Search Marketing in a Regulatory Environment

arrowFrom a marketing perspective “search” can be confusing, challenging, and exciting. However many industries exist in and must remain compliant to regulatory environments. For instance the pharmaceutical, health, alcohol, legal, and insurance industries all must deal with various rules, regulations, and laws when it come to advertising and privacy.

Adding this regulatory layer to organic and paid search thickens the soup. Interestingly enough, many companies do not pay full attention to the regulatory liabilities associated with certain aspects of paid and organic search marketing efforts. It can come back to bite them in the search engines.

Paid Search Marketing
Regulated industries love paid search. With PPC a company retains full control over keyphrases and text listings. Also there is there is the ability to respond to market trends quickly. The downside is that short PPC text ads rarely have the space, due to size limitations in ads, to list required disclaimers like safety/risk information or required disclaimers.

Negative Keywords
Negative keywords can be a useful tool in regulatory environments, especially when using the “broad” match option available on both Google and Yahoo.  Broad Match is sometimes useful because it offers searchers the ability to discover new combinations of your keyword phrase previously unidentified by your keyword research. Unless you have a search marketing firm working for you broad match can substitute for an ongoing program of keyword research.

Purchasing the Broad Match keyword “high blood pressure medication” could result in your ad being displayed on the SERP (search engine results page) if a portion of the search matches any combination of the keyword.  This offers flexibility, and possibly more traffic. Your listing could appear for searches such as “medication blood pressure,” “high blood pressure” and “I’m looking for high blood pressure information.”

However in the case where a pharmaceutical company can not use the word “cure” (and to lower unwanted clicks/cost) Negative Match keywords can be an essential tool. For instance your might purchase the keyphrase “high blood pressure medication” and specify the negative keyword “cure.” This tactic reduces your company’s exposure.

Organic Search
Organic search can be a bit trickier absent full control over how search engines like Google and Yahoo index a website. This reality makes undertaking a proactive and informed organic search engine optimization program required. Even hiddeen code matters. For instance the title tag, meta description, and even the file name structure expose a company, operating in a regulated environment, to liability. All content, visible and hidden, should be run through the legal and/or compliance departments of your company prior to deploying a web page or paid campaign. While both Google and Yahoo entertain requests to remove organically indexed content it is not immediate.

Protect Your Company
Instituting a search marketing corporate policy is critical. A good way to accomplish this is to gather all the interested stakeholders and create a corporate “Search Marketing Best Practices” white paper. Educate and involve regulatory and legal teams as partners (at minimum) and arbitrators of search marketing policy. Implement monthly or quarterly regulatory reviews of paid campaigns and current organic prominence reports. Visible and non visible content should always be approved by marketing and legal/regulatory teams

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