Healthcare Advertising Tips for the Digital Age

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2014 is shaping up to be a big year for healthcare marketers. With the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare as many know it), physician practices, hospitals, and healthcare organizations will be vying for around 15 million newly insured patients that the new law is projected to produce. And while online healthcare marketing has historically lagged behind other sectors in terms of innovation, recent statistics indicate that online advertising is an increasingly important method for healthcare providers to market their services.

According to GeoVoices, 80 percent of people search for health information online, and 81 percent of people click a sponsored link while doing so. Pay per click advertising is a great way for healthcare marketers to drive brand awareness, educate patients, drive consults and referrals, and capitalize on a surge of search queries regarding the Affordable Care Act and their own healthcare needs.

Be an ACA Hub
A Content Marketing Institute poll conducted a few years back identified brand awareness as the top objective among healthcare marketers, yet the biggest challenge cited was “producing enough content.” The confluence of these goals and the ACA rollout present ample opportunities for healthcare providers to drive brand awareness and educate people about the new law by adding new landing pages, FAQs, and services overviews.

Not only should you be adding relevant, ACA-related keywords like “Obamacare in California” or “New York health insurance marketplace” to your ad groups—also consider adding a keyword-rich landing page reviewing specifics of the new law, including links to your state’s healthcare exchange.

Note: If your practice is working with a low pay per click budget, you may want to limit the number of ACA-related keywords you’re using or pay close attention to your keyword bids. Although we cannot predict exactly how expensive these clicks will be in 2014, some of them could have relatively high CPCs. To help drive down CPCs while still leveraging those keywords, consider creating an Affordable Care Act Google Alert, and adding low-competition keywords based on recent news to your ad groups.

Be an Educator
Another Pew study indicates that 35 percent of Americans have gone online to identify a medical condition that they or someone else may have. And 46 percent of those respondents were able to find a medical professional as a result of their online research.

Informing potential patients through quality content is a great way to shape your organization’s identity, establish authority, and capitalize on a spike in search traffic for a narrow set of keywords. Are you marketing an outpatient pulmonology practice? You might have your pay per click campaign contain geo-targeted, symptom-related keywords like “difficulty breathing” and “shortness of breath;” and have your landing pages contain practical information on these symptoms, directing readers to seek medical attention where appropriate.

Online “self diagnosis” is not the most recommended course of action by clinicians, but with 8 out of every 10 online health inquiries starting at a search engine, healthcare organizations should be targeting their campaigns toward those who need their services most. Offering initial guidance to make an informed healthcare decision—including what symptoms to look for and when to seek additional help—can establish the kind of trust needed for customers to choose your practice.

Be Mobile
About one third of patients have used tablets or mobile devices on a daily basis for health-related research and to book appointments. And because prospective patients are likely looking for you with their smartphones or tablets, mobile ads are a must.

Target your ad groups to hit mobile devices and, resources permitting, optimize all of your web pages for mobile, even adding a “Book an Appointment” form to those pages. Recent research on mobile device usage indicates that devices will surpass desktop computers within the next year—in fact, more people worldwide own a mobile device than own a toothbrush. In addition, 3 out of every 4 adults who own a smartphone use it to search for location-based recommendations and reviews, which brings us to…

Be (Extremely) Local
This might seem like a given for healthcare organizations, but taking measures to target your ads locally can reduce wasteful ad spend on irrelevant site visitors, while reaching more of the right customers at a lower cost. Sure, you might have packed your landing page copy and appointment forms with location specific keywords, and even targeted searchers exclusively in your locality. But if you’re also not adding long-tail, location specific keyword strings to your ad groups, you could be losing potential patients to competing practices in your area and be missing out on highly targeted, low-CPC opportunities.

In one case study, an advertising firm simply added a series of location specific phrases to a primary care physician’s existing keyword list. The result? A 2,000 percent increase in clicks and 30 percent reduction in CPC.

With the Internet becoming the primary resource for healthcare information, there is tremendous opportunity for physicians and hospitals to optimize their pay per click campaigns. If there’s one thing that the web offers healthcare consumers that it didn’t ten years ago, its choice. By integrating thoughtful keywords driven by your brand’s clinical expertise and developing landing pages that truly serve prospective patients, healthcare marketers can enjoy more efficient campaigns and an ROI that’s just what the doctor ordered.

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