Medical practices can’t always rely on word-of-mouth advertising to increase patient footfall in their clinics. Instead, these businesses should be looking at investing in a digital marketing strategy that makes sense for their long-term business goals. However, knowing where to invest your next dollar isn’t always intuitive or straightforward.
As a healthcare practitioner, you may be wondering what is the best way to continue driving traffic to your website and increasing patient intake, especially as virtual patient appointments are set to continue. We’ve seen many of our healthcare clients ask the following question: Should I be investing in search engine optimization (SEO) or pay-per-click advertising (PPC)?
Yet, perhaps the question shouldn’t be around which form of digital marketing is best for your business. Rather, it should focus on how you can leverage both SEO and PPC to create a healthcare marketing strategy that delivers sustainable growth.
PPC & Healthcare Marketing: Renting Search Real Estate
PPC is an effective way to get your business front and center of prospective patients when they need your services the most. However, we’ve found that many clients come to us with a misleading idea of what PPC advertising entails.
Many business owners understand PPC as buying ads on search engines and social media platforms so that they can generate leads and boost patient intake. While this is technically true, running PPC ads as part of a marketing strategy is a little more nuanced. We like to think of it as renting search real estate.
What do we mean by renting? Essentially by investing in ads on a paid platform, you are buying space from that ad platform to showcase your medical practice and its services, e.g. you are renting space you don’t own. Therefore, whichever platform service you use (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) becomes your landlord.
PPC: Tradeoffs to Renting Search Real Estate
While this is the name of the PPC game, there can be some tradeoffs to relying solely on this marketing channel for increasing your patient lists. Let’s take a look at these below.
Toll on Entry
Paid ad platforms charge you a fee every time that someone clicks on your ad and visits your website – this is how your “rent” is collected. Having this toll of entry can create a scalability cap.
Why is this? Your healthcare business pays for everyone that visits your site even if they don’t become a patient. This can make it very hard to scale your growth effectively.
No Control Over Landlord’s Actions
As Google and Facebook have full ownership over their advertising platforms, they can easily change their advertising policies and rules without approval from you, the renter. This means that your medical practice has no control over what happens to your marketing strategy.
One day your ads may be running effectively, and the next, policies have been brought in and you can no longer target a patient that is looking for botox or teeth whitening services. Having no control over the policies that govern how you market to potential patients leaves you depending on the whim of the landlord.
Subject to Dynamic Market Changes
The only thing that businesses need to get set up on paid ad platforms is a credit card. That makes paid advertising a highly dynamic market.
Regardless of how much money you have to invest in ads or how optimized your ads are, that doesn’t guarantee you will beat your competition. The more competitors that you have in the paid advertising space, the more expensive your rent will become, the lower your profit will be, and the harder it will be to get new patients.
How Can Healthcare Practitioners Leverage PPC to Work For Them
Yet, that’s not to say that PPC ads can’t be an effective addition to your marketing strategy. The key to successful paid advertising in the healthcare space is to provide patients with multiple ways of contacting your medical practice.
Here are several best practices you should be leveraging with your paid advertising:
Call extensions: Make sure that your ads visibly display your contact information, especially your phone number. Some patients may feel more comfortable booking an appointment over the phone rather than online.
Location extensions: Setting up location extensions allows potential patients to view your practice’s nearest location. This is particularly important if you have more than one clinic location.
Sitelink extensions: Even if your ad is about getting a seasonal flu shot or is offering a short-term promo, site link extensions allow your business to display your other services, e.g. women’s health, blood pressure checks, etc.
Structured snippets: This feature of Google Ads allows your medical practice to highlight specific aspects of your products and services. For example, if you are a plastic surgeon you may want to highlight services such as face lifts or chin implants.
Call out extensions: In healthcare, you need to build trust with prospective patients. One way of doing this is by using call-out extensions that highlight what sets your practice apart. This could be your certificates or the procedures that you’re best known for, e.g. board certified, 10 years experience, walk-ins available.
SEO & Healthcare Marketing: Owning Search Real Estate
SEO, on the other hand, allows you to own search real estate. When you own space on the Google search engine, this not only adds to your business’ value but also builds brand trust and credibility.
Organic search allows each healthcare practice to become a landlord and to have more control over their organic online presence. You no longer have to be subject to the whims of paid ad platforms and you won’t lose organic ranking just because a competitor has a higher healthcare marketing budget than you.
Optimizing your website for visibility on search engines allows you to build a protective moat around your brand and will allow you to scale for long-term sustainable growth. The good news – once you “own that space” the traffic is free.
SEO:Tradeoffs to Owning Search Real Estate
There are tradeoffs to organic search that you need to be aware of before you undertake healthcare SEO services. Unlike PPC, owning search real estate takes time and effort. This marketing strategy is known for providing long-term growth; meaning it won’t always result in new patients on the first day.
Growth isn’t Instantaneous
SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Many of the clients we’ve worked with in the healthcare industry have been surprised to learn that it can take a few months before they own space in Google Search. However, once they do, the benefits that they receive are undeniable and long-lasting.
Consistency is key when it comes to building brand credibility on organic search. Writing copy for your website once is not enough, consistent content creation and monitoring are needed to keep your site relevant. That means regularly updating your medical practice’s news section with what’s happening in the clinic and blogging on topics that are of interest to your patients.
What Healthcare Practitioners Need to Get Right for SEO
If you want your medical practice to be visible on Google Search then you need to commit to the long game that is SEO. Here are several best practices you should be leveraging to make sure that SEO works for your business:
External linking: Healthcare practitioners must create valuable educational content and link out to peer-reviewed articles. By linking internally and externally on your website, this will improve your site’s credibility and domain authority.
Local SEO: Having a strong presence in your locality is vital for medical practices. Make sure that you are submitting your information to local directories in your industry and area so that patients can find your clinic more easily.
Technical optimization: Make sure that your website is optimized from a technical point of view. This will help Google to better understand what your business and site are about – making it easier for patients searching for advice or services in your field to find you.
Google My Business profile: A Google My Business profile is a core component of any business’ SEO checklist. Keeping your profile updated and leveraging features such as the health and safety section allows you to update the general public on various steps your clinic is taking, e.g. Covid-19 safety protocols, mask mandates etc.
SEO and PPC Should Work Together in the Healthcare Industry
Relying solely on either SEO or PPC can be a risky decision for your medical practice. With PPC you need to pay rent to stay visible and once you turn off the ads your brand is left with little competitive leverage. On the other hand, it can take time to scale your business to where you want it to be with an SEO strategy.
By running optimized PPC advertising alongside a robust healthcare SEO strategy, your medical practice can reap the benefits of both worlds: being visible to patients when they need you most and long-term brand credibility.
To learn more about SEO for clinics, read our recent article, ‘Local SEO for Doctors & Dentists: A Step-by-Step Guide’.