Would you turn down a free billboard?

Online Search

Effective, no-cost and low-effort digital marketing that many pharmacies are ignoring

In brief:

  • Consumers increasingly research shopping choices online, particularly from smartphones.
  • Online research often leads to purchases.
  • An accurate “digital profile” often results in sales; a missing or inaccurate digital profile can hurt a pharmacy’s business.
  • Creating and updating a digital profile is fast and easy, something every pharmacy owner can do.

While you may wonder about the value of online marketing through sites such as Facebook, one thing is certain: If your pharmacy doesn’t have a solid digital profile, you will miss opportunities to gain customers. Consumers of all ages are increasingly looking online for information about local businesses, and if they can’t easily find accurate information about your pharmacy, they will go to a competitor.

Consider these facts from recent studies:1

  • 4 of 5 consumers use search engines to find local products or services.
  • At least 50% of local searches are for a store address, directions or business hours.
  • About 50% of those who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day and 18% buy something within a day.

“Most searches start on a mobile device,” said Elizabeth Estes, chief idea officer at Ebus Innovation, a marketing firm that specializes in healthcare and online media.

What’s on your pharmacy’s profile?

Imagine a patient walking out of a doctor’s office with a prescription and wanting to fill it immediately. Even if that person knew the name of your pharmacy, what would she find online?

“You can learn fast whether your digital listings are complete and accurate,” Estes said. Simply search for your business. Estes knows several pharmacy owners who have found listings for their business with no store hours, the wrong phone number, and other inaccuracies or incomplete information.

Do it yourself — really

The good news: You can fix your digital listing yourself. You can even do it in minutes on a Sunday afternoon, sitting with your tablet device in front of the television while watching a game.

“Look at your digital profile as a free online billboard for your store,” Estes said. Not taking advantage of that is like turning business away.

There are businesses that charge to put your profile on multiple sites, but that’s not necessary to reach potential customers. And while there are lists like “The Top 20 Online Places to List Your Business,” and “The Ultimate List of Online Business Directories,” these aren’t necessary either. You only need to start with a few vital sites.

If the thought of doing it yourself is overwhelming because you aren’t confident in your online/digital skills, look around your pharmacy for talent. Maybe you have a tech-savvy technician or front-end employee who would love the extra responsibility of contributing to the success of your business. Or, maybe your spouse or child is a wiz on the Internet and would be able to manage this for you.

Where to start

For many consumers, saying “Google it” equates to “search the Internet.” As of July 2015, nearly 67% of U.S. searches were made through Google, while only about 20% were made through Bing.2 The other big search engine, Yahoo, has less than 13% of the market.

So start with your Google listing. Google has made it easy for businesses to manage their profile. Go to Google My Business (www.google.com/business).

The Health Mart® resource, “Online Directories: A How-To Guide” explains step-by-step how to ensure your pharmacy has a correct listing on six key sites: Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, Foursquare and Yellowpages.com. Find this guide and other resources at BecomeAHealthMart.com.

Next, Estes recommends Yelp. Technically Yelp is a review site, but it’s also a digital listing. The number of reviews a business has also influences its ranking on Google. “Google places huge emphasis on reviews,” Estes said. So if a customer mentions to you or a staff member having had a positive experience at your pharmacy, encourage that person to write an online review.

Once you’ve tackled your Google and Yelp listings, you can move on to YellowPages.com and Yahoo.

You can find out if a listing already exists for your business and either manage it or add a listing if none exists. To ensure you are the business owner, a site may verify the information by phone or by sending a code by mail.

What to include

When it comes to digital profiles, “Don’t overthink it,” Estes said. Check each profile for:

  • Business name. Be sure it is accurate and consistent across sites. Some pharmacy owners have found their store still listed under a previous name from before they bought it.
  • Phone number. Make sure it is the accurate phone number, not the fax number.
  • Address. Often when entering a business address you have the ability to include a map, which is a great addition to a digital profile.
  • Hours of operation. Imagine a customer’s frustration when heading to a pharmacy because an online listing says the store is open, but when the person arrives the store is closed. Make sure hours of operation information is updated and accurate.
  • Categories. These are terms people search for to find your business, such as Pharmacy, Drug Store, and Health & Wellness.

Beyond those basics, think visually. Include your logo and photos. “Photos drive engagement,” Estes said. They catch attention and show that a listing is of a legitimate business. Imagine how helpful it will be for customers to recognize your pharmacy because of the online photo.

Goolge Search: Ben Franklin Apothecary

Don’t just “set it and forget it”

Once your digital listings are correct, keep them that way. Schedule time to regularly review listings every few months, and remember to update your information any time details change, like expanding hours or adding new services. “If you had a billboard and you changed your pharmacy name, you’d change the billboard,” Estes noted.

Digital profiles can help drive new business to your pharmacy and build your local reputation for service and care, but ensuring that your profile is accurate and updated doesn’t have to be daunting.


1 “Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior,” Google, May 2014. LINK
2 “Google’s Search Market Share Down in Year-Over-Year Numbers,” Matt Southern, Search Engine Journal, Aug. 22, 2015. LINK