got back only 25 cents!

Most life science companies, however, as with most companies in general, do not have the kind of brand recognition that eBay does. You probably don’t have to remind scientists that Sigma sells chemicals or that Illumina sells sequencers, but these are the exceptions rather than the rules. So what’s the takeaway for smaller companies? First, while search engine marketing is a fantastic tool and can work wonders for sales or lead generation, we shouldn’t simply expect it to do so. Secondly, testing and analytics are extremely important – not just for search marketing but any advertising campaign and most marketing endeavors. While it may be more difficult to draw accurate conclusions from smaller sample sizes, most of the experiments that eBay ran to test their hypotheses could be done by any company.

"Tired of wondering about the effectiveness of your marketing efforts? Then it’s time for less guessing and more results. Customized marketing analytics from BioBM will help your life science company determine what efforts are yielding results, where your money is being wasted, and where you should invest for a higher ROI. We’ll look critically at all of your marketing efforts to help increase sales while decreasing costs. It can be done. Contact us for more information."

Search for Distributors

About half of all scientists use search engines to find product info before looking anywhere else.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.

"These days, search is a critical component of life science marketing. If your company wants to boost its search rankings or use highly efficient SEM to capture that 50% of scientists who turn to search first, talk to us at BioBM. We’re here not only to help you get more relevant visitors to your website, but to help you do so efficiently and to make sure those visitors get converted into sales. Want to learn more? Contact us today."

Search Engine Marketing Tips

Life science search engine marketingThere are many reasons why any life science tools company should be using search engine marketing (SEM), yet many do not. Scientists are frequently on search engines to look for publications, protocols, product info, scientific knowledge, and more. In a field so highly dependent on information, and on such a wide variety of information from so many different sources, you can bet that scientists are on search engines a lot. Search engine marketing can not only provide a large audience to market to, but since you select which search terms you want your ads to appear on, it can provide a highly targeted audience as well. Best of all, and my favorite thing about any cost-per-click (CPC) based marketing – you only pay for results.

Please note that the following advice pertains mostly to major search engines (such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing), as they will have the full set of features that these tips assume the search engine to have. There are certainly other search engine tools that have reasonably good features and very competitive cost-per-click rates, but although some of the advice will likely be applicable to smaller and / or more focused platforms as well, we will leave those for a separate discussion.

Understand how SEM works

If you and your life science company are new to search engine marketing, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the basics. It’s easy to have a poor ROI if you don’t know what you’re doing. Each search engine will likely have a wealth of literature for you to read and watch, likely enough for you to gain quite a good proficiency with each system if you bother to take the time. For example, you could spend weeks reading all the information that the Google AdWords help center provides. Perhaps one of the most important lessons to learn before you initiate an SEM campaign is how the bidding process works and how CPC is determined. Again using Google AdWords as an example, they have a helpful intro video explaining the process (albeit a bit simplified from how it actually works).

Use the tools that each SEM platform provides

Google AdWords, for example, will provide you with all sorts of lovely info. It will give an index of competition for any given keywords, provide estimates on how many searches are performed for any given term, both globally and within a given region, and estimate the cost-per-click that you would need to bid. It will even provide suggestions on additional search terms, and give historical search estimates month-by-month. This information can help you tremendously in determining what search terms are best to target.

Be an opportunist

In part because life science tools companies do so little search engine marketing compared to the breadth of terms used in the field (and perhaps in part due to many life science marketers general inexperience with SEM), there are a lot of opportunities out there that can drive down your cost-per-click, drive up your ROI, and result in more sales. To start doing this, think like a scientist. What could they be searching for that may not be a product, but may be related to your product. For example, if you are selling DNA extraction kits, perhaps you could target not only users who are searching for DNA extraction kits, but DNA extraction protocols, phenol / chloroform extraction, DNA purification, etc. There are many terms that would indicate that someone is performing DNA extraction. Alternative methods, related upstream or downstream procedures, and even names of competitors products are all good search terms to consider. Find those terms with a low CPC and take advantage of them.

Monitor, update, repeat

Major search engines will try to maximize their income by displaying the ads that make them the most money. This, simply stated, is based on cost per click multiplied by the click-through rate (CTR). Click-through-rate is the rate at which your ad is clicked on by searchers for any given term. If your ad gets clicked on a lot, the search engine gets more money, and you get more visitors. Everyone goes home happy. Search engines will reward ads that have a higher CTR with lower CPC, higher ad placement, or both. An eye-tracking study found that the top-placed ad to the right of Google search results is viewed five times as frequently as the ad that is fifth on the list, so ad placement is an important thing that should not be undervalued. By monitoring your results and tweaking our ads as necessary, you can drive up your CTR, lower your CPC, and improve your ad placement.

One last thing deserves mention. We are often asked by life science companies how much is the correct amount for them to dedicate to search engine marketing. This question doesn’t have a numeric answer. The answer is: as much as you can while getting the desired ROI (and without breaking your budget). Note that this will not be an “infinite” amount of money; you will be limited by the number of searchers. However, so long as you are achieving the desired return-on-investment from your SEM campaign, you should continue to reinvest in it to continue to drive sales growth.

Search engine marketing is a valuable, highly scalable, and readily accessible tool that can generate lots of traffic for your site and, more importantly, lots of sales for your company. Properly utilized with a well-designed site including the appropriate landing pages, your life science tools company can realize a high ROI from your SEM investment and grow both your sales and your company.

"Want to create highly effective life science search engine marketing campaigns? Want to ensure that you get a great ROI from your SEM? Well then, you’ve come to the right place. BioBM Consulting’s expertise running SEM campaigns of all sizes is here for you to leverage. By creating great campaigns from scratch or finding and implementing ways to improve existing campaigns, our services pay for themselves by delivering high-ROI campaigns that get results. If you want SEM campaigns that are effective, efficient, and scalable, contact BioBM. Our experts are here to help life science companies just like yours get the most from search engine marketing."

Improve Your Online Presence

Internet penetration is growing, and the internet is becoming an ever more important marketing tool.I don’t think anyone will dispute the power and influence of the internet. According to data from the International Telecommunications Union (a United Nations agency), internet penetration in the developed world will exceed 70% this year. Scientists are even more heavily influenced by the internet. We rely on it as a vast and trusted source of readily accessible data, a gateway to the tools and databases we use on a regular basis, a necessary communication tool, and a platform for collaboration across countries and continents. Fueled by fast, extensive business and university networks, internet penetration among life scientists is virtually 100%.

Just as individual consumers are turning more and more to the internet for both information and to make purchases, so are scientists. Researchers, geared towards finding their own information and encouraged by the ready availability of online information, look to the internet for information on products and services prior to purchase, and ever more are using use e-commerce for fast and efficient purchases. Because of this, it is imperative that life science companies leverage the internet to maximize their exposure, ensure that they manage their online brand image, present compelling online marketing, effectively capture online leads and convert these into sales, and utilize e-commerce where possible to reduce the barriers to purchase and increase sales efficiency.

How Important is A Website?

Online, your website is who you are. The quality of your website will be perceived to reflect the quality of your company and, by association, your products. Customers expect that the same kind of companies who create and maintain high-quality, well-performing products will put the same effort into creating and maintaining high-quality and well-performing websites. An outdated look or feel, errors, poor navigation, and a large list of other website faux pas will hurt your image and reputation. Unless you have an extremely strong reputation among your target market, you can assume that every new prospective customer who is interested in your product will look at your website for information before purchasing, and it is likely that your website will be the first place they look … unless they search for it and someone else comes up higher in the search results. Even with a strong reputation, many will still look to your website for more information. While a beautiful, well-structured website alone will not be enough to sell your products (you still need the proper content) a poor website can dramatically hurt your sales.

Refining Your Marketing Message / Having the Right Content

Your online marketing message is arguably the most important one that you will present. It is, in effect, constant; your online brand and marketing are always there for anyone to view. Again, it is very likely that almost all of your customers will view information for your products or services online at some point before purchase. You therefore need to have the appropriate mix of technical information and compelling marketing messages to encourage scientists to either buy the product at that time or inquire for more information immediately.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) / Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

It will not do you any good if your company has an excellent website that no one can find, and how you get found is through search. ComScore’s global search report has indicated that Google alone gets 1.5 million searches per minute, or well over one billion per day! Having insight into how search engines serve search results to these hundreds of millions of people is crucial to ensure that scientists looking for products or services online find yours and not those of your competitors. Search engine optimization is a tricky thing – search engines guard their algorithms and make only vague public statements as to how they work, so having someone with expert knowledge manage your SEO is crucial. For example, there is a sweet spot between a site having too few keywords, which will result in sub-optimal rankings, and too many keywords, which search engines will penalize you for. Experts have spent years figuring out the optimal “keyword density” along with many other SEO considerations and know what works and what doesn’t. Even with expert help, organically improving your search engine ranking takes time. To get around this, and get you to the critically important first page of search results today, you can make use of search engine marketing. Remember: 90% of searchers never go past the first page of search results, and 99% will not go past the third page, so being on the first page is of extreme importance. A properly managed SEM campaign can economically get you to that critically important first page page of the search results regardless of SEO, and even with good SEO it has been shown that a well-run SEM campaign will still result in an average 20% more hits. Another benefit of SEM: since most SEM campaigns are pay-per-click, you know that most of the people clicking are in your target market. After all, people most often click on links that are of genuine interest to them. Also, search engine marketing prices their advertising by the keyword, and a lot of life science keywords are niche markets, and therefore are less saturated which leads to lower costs and a higher return on your advertising dollars.

E-Commerce

According to a study by Forrester Research, sales via electronic commerce will increase by an estimated 60% from 2009 to 2014 in the United States. In Europe, the estimated increase over the same time period is 68%. A burgeoning societal tendency to make purchases online compounded by extremely high internet usage among scientists and the ease of finding products and information online, ever more researchers are turning to the internet for laboratory purchases wherever possible. Particularly for lower-cost items which do not require purchase orders or budgeted line-items (usually $2500 maximum for universities and research institutes and around $5000 for pharmaceutical or biotech companies), a well-implemented e-commerce backend to your website can make it easier for customers to buy your products, help you process orders more efficiently, and even integrate with customer relationship management and / or accounting software to automatically capture customer and order information. The most important factor, however, is the ease and speed of ordering for customers. At all times, you want to ensure that it is as easy as possible for customers to order your products.

These are only some of the considerations that a company should think about when analyzing their online presence. I did not touch on Social Media Marketing (SMM), forms of online advertising other than SEM, online brand presentation, and many other factors (a quick tangent since I’ve brought up social media marketing; if you think the most popular site on the internet is Google, you are wrong). However, the above points are perhaps some of the most important for a small life science company to consider when establishing, updating, and / or maintaining an online presence. We’ll be tackling each in more detail, including social media and the other topics we didn’t cover at all here, so be sure to follow us on twitter or add our blog to your RSS feed if you’d like to stay up to date with the latest posts.

"Does your company want a more professional online presence? Would you like to improve your online marketing? Would you like to know how you can improve your company’s search engine rankings? Get a free site review from BioBM and we will analyze your online presence and discuss how we can help you establish and maintain a top-quality online presence."

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