How does UK MedTech perform when assessing online activities against critical criteria?
50 MedTech companies: Digital Marketing study
We randomly selected 50 MedTech companies and audited them against a set of criteria that we know to be important in the generation of online authority. Online authority, while somewhat intangible, is best thought of as a position of status that makes Google want to place your company high up the rankings for searches about a particular subject area. Google and its clever algorithms are designed to deliver answers that are most valuable to the searcher. Back in the day this was a comparatively unsophisticated process of finding search terms on websites, which resulted in the SEO industry loading up pages with keywords and other trickery. Today it is a very very sophisticated process of assessment based on hundreds of variables, all designed to find the best source of information for the search being made.
Possessing online authority is extremely desirable because it means that Google has decided that your company is credible and relevant for certain search terms. This is clearly good for your target audience, and consequently it also very good for your Google search results..
The trouble is, while Google clearly wants, and needs to do the right thing, it has to be a bit mysterious about how it does it, or it will become another self-defeating exercise in allowing companies to trick their way to the top. Having said that, we do know what Google wants, broadly, because it does tell us bits and pieces; great content, relevant content, readable content, up-to-date content, delivered on a fast website, encrypted with SSL and usable on all platforms. There is a lot of technical stuff, and then the ‘noise’ you can create on Social Media etc. But by then you don’t need to worry because you will be on page 1 already!
HWMM thought it would be a valuable exercise if we could understand how well the UK’s MedTech industry fared when measured against a basket of critical criteria. By establishing a baseline we could then help companies develop their online footprint and in so doing provide a boost for many of the companies under our microscope. The principle is that we have been here before and have demonstrated results. We know companies can gain traffic that results in qualified leads, having already delivered measurable results using our methods. Having done that for one company, why not do it for ten? In fact, why shouldn’t UK MedTech as a whole enjoy benefit of our experience and research?
Late in 2016 we performed a pilot study, assessing a random sample of 21 companies selected from the membership list of a UK MedTech industry body. Most were device companies, a few were service providers and one or two were American companies with UK offshoots.
The study was always intended as a pilot, but so striking were the results that we embarked on a more extensive treatment. This then is the real thing, a survey of more companies against more criteria, broadening the assessment beyond just the website to include social media activities.
We conducted a survey of 50 companies, chosen randomly from an industry-body members list, all of which shall remain anonymous for the purposes of this report.
Each company was assessed against a set of criteria that reflected their likely attractiveness to search engines and potential visitors. Those criteria were:
- Desktop Speed, Mobile Speed, User Experience, Content Management System(CMS), Responsiveness, Use of SSL, Attractiveness (0-10), Ease of use (0-10).
- Desktop Speed, Mobile Speed and User Experience were scored using Google site developer tools which operate on a “traffic light” basis as follows: Green Tick = no significant issues found. Yellow Exclamation Point = consider fixing this if it is not a lot of work. Red Exclamation Point = Fixing this would have a measurable impact on page performance. Threshold scores between these bands are at 65% and 85% respectively.
- Choice of CMS was noted where evident. Where not evident, these were scored as “custom”, device companies often being persuaded that a custom build is essential.
- Responsiveness was assessed by visualising sites on iphone and ipad mini.
- Encryption (SSL) was confirmed by use of https:// and the padlock sign.
- Use of HTTP/2 was defined as yes/no.
- Attractiveness and Ease of Use were assessed by two people independently , based on a percentage scoring system where 100 represents perfection and 0 represents a totally unattractive or unusable offering. For attractiveness, criteria that were assessed included layout, visual appeal, consistent use of style, uniformity of font and appropriate font size and colour against background. Ease-of-use was more about content and navigation, and included commentary about accessibility and internal links and design of contact forms. All recorded scores were an average of the two independent scores given.
- Social media: Twitter and LinkedIn are the most commonly used social media platforms for MedTech companies, so we elected to limit the survey to the use of these vehicles.
- Up to date news on website, defined as news published regularly over the past 12 months.
- Does the site perform a European Cookie check? again, yes or no.
- How many clicks to reach a product page?
The 50 companies assessed encompassed manufacturers, distributors, and dedicated healthcare business consultants. Company size ranged from multinationals to UK-only SMEs. All companies were selected on a random basis from a UK MedTech industry body member list.
Average desktop speed was assessed as 67%, which is marginally above the Google threshold, placing the group as a whole in the middle category, where fixes would be desirable according to Google’s own toolkit. As with the pilot survey, mobile speeds were significantly worse, with an average of 59%.
Figure 1: Average page speed loading – Desktop
Figure 2: Average page speed loading – Mobile
16% of assessed sites were classed as green ticks with no action required, whereas 36% were red, so in need of urgent attention.
No sites achieved the target speed of 85% on the mobile platform as shown in figure 4.
Figure 3: Proportion of companies that attained Google’s desirable page speed criteria – Desktop
Figure 4: Proportion of companies that attained Google’s desirable page speed criteria – Mobile
CMS: 38% of the assessed sites used WordPress, clearly the most popular platform, followed by unknown/custom 40%. Drupal and Typo3 made up 14% of the total between them.
Figure 5: Content Management Software adopted
Responsiveness: In other words the way in which a site is designed to adapt to fit different devices, was a feature of 84% (one was only partially effective, with menus that worked on all devices, but images and paragraphs that were foreshortened or cut as screen size decreased).
Security: Only 8 sites (16%) used encryption (Note that Google will shortly be describing sites as NOT SECURE in the address bar of their Chrome browser. This is already happening if the page has a form requiring personal details to be submitted.)
Figure 6: Use of SSL encryption
HTTP/2: Only 3 sites (6%) were using the http/2 protocol.
Figure 6: Use of HTTP/2 protocol
Attractiveness: Scores varied from 35% to 90%, the most common reasons for low marks including cluttered layout and use of what were considered old-fashioned design concepts. The best sites were clean, free from visual glitches and with well communicated messaging about what the company was about. Sites were marked down for inclusion of “1990s” features such as bouncing text, too much/unnecessary animation, black and heavily coloured/gradated backgrounds as well as small, faint or otherwise illegible fonts. Small menu buttons with poor colour definition was again a reason to mark down.
Figure 8: Attractiveness
Ease of use: Scoring again ranged from 35% to 95% with the best sites featuring simple menus and functionality. The worst sites were considered those with links that didn’t work or that went direct to .pdf files or even (in one case) closed the company site and opened a new proprietary credit card payment page. Buttons that promised “more info” but merely revealed twenty words, were marked down because of the unnecessary link (which incidentally is SEO unfriendly). Other criteria included presence of links to social media sites, with the opportunity to “like.”
Figure 9: Ease of Use
Note that unresponsive sites were allocated a maximum score of 70%, this being a key usability criterion.
Social Media: 74% of companies had Twitter accounts and 88% used LinkedIn. Only 14% had up to date news, defined as an average of 2 posts per month over a sustained recent period of at least 12 months. 24% fulfilled the legal requirement to feature a European cookie check.
Figure 10: Social media, news flow and cookie checking
Finally, 62% of assessed companies enabled visitors to get to a product page with a single click.
Figure 11: How many clicks from home page to product page?
Stakeholders, who may include international distributors, purchasers, users, investors, regulatory authorities, competitors and even the ultimate customer (patients), are clearly not likely to be in the least bit interested in the nuanced differences between websites at the level we’ve reported on here. However, when it comes to achieving that commercially desirable outcome of an enhanced presence, a well-conveyed image, a professional and well-maintained public persona, not getting it right on all these fronts is the equivalent of not painting your window frames or cutting the grass while trying to sell the house. That’s without even considering the important matter of how a company is viewed by Google.
How to achieve a page 1 search result for a particular search phrase has been the subject of much intrigue over the years, but the plain fact is that people wouldn’t use Google if its search mechanics didn’t work. The sites that deliver that essential “authority” are the ones that will top the rankings. And those sites are the ones that work well… they have traffic, they look good, they’re current, they tick all those boxes about page speed and security and they have content that is well-written, regular and current.
So how do we explain the yawning performance gaps we see in this survey? We postulate four basic reasons:
The MedTech industry, while it’s a multi-billion dollar affair, is intensely close-knit. For example, clinicians are easily identified and sales reps often know them pretty well. It’s taking a while to shake off the old model of the relationship sell.
Companies frequently consider their website to be either present or not present. Yes, it may be a potential shop window for the company, but surely one shop window looks much like another. Add to that the fact that a redesign is unpalatable when it can’t promise to deliver one more sale.
The internet’s been a feature of our lives for long enough that the better established companies are now on iteration 3 of their website and have spent plenty of money getting here.
Device company staff struggle to believe that medical professionals spend any time seeking out MedTech information online, let alone being responsive to what many still consider tittle tattle or propaganda peddled on news pages, blogs or social media.
So if all this is true, why bother to spend a single currency unit on your digital footprint?
Well, to try and second guess the behaviour of your stakeholders is a risky game. Our experience is that doing a few things right when it comes to your digital footprint pays back easily and quickly in ways that you often cannot predict. You may not think it worthwhile to head off on a mission to find a distributor in Ecuador, but when one finds you and gets in touch using your well-designed contact form, you’ll shake him by the hand, right?
What we’re sensing from the MedTech market is that companies are rarely chasing a new website, and who could blame them really, given the workload required, the less than certain results and the fact that they already have one. What we’re also finding however is that there is an increasing appetite to talk about social media.
That’s fine of course, but the notion that by setting up a Twitter account, writing the odd tweet and retweeting the odd snippet of related content will change much is sadly plain wrong. Firstly getting your social media content right is not quite as easy as it sounds. More significantly, consider what the objective of an enhanced social media presence is: yes it might make your technology look cool, current and popular, and it might enhance your image as one of society’s good guys when the boss runs another half marathon for charity. But the desirable end result always ends up in commercial terms as more leads, which means more business.
This survey is a representation of the entire UK MedTech industry’s digital marketing accomplishments that is both random and large enough and from a credible source, meaning that it is likely to be representational. The result is clear; the industry as a whole could do a much better job here. And by paying attention to its online presence, the contention is that more visitors will find their way to the target website and more will convert into qualified leads when they get there.
If you have that nagging doubt that your company could be getting more out of its Digital Marketing, or indeed it really isn’t actually doing any, HWMM would be delighted to hear from you… Just use the form below and we can check your website out.