One out of every five Google searches is health related. Let that sink in for a moment. Google answers over 500 million searches per day, of which 100 million are health related. Progressive healthcare marketers are waking up to the opportunities to reach new patients online and quickly realizing that Google and Bing apply a different set of rules for healthcare PPC advertising.
It's amazing volume, especially when you consider that each of those 100 million searches represents a person suffering from a malady, researching a condition, or planning a course of treatment. Each search also represents an opportunity to match patients with information.
To help get you get started, here are do's and don'ts to stay compliant and find new patients with PPC:
Do These 9 Things
Cast a wider net
Many people are just beginning to research their symptoms while self-diagnosing or seeking additional help. Be sure to include keywords and ad groups for symptoms, treatments, and conditions. The trick is to think like a patient, not like a doctor. Leave your medical dictionary at home and focus on layman's terms.
Capitalize on referrals and word of mouth
Don't forget to create ad groups for each of your providers and your practice/facility name. People searching for you by name may be following up on a referral from another provider or word of mouth from a friend. Don't leave these opportunities to chance, or worse, have your patient end up on a healthcare aggregator site like HealthGrades.com. Make sure they can find you by name!
Measure phone calls from new patients
We aggregated all of our healthcare clients' data and noted that 90% of all new patient inquiries originate with a phone call. If you are not tracking phone calls generated by each campaign, you risk making optimization decisions with incomplete data.
Measure everything else
In addition to phone calls, there are plenty of ways to track your site visitors' likelihood to schedule an appointment. For example, you can use Google Analytics to track the number of people that download your new patient intake forms, get driving directions to your practice, or view info specifically for new patients. Each of these data points can help you determine which traffic sources or campaigns are bringing in the most potential patients.
Stay up to date with HIPAA and the HITECH Act
The quickest path to violating patient privacy regulations is to offer insecure communication methods that leave their health information in the open. If you want to collect patient info on your website, work with your IT vendor or practice management software system to ensure that your email forms, patient intake forms, and data storage systems are properly secured. If you work with an agency or marketing partner, make sure you have the appropriate Business Associate Agreement (BAA) in place.
Stay out of trouble
Stay up to date on the ever-changing policies on each advertising platform that you intend to use. Google and Bing have similar policies for search ads but don't allow remarketing for healthcare companies. They don't mess around with these policies, and even well-intentioned marketers can run afoul of ad policies if not careful.
Give the people what they want
Don't commit the cardinal sin of PPC, dropping visitors on your site's home page. Create landing pages for each symptom, treatment, or condition that you are promoting. This helps your visitors find exactly what they are searching for and reduces the probability of them leaving your site.
Explain your process
Use your ad copy and landing pages to connect with potential patients and explain what they should expect before, during, and after treatment. This could include pre-op instructions or a virtual tour of your office and staff bios. Helpful information helps your team appear more approachable and can set you apart from competing practices.
Expand your ads' footprint
Google and Bing include optional ad extensions that allow advertisers to include maps, phone numbers, and other types of info in their ads. These extensions help your ads stand out to potential patients and dramatically improve the likelihood of click-throughs or direct dials from mobile phones.
Don't Do These 5 Things
Don't make unsubstantiated claims
Pay extra close attention to the way you make treatment or outcome claims and be sure to provide data to support those claims if you wish to stay on Google's good side. If you are unsure, check with Google support before launching your campaigns to avoid a possible suspension.
Don't try to use remarketing on Google
Google disables the remarketing settings for healthcare advertisers to protect patient privacy. Don't even try, as it can trigger an automatic or manual account review that could result in suspension. If you want to retarget your site visitors, try Facebook or other social networks. Currently, they still allow advertisers to target ads based on previous visitor behaviors.
Don't store patient data in insecure locations
You're in healthcare. You already know this. It's not worth the risk.
Don't force patients into online portals
We've seen some medical groups try to eliminate phone calls and force patients to book an appointment online. The problem is, most patients have questions or need more info before scheduling a consultation. Sometimes they may be on a smartphone and not feel like typing in all their info and would prefer to call your front desk.
Don't underestimate patients' needs
Speed is often rewarded more than thoroughness in today's healthcare environment. Sometimes, there is just not enough time to answer every question from every patient. If you can't afford to spend as much time with your patients as you would like, the next best thing is to create content on your website to answer many of the most common questions. The benefits are two-fold: Office visits can be shorter, and potential patients will find your site more credible and relevant.
The healthcare PPC advertising market is competitive and only getting more crowded. Savvy marketers need to know how to get the most new patients while staying compliant. Keep these tips in mind when you plan your PPC strategies, and you'll stand out from the crowd.