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Avoiding Mediocre Meta Tags In Pharma SEO

Intouch Team

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By now, most marketers should know what a website’s meta tags are. Meta tags are, in essence, invisible to the average page viewer, but they are not invisible to search engines.

The use of meta tags by search engines has changed drastically in recent years. As search engine algorithms have evolved and become more complex, the sophisticated mechanics that go into making a page or website relevant involve many more components than simple meta tags. This has led some to believe that meta tag creation is not as important as it once was. And while there is some truth to that, meta tag creation and optimization remains an integral part of search engine optimization, helping ensure high rankings in search results pages.

Compliant Meta Tags In Pharma

Meta tags have long been a point of misunderstanding and contention within the pharmaceutical industry. Some inexperienced SEO practitioners and regulatory reviewers have even gone as far as mandating identical meta tags on every page of a website to ensure compliance. This is not a recommended practice for multiple reasons.

First, most search engines will recognize the duplication; assume it is an attempt to “game the system”; and treat the duplication not as a way to ensure compliance, but as a black hat practice. As a result, the search engine will ignore identical descriptions on every page and instead “scrape” the page to use whatever content it deems to be most relevant. If the goal of using identical meta tags is to ensure compliance, this solution obviously misses the mark as it encourages even less control of content displayed by the search engines. Search engines have evolved to recognize the practice of duplicating meta tags and now employ their own workarounds to ensure relevancy for end users.

Second, the practice of deploying identical meta tags is detrimental to a site’s ability to rank well for targeted keywords and is sure to leave the site stranded on page three or four of search results. That’s not good enough. A recent study by Search Engine Watch discovered that sites ranking on the first page of results received almost 94% of click-thrus, while sites on the second page received the remaining 6%. This means that sites ranking beyond the second page (or position 20) might as well be invisible. Very few users scroll to the third page of search results or beyond.

Effective Meta Tags In Action

Well-written meta tags must provide relevant information for search engines, accurately describe the page and be compliant. The key is developing meta tags that helpfully describe the actual content on the page and support fair balance, rather than just inserting overly promotional messages.

Consider this real-world example: Until April of this year, this pharma product’s brand.com website utilized identical meta tags on every page. In April, these generic meta tags were replaced with search-engine-optimized, fully compliant tags.

In short, the results were remarkable. The chart below details the distribution of keywords by rank.

In just over seven weeks, we saw a significant upward shift in keyword rankings, and the momentum has continued to grow. Additionally, the website increased its average rank for all keywords by twelve positions. That’s equivalent to moving up an entire page in the search results. Specifically in the “Treatment” category, keywords saw an average rank increase of 15 places — or 1.5 pages — in search results.

Understanding The Impact Of Meta Tags

At Intouch Solutions, we help our clients and their regulatory teams understand the impact of nuances such as meta tags. We push for unique, descriptive, compliant meta tags for every page of every site.

It’s true that meta tags are just a single component of an overall search strategy and search engine marketing itself is a single component of a much broader marketing mix. But in the constantly changing world of digital, even something as miniscule as meta tags can make the difference in whether that high-investment brand website can be found when your customers are searching for it.

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