Debunking Google paid search myths

Planning and executing successful paid search campaigns is no longer a luxury for hospitals and health systems, but a necessity.

Nearly 80 percent of consumers now utilize search engines to discover health related information and over 90 percent of clicks are derived from the first page of Google search results, making search a critical path to new patient acquisition. However, due to a multitude of variables, there are plenty of differing theories and myths among organizations around what works and, frankly, many failed campaign attempts. Here are three of the top myths for optimizing a healthcare organization’s Google search results, and the corresponding truths.

#1: Organizations can succeed by focusing ONLY on paid ads.balanced media venn diagram
The reality is, paid ads are only one part of a complex search ecosystem. To truly dominate results, healthcare organizations need to strike a balance between paid (PPC ads), earned (reviews, social posts) and owned (websites, social pages) media. Think about it this way: When it comes to owned media, the more the merrier, but earned media is a powerful vehicle to drive traffic, engagement and sentiment around a brand. Paid media is then a great way to generate more earned media and drive traffic to owned properties, essentially creating a media trifecta. Therefore, it’s important for healthcare organizations to take a central theme or idea, package it in different ways and leverage it across each channel.

#2: Healthcare organizations should only use paid search for keywords that are NOT BRANDED.
To the contrary, branded campaigns need to be part of any organization’s overall paid search strategy. Healthcare organizations tend to assume that if consumers search specifically for their locations, physicians and services that they’ll automatically dominate the search result even without branded campaigns in place. Unfortunately, many providers and health systems fail to dominate in these types of searches because they’re not bidding on branded search keywords, haven’t claimed and optimized their local listings, haven’t built their website on a search engine-friendly web content platform or spent the time on proven SEO tactics. In return, organizations risk losing patient acquisition and also open themselves up to competitive threats, as it does not take much for competitors to bid on other organizations’ names and advertise for themselves. By implementing branded campaigns, healthcare organizations not only eliminate this threat, but further establish their dominance in Google search results for their brand. Plus, it’s typically affordable. Organizations can run successful branded campaigns for a few cents cost per click.

#3: Paid search is a “set it and forget it” campaign strategy.
In order to be successful, paid search campaigns require a lot of TLC. It takes a considerate eye and careful tone to balance messaging, imagery, and calls-to-action for every promoted service, and researching to find the right queries is time consuming.

Further, user patterns change regularly, sometimes daily or even hourly, which can greatly impact campaign performance and results. Organizations that take “set it and forget it” approaches set themselves up for failure as they do not have anyone there to react and make necessary changes. Moreover, while their campaigns may receive impressions and clicks, because they are not optimized, they are likely underperforming and not attracting the appropriate health consumers.

For instance, while Bon Secours St. Francis Health System in Greenville, South Carolina understood the importance of paid search, developing a successful strategy exceeded the expertise and capacity of its internal team. As a result, several of its strategic keywords were underperforming in organic search results, the health system continued to encounter tough competition and it wasn’t seeing favorable ROI. In order to maximize ROI, Bon Secours decided to work with a Google certified partner that not only ensured its ads were seen more often, but that they were clicked regularly by the right healthcare consumers in their time of need. Overall, Bon Secours greatly improved its ROI with 5.1 million impressions, over 97,000 clicks and nearly 4,200 leads stemming from its paid search campaign.

Ultimately, if healthcare organizations look beyond the myths of search and implement comprehensive paid, owned, and earned search strategies, they increase their chance to dominate the search engine results page. In return, they’ll make themselves more visible and more likely to capture appropriate health consumers in the moments that matter most.

As vice president of digital strategy and marketing services at Influence Health, Giselle Bardwell brings over 15 years of digital marketing experience to the team. In her role, she is responsible for managing the successful delivery of services through multiple tactical teams, including web and content strategy, local SEO, web analytics, and reputation/brand management.

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