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Secrets of Influencing Searchers

Secrets of Influencing Searchers Kevin Ryan

People live. Eventually, they get sick. Sometimes shortly thereafter, they die. The time in between is occupied by the immutable human activity of self preservation. In recent years the Internet has become an access point for health information.

When the consuming public begins to succumb to the inevitable, they now use search engines to find information about everything from which drugs are used to cure the sniffles, to the blues and ultimately more serious life threatening illness.
A recent Yahoo! sponsored survey from Hall and Partners healthcare seeks to provide some insights as to the relationship that healthcare-minded individuals have with their search engines. A solid understanding of how people search for health information will not only provide healthcare search information but it can also unlock the secrets of influencing searchers in any beyond direct metric search marketing.

Why search?
Healthcare search is on the rise. Nearly 2,000 survey respondents provided details how they use search for healthcare information. A previous survey completed in March 2006, indicated that 55 percent of web users used search engines for healthcare information. By December 2006, 65 percent indicated that a search engine provided the guidance they sought.

Survey respondents also indicated that search is key part of their lives. 57 percent of searchers said they conducted a search for just about every healthcare issue they faced. Half of those surveyed said they learned more about health problems online than from any other source.

From any other source? Never mind what that says about the state of healthcare and the relationship with physicians, it should be very clear to search engine and online marketers that the web is place to influence anyone seeking information.

Finding the right destination
Diabetics and those suffering from Acid Reflux use search engines more the most, but the winners and losers of content destinations might surprise you. If you think a community destination or blog is the right place to send traffic, then you may want rethink that strategy.

Only six percent of searchers (one percent of non searchers) looked to blogs or chat boards for health information. 14 percent of searchers (three percent of non searchers) went to community sites. The middle ground of searchers went to medication-specific (28 percent of searchers) or pharmaceutical company (22 percent of searchers) websites.

While people still ask their doctor, friends and family about health care issues, the majority of searchers responded that health information or condition specific websites proved a solid resource. 95 percent indicated that one of these two destinations were sources of healthcare information in the last year.

Leveraging influence
Like other types of search activity, users turned to search when they are undecided about which medications were most appropriate and they needed more information. In order to understand better the information being collected, patients were placed in the following six research or clinical stages:

  • Undiagnosed

  • Not Considering

  • Considering

  • Not Planning to Change Rx

  • Consider Switching

  • Consider Stopping/Already Stopped

When asked if they "relied heavily on search" (designated by an indication of seven to nine on a 10 point scale), 94 percent of those searchers who were diagnosed but not on a medication turned to a search engine to find information. These two categories, "Considering" and "Not Considering" represented only 11 percent of the total searching sample.

They also represented the biggest opportunity to influence by directing them to the right destination.

On the other hand, 27 percent of respondents were undiagnosed, and half of those people designated that they relied on search heavily. 62 percent of the study's sample was either not planning to change, considering a change or considering discontinuing meds. Roughly half of the searchers in these three groups relied on search heavily as well.

Take this only as directed
The report contained a wealth of information about user behavior in search as it relates to specific conditions, as well as the information resources that people used to collect data about their illnesses and treatments. Many of the takeaways that apply health information search marketing apply to other areas of search marketing.

Knowing your audience is key. Searchers use keywords that are consistent with a stage of illness (think buying cycle stage); the messaging you use along with content destinations you direct users to will affect your campaigns effectiveness.

Value add is essential. Searchers across all categories flocked to and appreciated information that was helpful in disease management and preventive medicine.

The message here is clear: provide value and sales revenue will follow.

Shocking as it may seem, the web actually convinces people to take their meds as directed. 60 percent of those surveyed say that "search convinced me that I need to take my prescription medication as prescribed."

Do you still doubt the influence-ability of search marketing?

iMedia Search Editor Kevin M. Ryan is Chief Executive Officer at Motivity Marketing. .

Kevin Ryan founded the strategic consulting firm Motivity Marketing in April 2007. Ryan is known throughout the world as an interactive marketing thought leader, particularly in the search marketing arena. Today's Motivity is a group of...

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