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Healthcare is one of the largest industries in the world. Whether it concerns medical devices, health insurance, IT, personal health, or pharmaceuticals, healthcare is embedded in our everyday lives. Indeed, Google processes 28 billion search queries around healthcare every year.
Connected to those solutions are businesses seeking awareness, and if you’re a PPC professional, you’ll undoubtedly encounter healthcare businesses that need PPC campaigns to bring their offering to the masses. Healthcare PPC has some unique aspects that all search engine marketers need to know.
Users predominantly utilize Google to find sources of information on healthcare. Approximately 89% of consumers use Google for healthcare searches, which is a staggering percentage when you consider the amount of business hospitals and healthcare practices represent – not to say anything of the healthcare information market.
High cost-per-click and cost per action can make success within the healthcare industry tough. It makes sense. If you can dominate in this vertical on the internet, you’ve got a lot of business coming your way.
The healthcare industry represents lots of dollars to be earned, which means the competition is high in this field. You’ve got to be on top of your PPC game to maximize your return-on-ad-spend (ROAS).
It’s no secret that information is at the root of a high-performing digital marketing strategy for healthcare companies. How often have you searched the internet for health information on perceived ailments, pharmaceutical advice, or a new health strategy?
Health is one of the number one things on people’s minds, and rightfully so. Self-preservation (and therefore, staying healthy) is at the top of Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs.
Therefore, it isn’t hard to figure out how to reel in your customer at the top of the funnel. High quality and authoritative content that answers the questions your audience is searching for is paramount to not only a top notch SEO strategy, but also a stellar PPC effort.
Of coure, the whole pie of healthcare market share is too humongous for any one company – no matter how diversified their offerings are.
You’ll want to focus on your niche, which means understanding your audience and buyer personas.
What products and services do you focus on? Start with the highest ROI offerings first, as well as your best performing products or offerings. These are areas you can potentially dominate the most. Once you know how to speak to the audience looking for your highest performing products or services, you can move on to more fringe offerings. But, the key is not to spread yourself too thin in an already over-saturated market.
A corollary of this rule is that 20% of what you run will account for 80% of your success. Whether this is ad messaging/offers or products and services – narrow down what works and continual tweak those aspects to maximize where you perform the best to continue getting steady returns on your best performing PPC components.
Focus on the areas where you excel. If you can’t make money from the offerings that distinguish you from the rest of the market, then there could be other underlying – and possibly serious – problems outside of PPC strategy.
While focusing on the most relevant buyer personas/medical professionals is important, speaking the language of the buyer personas is the key to gaining high CTRs and high conversion rates.
Are you speaking the industry jargon in the same way that healthcare professionals use it and understand it? What keywords are medical professionals using to search for the products and services the need?
For the B2C side, are the patients in research or emergency care mode?
Many healthcare websites are vestiges from a bygone era, and you can easily tell when you view their website on a mobile device. Whether it’s on a commute, during lunch, or waiting in line, people are searching on their mobile phones more than ever before.
Sites that are not mobile-responsive are simply lighting money on fire for healthcare companies. Have you ever been to one of these old, dinky sites that clearly hasn’t been updated since the early 2000’s? How fast have you bounced from a site like that? (Unless, of course, the website was the DMV or some other governmental site that necessitated your time.)
Having a mobile strategy for PPC is not a concern specific to the healthcare industry, but there are definitely more infractions of websites for large and slow-moving healthcare companies that simply haven’t updated their digital marketing strategy. If you’re a healthcare company, don’t let this mistake burn a hole in your pocket as well.
Additionally, related to B2C, consumers are searching health-related queries on mobile because they trust it as a more private device than desktop or their work computers. Pile that reason onto the many reasons people are researching on their phones instead of their personal or work computers, and you have millions and millions of reasons to update your mobile strategy and website to keep up with the times.
Proximity to a user’s location is usually a huge indicator for interaction with PPC ads for health companies. Therefore, setting up location based campaigns that take full advantage of local PPC strategies are crucial to getting these relevant localized ad clicks.
These strategies include location based – or geotargeting based – with respect to the areas where you offer your products or services. Some locations will do better than others, and it is imperative to gather accurate metrics to hone in on specific ROIs for various locations. In such a competitive landscape, the edge a PPC professional gets from acquiring the most razor sharp margins is crucial for success – and even survival.
Finally, Google’s settings allow those that are searching about your region to still be shown your ad even if you don’t control the settings correctly.
In the location options, you can tweak your settings to only allow those within your targeted location to be shown your ads no matter what keywords are searched.
Campaigns for different locations can perform differently for many reasons outside of simply location. The healthcare needs and nuances of a specific city or region are all baked into a geo-targeted campaign – without the visibility of these nuances, outside of the varied performances of these siloed campaigns.
Testing different messaging, bids, keywords, and landing pages can help you figure out the reasons for why various locations perform differently. Talk to your customers – and the people who deal with your customers – to hone in on the particular buyer persona of each location.
Tools like Google Trends can also be useful in tracking relevant searches and topics for different regions.
It is also important to include regional terms within your keyword lists, and there are many great tools to help you do this. Similarly, if you can include the name of the location in your ad text – especially if that location is part of the search query – then that part of the search query gets bolded, which boosts CTR.
The FDA provides strict regulations that allow the United States to be one of the few countries in the world allowed to advertise pharmaceutical drugs direct-to-consumer.
Reminder ads guidelines set by the FDA give an outline of how pharmaceuticals can be advertised on Google.
Ads aren’t allowed to describe or name the conditions that the drug treats. However, the ad must mention the brand and generic name of the drug. ‘Boxed warning’ drugs that entail more risks follow their own separate guidelines.
The FDA laws for pharmaceuticals can be interpreted differently for the various mediums in which ads can appear. For example, FDA regulations require that drugs show ‘fair balance’ by equaling presenting a drug’s risks and benefits. You may have noticed television ads that make a long list of side effects listed alongside the benefits – this is the ‘fair balance’ aspect of pharmaceuticals at work. However, there are no strict guidelines as to what ‘fair balance’ entails in practice.
For instance, there isn’t a set number of risks and benefits that you need to show in order to meet the requirement that an equal balance of risks and benefits are shown. This is where the interpretation of the ‘fair balance’ ad rule depends on the medium and presentation. Basically, equal space and/or equal time of the risks and benefits of any particular drug can be subjective.
This is why reminder ads can be appealing to pharmaceutical companies. You don’t have to mention the risks and benefits of a drug when you don’t mention the conditions that the drug treats.
Via Search Engine Land
The FDA makes a caveat for social media platforms with character limits. Here is explicitly what they have to say:
“At a minimum, a firm should communicate the most serious risks associated with the product together with the benefit information within the individual character-space-limited communication.”
Via Search Engine Land
Above is how an ad would look like if it complied with the social media caveat dealing with character limits. However, many pharmaceutical companies do not dare show ads for their drugs in the format above, highlighting the risk aversion and conservative approach to the FDA rules.
As a rule, Google Ads take users to a URL or destination that needs to be reflected in the ad by a domain that shows where the user will end up even if the subdomains weren’t accurate.
However, this can create issues that conflict with the fair balance rule. Namely, the website URL might give away the conditions the drug treats or the benefits it provides.
Google and Bing circumvented this rule by allowing pharmaceutical companies to have ‘vanity URLs’ that didn’t match the destination URLs where users landed. However, they backtracked on this idea because of the confusion it caused searchers. Alternatively, Google ultimately allowed pharmaceutical companies to categorize themselves in a special way that dictated how their ads showed. This created a stir when it was implemented in 2016, with many questioning Google’s show of partiality towards the industry.
When working with drug companies, you’ll inevitably have to work with a bureaucratic system of legal help that they have on hand. The pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated, and any misstep along the process producing – and even marketing – the product can lead to fines in the seven figures due to the revenues that drug companies can generate.
The review process for advertising can be extremely rigorous because of the different laws and varying levels of interpretation that are available. On top of that, there are different channels that all need their own interpretation: display ads, social media, text ads, different audiences (keywords, audiences based on behavior or interests, etc.)
Video ads are also a segment of PPC that overlaps with television, which can blur the lines of laws pertaining to each respective channel.
Furthermore, all clients are different. Hospitals, drug companies, insurance firms, pharmacies – each of these entities serves a different purpose, offering different products and services that require their own set of laws. Therefore, it is important to understand that not all legal teams will operate the same way. Familiarize yourself with each team and its processes – no matter how many healthcare industry clients you have – to understand the intricacies of each team.
Oftentimes, with various segments of the healthcare industry – especially within the supplement and pharmaceutical sector – the search engines themselves will have to set you up and make sure certain parameters are in place to allow you to run your ads.
Check out Google’s support pages to see if you have to register or apply for certain types of advertising based on where you’re located and your healthcare sector.
Search engines can also set restrictions on the types of products that you advertise, or attach rules to certain products. The list includes unapproved pharmaceuticals and supplements, weight loss supplements, ephedra, and substances related to anabolic steroids.
Marijuana and hemp are in the news a lot these days, and are legal in some form for over half the United States now. Indeed, over 60% of Americans approve of marijuana these days. Considering the polarization we’re seeing on controversial topics in the U.S., that’s a landslide victory!
Despite the nation’s embrace of weed, search engines still do not allow cannabis-related entities (that are legally making billions of dollars a year) to advertise online. While searches prove that some companies are taking the risk, the risk is a very real one – with consequences ranging from a simple ad disapproval to having your account banned. Proceed at your own risk.
Via Business Insider
Just like any other PPC effort, regardless of industry, PPC advertising requires constant monitoring, optimizations, and testing. Because the products and offerings within healthcare can be so necessary, many companies think they can take it easy once they finally initiate campaigns.
This can be the death knell of campaigns – regardless of industry. So, the big takeaway here is that the healthcare industry is no different than other industries in that regard. While healthcare may be a strong industry that can be immune to market fluctuations, their PPC campaigns can stagnate like everyone else’s.
Adding negative keywords – like ‘free’ and ‘courses’ to weed out students – is standard practice in PPC shops. But this is not a one time PPC account setup and you’re done.
Search queries need to be monitored regularly, especially at the beginning of a campaign’s launch, to make sure important keywords that you haven’t considered aren’t heavily underperforming.
Search query reports are also a source for keywords that you haven’t thought of related to your sector, product, or service.
Remarketing is not allowed in the healthcare industry due to privacy concerns. This takes away a lot of the strategies related to moving a customer down through the sales funnel that typifies most marketing strategies in other industries – so it’s definitely a unique aspect of healthcare marketing that needs to be taken into consideration.
Landing page best practices usually entail being as concise as possible. You typically want to get the major benefits in bullet format, make use of whitespace, and quickly guide users to the conversion form.
Attention span is a scarce resource in this day and age, and using too much of it can cost you big in the search engine marketing field. Prospects simply don’t have time to read all the details of your product or service – except, of course, when it comes to things that directly pertain to them and their lives. People will get into the nitty gritty for as long as they need to when the subject matter is literally life or death.
That’s hyperbole, of course, but the importance of healthcare in people’s lives cannot be underestimated. If people are willing to get agitated over customer service for a laptop, imagine how passionate they get about their health or the healthcare of a loved one who might be suffering from some ailment. In PPC, we preach implementing FOMO (or Fear Of Missing Out). The motivating factor of fear in causing people to make decisions is a very real phenomenon.
However, in healthcare, fear is built into the system. Everyone fears for the uncertainty of their health and they want to protect this asset the best that they can. Therefore, you don’t need to add more fear to this industry. In fact, you need to quell people’s fears.
The more you quell their fears and make them feel certain and comfortable, the more likely they’ll do business with you.
Showing competence and authority with more words can actually pay huge dividends on the landing pages of healthcare businesses.
Having too much information on your website can actually give the user more time to discover the authority you have on a subject by eventually finding the answer that they are looking for, according to Sergey Rusak, an online paid search manager at WordStream.
Many practitioners in the industry see the same thing. They’ve tested landing pages with less sections, no ‘about us’ section, video content, and more information on symptoms, conditions, treatments, causes, etc.
The outcomes are usually the same: people tend to stay longer on landing pages with useful information, and they convert better. Whether it’s B2B healthcare professionals that want all their questions answered about a software system that will replace hundreds of thousands of medical records, or consumers that want to learn everything they can about a particular disease, its symptoms, and the possible avenues for treatment, complete and thorough information is better than not enough information.
This does not mean, however, that you can load up on text without considering spacing, heading, and image issues. No one wants to stare at a block of intimidating text and decipher jargon that’s unorganized for them to find their answer.
Healthcare PPC professionals still need to take the customer experience into account and produce the best and highest converting experience possible. It just so happens that in healthcare, this conversion experience has more content than other industries usually do.
A final aspect to think about is video landing pages and content. We all know that mobile is the next thing that’s already hit and we need to be ready for it, but video is on par with mobile. And with the healthcare industry, video is an easy way to absorb a lot of information without reading. Having a doctor or healthcare professional explain a subject can be huge in getting your audience to easily absorb information. It can also build trust in your authority and brand.
Need more evidence that video should be a part of your strategy? According to WordStream, Google surveyed over 700 healthcare administrators and found out that every single customer said they wanted videos of product demonstrations. That’s 100% of customers, for those counting at home.
What’s more, over three-quarters of respondents proceeded to the company’s website after watching the video, and over 60% talked about the video to someone else. If that doesn’t motivate you to add video content to your PPC strategy, then I don’t know what will.
In the world of healthcare, any situation can be an emergency. Because of this, having contact information easily visible is a crucial aspect of your online presence. Having this information available can help a lot of businesses show credibility, but this is especially true for medical services and offerings because customers really need to feel trust in their products when lives are on the line.
Furthermore, if you’re on the B2B marketing side of targeting health professionals, the longer sales cycle of a B2B service or product can necessitate consultations and follow-up questions that require in-depth and customized answers. B2B prospects absolutely need to be able to know how to reach you during these critical inflection points in the sales process.
The sales process inevitably drives toward a customer in the bottom of the funnel reaching out, according to Patrick Stevenson, Regional Director of Physician Development & Inbound Marketer at an electronic health record (EHR) integrated with a patient portal.
Indeed, he says, almost all bottom-of-funnel prospects end up calling them directly – which is very unique to a long sales funnel in the healthcare industry. To this end, call extensions and sitelink extensions to contact pages on your website are imperative for any B2B healthcare campaign and website.
Not only do these extensions add real estate, but they are a key piece in the puzzle when you’re at the end of a sales cycle and remarketing isn’t one of the levers you can pull within your PPC strategy. People will be searching terms they’ve used in the past to find you, and if you have your contact information readily available, you’re making it easier to seal the deal – something that remarketing campaigns are usually used for.
As you can see, healthcare PPC is a broad term that encompasses many industries and sectors – from B2B to B2C. The common denominator is that healthcare is embedded in our society and there’s not a shortage of search volume – and thus, revenue to be made – online from advertising health services and products.
While the stakes are high, the rules can be prohibitive depending on the sector. Once you’ve jumped all the legal hurdles, healthcare PPC comes down to the daily grind that all PPC campaigns require for success. Additionally, understanding your buyer persona, buyer cycle, and the crucial components of PPC platforms that are and are not available to you will put you on the path to success in acquiring healthcare customers.