Avoid these 5 pitfalls with your digital healthcare marketing

Frequently, when on-boarding a new client, we discover their medical practice has previously executed some level of advertising. This advertising usually takes the form of a reactionary measure, either to offset a slowdown or answer competitive pressures. Practice managers saw the “writing on the wall” a few years back after many such practices discovered competitors making moves online to attract new patients. They would dabble, test, and validate the effectiveness of online marketing, leveraging the ubiquity of Google’s search engine and its AdWords platform. After some early success, Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising by way of Google became an integral part of lead generation, engagement and patient recruitment.
Fast forward, and Google AdWords is now just Google Ads. Besides the strategic name change, Google still happens to be the 9-million pound gorilla if you’re marketing focus is keyword bidding. The search giant spent that time growing and refining their advertising platform, and what’s more, every competitor and company out there has caught on. The secret’s out. So, unless you want to bust your entire marketing budget or experience mediocre results, you better have a strategy for ad spend, building compelling creative, and proper execution when it comes to utilizing Big G.
What is so attractive about Google Ads when marketing to new patients? According to the practices we serve, track-ability is the reason most cited. Meaning, if you spent $X on an ad, you know how many people saw the ad (impressions) and how many people clicked on the ads (link clicks) for $X. But, there is much more to Google Ads than just showing up in search queries. You may think of Google as a tech company, but make no mistake, they are a fully-focused advertising powerhouse. And now, there are many attractive ways to use Google Ad products and measure the results of your work. However, specialized medical practices, such as Orthopaedic and Family Medicine groups, can become complacent once the big ramp up of initial effort is past. Relying solely on outdated tactics that may have worked a few years ago, can have you falling way short of Marketing “Best Practices” for 2020.
As a specialized healthcare marketing agency, we understand the benefits of utilizing ‘Big G’ in marketing plans. Still, many variables go into successfully marketing a medical practice, and not even the all-powerful Google will serve as your marketing “silver bullet.” If you’re using Google as your only or main marketing tool, you should be thinking: What are the shortfalls of Google and Google Ads?

Here are five limitations of Google Ad products for healthcare marketing:

1. Understanding Your Audience

While Google may boast a massive empire generating 63,000 searches per second worldwide, it all amounts to zilch if that’s not where your patients are searching. What if your best kind of patient isn’t a “Googler,” or even someone who uses search engines. What we have found is that a new patient prospect doesn’t have to be anti-technology to avoid your ads on Google. There may be no pain or urgency, so your practice isn’t going to get the “call for a new appointment” because no search is taking place.

2. Ad Relevance:

Google designed its utilitarian platform to serve the most good for the most people. So, unless you’re willing to make individualized and thought-provoking ads, your ads may be seen but not clicked. To make the most of your advertising efforts, you’ll need to improve the relevance score of your ads. If you can’t get inside the prospective patients’ (typically female) minds and connect in 25 characters or less, your ad will get lost in the shuffle.

3. Bidding Wars:

Google Ads can be expensive. Maybe not expensive word-for-word, but the sheer number of ads that have to run day-to-day week-to-week to generate the holy grail of new business – a patient at your practice – can add up over a marketing cycle. Plus, your practice may be bidding on the same keywords as your competitor, driving up the cost until Google’s algorithm awards the highest bidder superior positioning.

4. Time Constraints:

Google is online gambling with your advertising money. They have created a system that will, in all of their Google wisdom, require a boatload of your time to review and vet their keyword changes and additions to your word bank. You start with your basic ad, and Google expands the reach of these ads to attract all the eyeballs that are tangential to your corresponding keywords. Unfortunately, Google still gets bogged down by showing ads to even the most loosely associated connections to your keywords. When their systems are choosing words to bid on (spin the wheel) at its algorithms’ discretion (with your money), they will spin off ads and test the market. Like gambling, sometimes there is a payoff (i.e., a keyword you had not thought of), but most of the time, the winner is the house. What else is wrong with Google gambling? While it is generating new search terms that patients may be searching under, it will also toss in some words that are just wrong for your practice… and your practice is still paying for every click. Click, click, click…

5. Off-Limits:

Google is missing or blocking essential words and phrases that could be important to your practice growth or target prospect. Specific verbiage is disallowed for healthcare marketing, and Google maintains a running list of such items here.
What we began to notice several years ago was that Google Ad products have a particular use-case for medical practices, but it certainly isn’t a “one size fits all” type of situation. Google Ads fell short of satisfying every aspect of new patient generation. We were searching for better ways to spend ad dollars (as we tend to do) and asked ourselves: How do we get more bang for the buck? Our goal isn’t to spend all our clients’ ad dollars; our goal is to spend all of the ad dollars well, unlocking their highest potential, so they generate optimal results. In marketing jargon, we want a great ROAS (Return On Ad Spend). But because I am a coffee lover @RiverRoadCoffees, I like to say, “we want a great ROAST” (Return On Ad Spend Today).
Now, our best ROAST comes from an integrated mix of Google products, email marketing, other online marketing products/approaches, social media, and even some traditional stuff like print, outdoor, broadcast, etc. The method we take is specific to each practice and very strategic.
What’s beyond Google Ads when you are working to drive practice success and growth? A whole bunch of best-fit new patients. Will you join us for a toast – a toast to a better ROAST?


About the Author

Adrienne Folse is owner and marketing strategist for Hippomatic, a national healthcare marketing agency providing strategy, branding, and marketing. If you would like to discuss your healthcare practice’s needs or challenges – schedule your 20 minute consultation with Adrienne.


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  • Hippomatic has been instrumental in representing PTI’s vision to our targeted audiences, both in our digital footprints and our direct to consumer efforts. They have served as our Chief Marketing Officer for the last 4 years. This is a very trustworthy organization who’s dedicated to understanding your business.

    by Lawrence S. Salone - PTI

  • Their branding and marketing approach helped me build a successful practice. Adrienne and her team created a strong identity and brand for my pediatrics practice fifteen years ago. They did their research and then spent time listening to my ideas of what I wanted the brand to portray about me and my practice. I was very happy and excited with the creativity and professional quality she brought to the project. From the planning to the logo, website, and the newborn booklet....