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From Patient to Advocate: Your Healthcare Marketing Guide

With more than one million active physicians in the United States, the healthcare industry is more competitive than ever.

While being trustworthy, reliable, and having a great rapport with patients is essential, a user-friendly website and sound healthcare marketing strategy are becoming increasingly important.

Based on data from 2021, 75% of people have searched online to learn about a doctor, dentist, or medical care, and that number has only increased.

People no longer go to the closest provider or rely solely on physician referrals. Instead, they search online, read reviews, and compare providers to find the best fit for their needs.

Digital marketing in healthcare is more important than ever. Without it, you'll miss out on traffic, new patients, and, ultimately, revenue.

In this guide, we'll cover the best healthcare marketing strategies for enhancing your online presence, reaching more people, building brand awareness, acquiring new patients, and growing your business.

Table of Contents:

Define Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy

Healthcare Marketing Channels to Reach Your Target Audience

Boost Organic Reach With Healthcare SEO

Reach New Patients With Paid Media

HIPAA-Compliant Healthcare Marketing

Understanding HIPAA Regulations for Marketing

Avoid Using PHI in Marketing Campaigns

Patient Consent and Authorization

Using Healthcare Analytics to Make Data-Driven Decisions

Audience Segmentation

Website Conversion Tracking

Patient Call Tracking

Goal Funnels

Mastering Healthcare Marketing

Define Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy

Before jumping into specific marketing channels, which we'll cover below, you need to define your strategy for who you want to reach and how you'll achieve this.

Creating a healthcare marketing strategy involves key steps based on your goals and needs.

  • Define your goals and objectives. What does success look like? Do you want to increase patient appointments, enhance brand awareness, launch a new service, or expand into a new market?

  • Understand your target audience. Figure out their pain points, demographics, preferences, interests, and needs. Conduct market research, analyze patient data, and develop patient personas to tailor your messaging effectively.

  • Develop your brand identity. Your brand identity should reflect your values, mission, and unique selling points and include elements like your logo, visual assets, and tone. Consistency in these elements helps build brand recognition and trust.

  • Establish your budget. What you can do depends on how much you have to spend. Defining your goals and objectives and communicating these to key stakeholders will help you secure budget and buy-in for your marketing campaigns.

  • Determine which marketing channels are right for you. More on this below, but what platforms and channels will you use? Will you run paid ads and optimize your website for SEO?

Healthcare Marketing Channels to Reach Your Target Audience

Now that you’ve determined your objectives and budget, you can decide which marketing channels will work best for your goals.

From Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to enhance visibility, to paid media campaigns for targeted outreach and analytics to measure results, explore these options for healthcare providers to expand their online presence and drive patient acquisition.

Boost Organic Reach With Healthcare SEO

Even with the most talented, qualified doctors, you can't reach your target audience if prospective patients can't find your business online.

Optimizing your website through SEO best practices helps improve your rankings on search engines. This increases brand visibility and helps potential patients find your website when they need information or services.

The first step is to do keyword research to determine words and phrases relevant to your practice that your target audience is using.

If someone needs your services, what would they type into Google? Don't limit yourself to service-related queries; include information-based searches, questions, treatments, specialties, and more.

For example, if you offer mental health services:

  • Create a list of keywords related to mental health, such as "mental health," "therapy," "counseling," "psychiatrist," "psychology," "mental wellness," "mental illness," etc.

  • Add more specific topics: "anxiety," "depression," "stress management," "PTSD," "OCD," "ADD/ADHD," "bipolar disorder," "eating disorders," "substance abuse," etc.

  • Consider location-based keywords (more on this below): Include keywords related to your area, such as "mental health services in [your city]," "[your city] therapist," "[your city] counseling," etc.

Looking at competitor websites can also help you see what keywords they’re targeting that are likely relevant to your site and services.

Keyword tools can help you determine which words and phrases make the most sense for your business.

Once you know which keywords you want to rank for, you can strategically incorporate them into on-page elements, such as title tags, headers, meta descriptions, URLs, and site content.

Building rankings aren’t easy or immediate, especially with many healthcare providers.

Working with a reputable marketing agency can help you improve rankings for your target keywords, increase traffic, and drive revenue through patient acquisition.

Target Local Users

Ensure patients in your local area can find you when searching for healthcare providers.

Adding/claiming and optimizing your Google Business Profile (GBP) listing can help you attract local patients. Keep your listing updated with your business name, physical address, website URL, services, and contact information. An accurate GBP listing can help your rankings in local search.

If you have multiple offices, ensure your listing is consistent across all locations. In addition to basic information like your name and address, you can add company logos and staff headshots to add credibility. GBP allows users to share helpful content like newsletters, promotional offers, relevant information, and more. These features will help you engage with your target audience and boost your performance in local searches.

Ask patients to write reviews on your GBP listing to build social proof and credibility. Studies show that 82% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Learn more about how to boost local rankings for your healthcare practice and discover how Workshop Digital helped a regional physical therapy services provider increase local traffic by 46% to help the practice acquire new patients.

Create Authoritative Healthcare Content

More than half (58.5%) of U.S. adults search for medical information online. Creating informative content can improve rankings and boost brand awareness.

By creating high-quality content like videos or healthcare blog posts to answer users' questions or address their needs and interests, you establish your brand as trustworthy and authoritative.

Off-page and Technical SEO

There's much more to SEO than writing blog posts and optimizing for keywords. Off-page and technical SEO include elements like external linking, site architecture, page speed, mobile-friendliness, and more.

These components help to ensure your page is user-friendly and easy to navigate. They also help Google crawl and index your site so you show up where your patients are looking.

Reach New Patients Faster With Paid Media

While a sound SEO strategy helps you reach your target audience through organic search, Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns offer targeted reach and more immediate results.

Investing in paid media can help healthcare practices maximize patient outreach through targeting based on health-related searches, interests, or other demographics.

Paid media can help your organization reach specific audiences; qualified users who need your services and are more likely to convert.

Determine Your Goals for Healthcare PPC Campaigns

To maximize the effectiveness of your strategy, you need to set clear goals and objectives. For example, is your goal increasing appointments, promoting specific services, or raising awareness for a new facility?

How will you measure success? With paid campaigns, you can track metrics like cost per conversion, conversion rates, and click-through rates, or even integrate your first-party data to report on things like the number of new patients or return on ad spend (ROAS).

Segment Your Audience

Segmenting your audience can help you create ads and messaging that resonate with specific groups. You can create groups based on criteria like location, and demographics. Marketing campaigns must adhere to HIPAA guidelines (more on this below), so it’s important to understand Google’s healthcare and advertising policies, which determine whether content is and isn’t permitted in certain areas.

An experienced marketing agency can help you ensure you ensure you’re creating paid ads that will drive results for your business while still following Google and HIPAA policies.

Perform Keyword Research

Like your SEO strategy, you must identify relevant healthcare terms and phrases for your paid campaigns.

Include keywords related to healthcare businesses, services, treatments, symptoms, and conditions. You'll use these keywords to build your ad groups and ensure your ads reach customers searching for terms related to your business.

Create Healthcare Ad Copy

Creating compelling ad copy entices searchers to click on your ad when they see it in SERPs.

Ad copy should address your target audience's needs and pain points and offer solutions to show them how your practice can help them.

Customized ad copy, such as messaging tailored to different audience segments, can improve PPC campaign performance. You can also increase engagement by adding visual elements in your ad creatives, such as images or videos.

Set Up Your Campaigns to Reach More Patients

Determine the best PPC platforms to use (Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, and/or social media platforms) based on your audience and business goals.

Structure your campaigns, ad groups, and ad sets logically to align with your goals and audience segments.

With the right marketing mix, you can reach more patients. For example, Workshop Digital partnered with a healthcare technology company to generate more qualified leads. Using LinkedIn Ads and SEO, Workshop Digital leveraged content based on service lines to reach decision-makers. This strategy helped the healthcare company generate qualified leads and improve the efficiency of the brand's paid campaigns.

Start Smarter Bidding Strategies

With paid media campaigns, you can use a variety of bidding strategies to target relevant keywords in a cost-effective way.

Your bid strategy will depend on your budget and your objectives:

  • Conversions. Optimizing for specific actions (booking a service, downloading an eBook, subscribing to a newsletter, etc.).

  • Clicks. As the name implies, this option means optimizing for clicks. Optimize for clicks if your main goal is to drive website traffic.

  • Impression share. If your goal is to increase brand awareness, optimize for impressions.

Smart Bidding

If your primary focus is conversions, consider using Smart Bidding. These bidding strategies use Google AI to optimize for conversions and include other factors like device, location, time of day, language, and more.

Google Ads offers five Smart Bidding strategies you can use:

  • Target cost per action (CPA)

  • Target return on ad spend (ROAS)

  • Maximize Conversions

  • Maximize Conversion Value

  • Enhanced cost per click (ECPC)

CPC Bidding

If your main objective is clicks to your website, cost-per-click bidding can help. You can automate the process using the Maximize Clicks bidding strategy. With this option, you set an average daily budget and Google Ads will automatically manage your bids to generate the most clicks.

If you want a bit more control, you can use Manual CPC bidding. This strategy allows you to set different bids for each ad group or individual keywords.

If your goal is visibility, there are additional bid strategies you can use:

  • Target Impression Share. This bid strategy automatically sets bids to help your ads appear at the top of search results.

  • CPM. With CPM bidding, you pay based on the number of times your ads are shown on YouTube or the Google Display Network.

  • tCPM. This bid strategy lets you set an average for the amount you’re willing to pay per every thousand impressions.

  • vCPM. vCPM is an effective manual bidding strategy for increasing awareness. You can set the amount you want to pay for each 1,000 viewable ad impressions.

  • CPV bidding. Use CPV bidding if you want to run video ads. With this strategy, you pay for video views and user interactions with your videos like clicks on your CTAs (or call-to-actions).

With various bidding strategies and targeting options, paid media campaigns can help you reach potential patients faster.

Setting up campaigns, writing effective ad copy, bidding, and measuring results can be complicated if you've never done it before. Follow these best practices for PPC for healthcare.

HIPAA-Compliant Healthcare Marketing

Following HIPAA regulations is essential for healthcare organizations to protect patient data and avoid penalties or legal action. It’s equally important to ensure your digital marketing strategies are HIPAA compliant.

Understanding HIPAA Regulations for Marketing

HIPAA's Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules specify requirements for protected health information (PHI).

  • HIPAA's Privacy Rule "establishes standards to protect individuals' medical records and other identifiable health information."

  • HIPAA's Security Rule "establishes national standards to protect individuals' electronic personal health information that is created, received, used, or maintained by a covered entity."

  • HIPAA's Breach Notification Rule "requires HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates to provide notification following a breach of unsecured protected health information."

Understanding these rules helps healthcare organizations and their marketing teams safeguard sensitive information and protect patient trust.

Avoid Using PHI in Marketing Campaigns

Understanding the difference between PHI and general marketing data is vital to avoid HIPAA violations.

PHI is any information that can be used to identify an individual, such as names, addresses, dates, phone numbers, and social security numbers.

On the other hand, basic demographics, like age, gender, or general location, aren't considered PHI and can be used for audience targeting.

Patient Consent and Authorization

You may want to include pictures or information about patients, such as case studies, quotes, reviews, or testimonials, on your website, ads, or other marketing materials. But before doing so, make sure you know the rules.

Healthcare organizations must have signed authorization from patients to use their information, pictures, reviews, or testimonials for marketing purposes.

Written consent must include:

  • The purpose of using the information

  • How it will be used

  • Who will see it

When using photos, ensure patients understand the potential risks of posting their pictures online. Wherever possible, remove any identifying information such as faces, names, dates of birth, and other identifiable features from patient photos you plan to use for marketing.

Even with consent, it's essential to respect patient privacy and confidentiality. Avoid using testimonials or photos that contain sensitive or personal information.

When responding to reviews or testimonials, be cautious to avoid revealing any information that could identify the patient.

To streamline the process and avoid confusion, healthcare organizations should create set procedures to collect patient consent to use data. For example, you could include a form in a patient intake packet where individuals can opt out of having their photos used for marketing purposes.

Understanding and following HIPAA regulations in healthcare marketing helps to safeguard patient trust and avoid legal or financial penalties.

Using Healthcare Analytics to Make Data-Driven Decisions

Once your marketing strategies are in place, you must ensure you can accurately track data and performance.

Accurate tracking enables you to measure performance and make necessary adjustments.

Healthcare organizations can gain insights into audience behaviors, preferences, and trends by tracking key metrics.

Healthcare teams can use advanced analytics to collect and analyze data for strategic decisions.

Audience Segmentation

As mentioned above, segmenting your audience based on shared characteristics like traffic sources, behavior, or demographics can help you understand these groups and adjust your marketing efforts to better align with each segment.

This helps ensure you're serving the right content and marketing materials to the right audience, which can increase conversions.

Website Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking allows you to understand what actions users take on your site.

Do they click a call button, submit a contact form, request information, or download a guide? Understanding user behavior can help you learn more about your audience and how they interact with your site and create relevant, useful content.

Patient Call Tracking

Do you know how new patients find out about your practice? Call tracking can give you clear insights into the campaigns, ads, and channels that drive calls.

Goal Funnels

Using goal funnels can help you visualize the steps site users take to complete a conversion. This is valuable because it can also show where users leave during the process.

These are just a few examples of metrics you can track to understand user behavior and performance. The specific metrics you choose will depend on your business and your goals. Collecting, analyzing, and using your data strategically will help you tailor your campaigns for your target audience to increase conversions.

Learn more about how analytics can help you optimize your marketing efforts.

Mastering Healthcare Marketing

With a sound strategy and the right mix of marketing channels, you can help your healthcare practice stand out in a crowded, competitive market. Ensure you’re tracking analytics so you can measure and adjust your strategy as needed and pay close attention to HIPAA policies to create compliant campaigns that protect patient data.

Need help getting started? Discover how Workshop Digital can help you create, optimize, and track your marketing campaigns to help you acquire more patients and drive more revenue.

Contact us to learn more.