It’s been a running theme throughout most of my columns because it’s common amongst our clients – they’re so busy focusing on the practice and patients (and rightly so) that their digital presence often falls by the wayside.
This is especially true when it comes to the complex details of digital marketing. Most physicians understand that it’s important to have a user friendly website and up-to-date online listings. But what about going beyond the basics to actively promote your practice, clinical qualifications, high levels of patient satisfaction and a “Call to Action” to schedule new patients?
Enter Paid Search.
What is Paid Search?
Paid Search goes by several names: Pay-per-click (PPC), cost-per-click (CPC), search engine marketing (SEM) … to name a few. In layman terms, Paid Search means advertising within a search engine’s “sponsored listings” (or on a partner site) and paying each time a user clicks on your ad.
So if you were to do a Google search for “Vein Clinics in Los Angeles”, you’ll notice the first few results on the top of the page AND the results on the right side of the page are paid for. They display on top of the organic results with yellow labeling that reads “ad”. Google’s goal here is to offer those vein practices a way to advertise (which accounts for roughly 87 percent of Google’s own revenue) that is still helpful to the consumer.
What’s the Benefit?
Search engines use algorithms to determine which websites should show up at the top of the results page organically. They take into consideration website quality, popularity, etc. Paid Search pushes your vein practice to the top of the results page, regardless of whether or not you would get there organically. Of course there are limitations, and you’re competing against other vein practices, but you understand the ultimate goal.
Another benefit is the unique way in which Paid Search is budgeted. You set the budget based upon your needs, taking into consideration the average cost-per-click for your keywords. You can set a cap on your daily spend and change it at any time. Then, you only pay when someone clicks.
In traditional digital advertising, you pay regardless. And while you can track click-through-rate on a traditional display ad, that’s all you know. In Paid Search, you know that person was actively searching for YOUR clinical services and, to a certain extent, you can gather demographic data on those users.
How Does it Work?
In order to run ads on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., you’ll need to create accounts with each of these search engines and master their Paid Search systems – how to book ads, how to pay, how to analyze the results, etc. There are a lot of moving pieces, so most medical practices will work with practice management or marketing firm that understands the process and can manage the accounts for them.
- Goals: Your marketing advisor should start by assessing your goals and establishing reasonable expectations. Are you looking for more free screenings, consultations, laser procedures or cosmetic sclero? Are you promoting your vein practice as a whole, or do you want to focus on a new service, physician?
- Ad Group Structure: This refers to the topics or clinical services that you’re looking to promote. Your campaign might focus on vein care, but your ad group would focus on varicose vein removal. The ad groups should be specific so the keywords and their subsequent bids are narrow. This saves money and ensures you’re getting quality attention to your web site – prospective patients who are looking for that specific treatment.
- Copy Writing: Search engines have character limits for the title and body of your ad copy. So you’ve got 95 characters total to grab a user’s attention and get them to act. It’s a good idea to mix and match ad copy and keywords to see what users are more attracted to. Some are looking for clinical experience and training, others prefer to see easy online appointment making.
- Ad Extensions: This refers to the extra tidbits (in addition to your main headline and body copy) that appear with your ad. Things like address, a link to specific pages of your website, call-to-actions, etc. They also provide a larger amount of real estate when your ad is shown on the results page, so you get more bang for your buck. This is key in an expensive Google category like healthcare, which is right up there with finance and insurance as industries in price and demand.
- Conversion Tracking: Even the best Paid Search campaign is useless without reliable conversion tracking. Whether you count this in form fills (inquiries), online appointment settings, or number of inbound phone calls, you must have an accurate way of determining the success of the campaign. Your marketing firm should be able to give you some ideas and set everything up for you.
Before you can really dive into a Paid Search campaign, it’s worth doing a brief audit of your current website. Search engines want to know they’re sending users to quality websites, not ones filled with spam and irrelevant information. In many cases, you’ll want to make tiny tweaks (maybe it’s adding keywords to your homepage) before the campaign kicks off. Some vein practices prefer to build a new, separate landing page geared directly toward the topic of the Paid Search ad. For example, an ad about “laser treatment for varicose veins” would direct a prospective patient to a landing page that completely focuses on that.
After your website or landing page is ready, talk with your marketing firm about your business goals and strategy. From there, they’ll do some background research on the topic, write the ad copy, implement your conversion tracking, and help you determine what success looks like.
With so much competition in the vein industry, it’s more important than ever to get your practice in front of consumers who are actively searching (literally) for the services you offer. Don’t miss out on low hanging fruit, talk with a digital marketing expert about your Paid Search potential.