If your practice has looked into running online ads recently, you may have been surprised at just how many options are available.
In our experience, not all online ad options are best for medical practices. On some platforms, medical practices are heavily restricted or even prohibited from running certain types of ads. Though patient behavior is increasingly similar to consumer behavior, a lot of the advertising options that are effective for other types of businesses are not viable options for healthcare.
To help you get a better idea of what types of ads are best for your practice, we’ve put together a list of our advertising recommendations–including ad platforms to avoid.
Best Online Ad Options for Medical Practices
To Get More Patients from Online Searches: Google Search Ads
Google Ads is certainly one of the most common online ad platforms. There are a few different options within Google Ads, but paid search ads are the most effective for medical practices. These are the ads that you see at the top of the page when performing a search on Google. With these types of ads, you only pay when someone clicks on the ad.
Paid search campaigns can be very effective if you target your ads to the right people. Your ads show up when people search for terms relevant to your ads, so it’s fairly easy to ensure that your ads are actually reaching patients that are seeking out the services you offer. These ads do not include any imagery, so they may be quicker to set up as you don’t need to develop any graphics. You also have fairly detailed reporting options, so you can monitor your results and adjust as needed.
A critical component of monitoring your paid search ads is tracking return on your investment via conversion tracking. While you want potential patients to click on your ads, what is most important is whether or not they take the next step and make an appointment. For that reason, we recommend implementing tracking for the phone calls and form submissions from your website so that you can easily connect the dots from paid search clicks to conversions. (Learn more about conversion tracking here.)
The one caveat of Google paid search ads is that you may be unable to advertise certain procedures, especially newer procedures like regenerative medicine. Currently, Google will not allow practices to run ads for regenerative medicine procedures, regardless of the practice’s qualifications and research data.
If You Want to Build Awareness: Facebook Ads
If your practice wants to get the word out about a new procedure, service, or team member, Facebook ads are a fairly cost-effective way to boost your reach. These ads look like regular Facebook posts, so people can easily share the ads and boost your reach even further.
Unlike Google search ads, the people seeing your ads are not specifically seeking out for your services. Anyone that matches the targeting demographics might see the ad in their Facebook news feed. For this reason, Facebook ads tend to have a lower conversion rate than Google’s paid search ads. With that said, the ability for users to share and comment on the ads is great for drawing attention to a service or information patients might not have known about. For example, Facebook ads have recently been very helpful for some of our clients in getting the word out about resumed operations amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Facebook also allows practices to advertise regenerative medicine, so that may be an option if you want to promote those procedures.
Facebook sponsored posts also give you a lot of targeting options, so you can really focus on your audience. Facebook also has reporting features to help you adjust your campaign and determine your return on investment for the sponsored posts. Another potential advantage of Facebook is the ability to add images and video to your ads to make them more eye-catching as users scroll through their news feeds.. The average cost per click is also fairly cost-effective and tends to be lower than Google Ads.
If your practice is going to place online ads on a social network, Facebook is probably the best place to start, especially if you are an orthopedic practice that tends to deal with an older patient demographic. Facebook is the most popular social network, and your practice is more likely to connect with patients on this platform than other social networks due to the commenting and sharing features. As with Google Ads, we also recommend getting conversion tracking in place to determine your ROI.
Building Awareness with a Younger Audience: Instagram Ads
Like Facebook, you can run sponsored posts on Instagram to build awareness about your practice, providers, and services. If your patient base tends to be younger, Instagram ads may be a great option for you. In fact, if your practice is already running Facebook Ads, you can actually run the same ad content on Instagram via the Facebook ad manager.
Over half of Instagram’s users are under the age of 35, so we tend to only recommend Instagram ads for practices that are targeting patients that are within that age group, or those who are the parents of young patients. In an interview on our podcast, pediatrician Dr. Justin Smith explained how Instagram has been great for getting in front of the parents of his young patients. If your practice also has pediatric specialists, Instagram ads may be helpful.
To Promote a Doctor for a Particular Specialty: Healthgrades Advertising
More and more, patients are turning to online review sites when looking for a new doctor. Practices with few reviews or bad reviews will often get passed over on these sites in favor of a practice or doctor with higher reviews.
We often recommend reputation marketing for practices to improve their reviews. With the base-level offering, practices can collect reviews from patients and have them post on top review sites, including Healthgrades, Vitals, Wellness, and Doctor.com. In addition, Healthgrades has a premium option that allows providers to advertise on the website. This offering allows providers to place banner ads, as well as promote their review profiles so that they show up ahead of competitors for their key specialties. Healthgrades can be especially helpful for physicians who specialize in regenerative medicine, since those services cannot be advertised on Google.
Ad Types That We Don’t Recommend for Medical Practices
Google Display Network
Unless you have ad blockers installed on your internet browser, you probably see display ads on a daily basis. These are the ads you see alongside, above, and below content when visiting a website. Sometimes, you’ll even see a display ad in the middle of the content.
However, you don’t have as much control over where your ads are placed. The ad placement may not always be the most relevant to your target audience. Also, display ads can be associated with spammy content and are often ignored. In fact, click-through rates for display ads are generally less than 1%. Although you only pay if someone clicks on your ad, it may be a lot of effort for little return, which is why we generally do not recommend them unless a practice has tried other ad options first.
Remarketing ads are display ads that show up after you’ve visited a website. You’ll often see these ads if you shop online. For example, when you shop for a new pair of shoes online and don’t purchase anything, you might notice that you see online ads for those shoes for weeks after. Those are remarketing ads.
While remarketing ads are great for businesses selling a product or service, patient privacy laws prohibit medical practices from running remarketing ads. Remarketing ads require the ad platform to gather information about users that could be in violation of HIPAA laws. For this reason, advertising platforms like Google will not run remarketing ads for medical practices.
These are only some of the many online advertising options available. We suggest starting with starting with the ad platform that best matches your goals, then working your way out to other options. Most importantly, always monitor and measure your results–if you can’t determine a return on investment from your ads, then that money is best spent elsewhere.