UK Pharmacies - Digital Marketing Benchmark Report, Q3 2023

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The Q3 2023 benchmarking report for UK pharmacies has just been published. Learn how the top 12 UK pharmacies perform across the digital space.

The latest Q3 2023 benchmarking report for UK pharmacies has just been published. It covers the largest 12 national pharmacies, including Boots UK, Well Pharmacy, LloydsPharmacy, Superdrug, PillTime, Pharmacy2U, Weldricks Pharmacy, Chemist Direct, Chemist4U, Pharmica, The Independent Pharmacy, and Assured Pharmacy.

Pharmacies logos

The research gives an inside track on who is winning the biggest share of voice online, and quantifies the gaps, risks and missed opportunities for other pharmacies to win brand exposure, drive online views, and generate orders. The report highlights quick wins that will improve enquiries from your online strategy and identifies the barriers that may be reducing your site’s ability to optimise digital performance.

To see a preview and contents page of the Q3 report, click here. To get a copy of the full report and the key takeaways, please complete the enquiry form or schedule a call. Digital Benchmark Report - Pharmacies - Q3 2023 - Cover

What The Industry Research Report Covers

The 70+ pages of research benchmarks each site based on 50+ metrics and indicators of successful digital strategy, including organic visibility, domain authority, paid media ads, conversion performance, technical performance, site speed, universal search, content, social ads, accessibility, and mobile performance.  

Driving Optimal ROAS from Paid Media Channels

Some of the leading players in the space are high spenders on paid media channels such as Google, Bing & Facebook - but have a poor or sub-optimal conversion improvement strategy. Without an optimised, sophisticated conversion strategy that maximises the conversion rate, the return on investment is unsustainable or will underperform. Scaling spend on paid media is not achievable unless the conversion rate delivers optimal performance in the sector. Some in the space have paid media spend levels from 30k+ per month but dedicate minimal resources and budgets to conversion testing.  Given the cost per clicks on ad networks will continue to rise, we recommend spending at least 10% of your paid media budget on ongoing conversion optimisation testing schedules to ensure your paid media ROI maintains long-term viability, competitive advantage, and sustainability.

Technical Website Compliance

Savvy digital marketers know that having a technically sound website is an essential component of a successful fully integrated digital strategy - plus a site capable of maximising conversion performance. Pharmacies should take care of the pathways to key pages, such as best-selling products, FAQs, or seasonal health advice.

In our last report, we noted that Chemist4U was returning a large amount of 4xx error codes. In Q3, Chemist4U has slightly increased this figure, with its total 4xx error codes now sitting at 3,883. This indicates a poorly maintained internal linking structure and a lack of redirects being put in place. Chemist4U should be considering alternative products or ranges that they can redirect to when products are removed

Site Speed & Conversion Rate Performance

When 62% of consumers are less likely to convert if they have a negative mobile site experience, ensuring that your site is quick and easy to load makes a significant improvement on your overall conversion rates. This is especially important for customers wanting to find their local pharmacy's contact details or to make an order online quickly, from their mobile device.

We have seen universal falls in mobile page speed performance across all sectors we specialise in, so are not surprised to see a 'fall' in performance across these twelve digital pharmacies. Boots, however, which saw a score of only 2 in Q1, has improved mobile page speed to 25, now outperforming four of their competitors.

Building Competitive Advantage with Domain Authority

Domain authority is an essential metric for measuring the effectiveness of SEO performance, and helps create a reliable overall gauge of how effective your site is at achieving organic traffic, i.e. ‘free’ traffic that isn’t gained through sponsored ads. Pharmacies can look to collaborate or outreach to publications and bloggers who sit within the health and wellbeing niche to develop their backlink profiles, but can also tie into seasonal events, such as travel health, to expand in other categories.

A ‘good’ DA really comes down to how your competitors are performing, however it’s generally considered average between 40 and 50, good between 50 and 60, and excellent above 60. We rarely see large amounts of movement on DA, from report to report. However, PillTime, which had the lowest DA of 27 in Q1, has seen this figure fall very slightly to 26 in Q3. As a quick-win approach to building DA, PillTime can look at backlink reclamation, to identify pre-existing link opportunities.

Organic Performance – Mobile & Desktop

A strong organic performance is strategically important as it ensures your site ranks above competitors for key, transactional keywords. When 93% of your customers won’t go past the first page of Google, your absence or lack of targeting for essential keywords will cost you conversions. The cost of living crisis is having a wide-reaching impact across many of the sectors we specialise in, with pharmacies being no exception. While pharmacies may have been a natural destination for toiletries and medications, shoppers are now more likely to be buying cheaper alternatives as part of their supermarket shop, or even buying in bulk from online retailers like Amazon.

All but two pharmacies have seen a fall in organic traffic year on year. Superdrug, which had seen the biggest loss in Q1, has now gained digital footfall, seeing a 13% increase on its 2022 figures. Pharmica has lost the most organic traffic, with a 59% reduction year on year.

Universal Search Opportunity

Google Universal Search Results is an evolving opportunity to make your pages visible on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Universal results often appear before traditional listings and are eye-catching for users. Universal search results refer to rankings on a SERP that are not the traditional ‘blue line’ Google link, and a brand can appear for universal search results without being strong in standard rankings. Pharmacies can primarily utilise 'FAQ' and 'people also ask' results to share health information directly from the SERP, along with using 'local pack' results to capitalise on local shoppers looking for nearby pharmacies.

'Image' is the widest-used Universal Search result, with all twelve pharmacies securing appearances for the attention-grabbing result type. As can be expected, Boots is still dominating the Universal Search opportunities for pharmacies, securing the most appearances across 'image', 'reviews', and 'local pack' result types.

The Longtail Keyword Opportunity

Longtail keywords are often considered high intent and potentially more likely to convert as a searcher is being more specific. Optimising for longtail keywords also puts your content strategy in a strong position to rank for brand new search terms as they enter Google’s index. Pharmacies can look at brand-specific keywords to improve visibility on longtail keywords, along with terms such as 'next day delivery' to capture traffic from customers needing products quickly.

Boots and Superdrug are dominating the longtail keyword landscape, though this is likely to be down to each brand's extensive range of products across the beauty and electrical categories, as opposed to just pharmaceuticals and toiletries. Looking at the other brands within our report, Well Pharmacy has secured the most appearances for longtail keywords within the top three, ten, and twenty positions. In addition to this, Well Pharmacy are ranking for a further 27,000 longtail keywords outside of the top twenty positions, indicating plenty of opportunity to expand this visibility further.

Facebook Adverts

With the number of Facebook users in the United Kingdom (UK) forecast to hit over 42 million users by 2022, it is not surprising that brands have jumped at the opportunity to advertise on the social media platform. Facebook’s UK digital advertising revenue has been estimated to have breached 2.6b GB pounds in 2019. Pharmacies can use Facebook ads to generate interest and traffic to seasonal campaigns, such as products for summer holidays or winter colds.

Below, we can see examples of Pharmica’s Facebook ads. Pharmica has used a range of ad formats to capture attention, using static images in both photograph and illustration format, along with a vertical video that will fit seamlessly in 'Reels' content. By varying images used in campaigns, Pharmica can accurately assess the impact of each ad type on its audience.

Pharmica Facebook Ads September 2023

Top Social Shares & Content

When it comes to social media and on-site content strategies, it is important to release content that has a longer shelf life. An article is considered 'Evergreen' if it has maintained its relevancy to an audience for longer. It's great for your brand engagement, but great for Google too, who will recognise content which achieves traffic over a long period of time. For pharmacies, social media is an opportunity to share informational content that ties into popular topics, such as must-pack essentials for holidays, advice for boosting your winter immune system, or a guide to common vitamins and supplements.

Meta is the preferred platform of all online pharmacies. While Boots and Superdrug are (understandably) storming ahead on likes and followers, Chemist4U, Assured Pharmacy, PillTime and The Independent Pharmacy have no presence at all on these platforms. Building a strong organic presence will help reduce reliance on paid ad campaigns, and improve general brand awareness among consumers.

Website Readability & Accessibility

20% of people in the UK have a disability – 2 million of which are people living with sight loss. In addition, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have some degree of colour vision deficiency. When websites are not designed to meet these needs, brands lose customer interest as they turn elsewhere. While accessibility should be a key concern across all sectors, pharmacies (along with any brand within the healthcare sector) must take particular care to present an accessible website, reducing the risk of any ordering errors and ensuring that anyone who needs access to the site can reach it.

We have noticed that the smaller pharmacies, who may not be securing as much traffic, are generally performing better when it comes to accessibility. Boots, though storming ahead in many parts of our report, has flagged an extraordinary 1,431 accessibility alerts in our audit. On closer inspection, this is due to a range of issues, though an excessive amount of 'tab index' alerts indicate challenges in programmatic focusing for users using screen readers.


For a glance into just 6 of the metrics we evaluated these top 12 pharmacies on, check out our quick-look table below; Pharmacies W&L Sept23


To get a copy of the full report, please complete the enquiry form. If you want to talk to us about accelerating your digital performance, please call us on 01543 410014 or schedule a call with Mike Movassaghi.

Photo by pina messina on Unsplash

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