How to Start a Clinical Trial Paid Search Campaign

clinical trial paid search

Paid search ads are one of the most powerful ways to recruit patients to your clinical trial. Define your keywords, audience, goals, copy, and budget up front for the best chance of success.

When patients are seeking new treatments or more information about their medical conditions, Google is one of the first places they go. In fact, 80 percent of all Internet users have searched for a health-related topic online. That’s why pay-per-click (PPC) Google ads are one of the most effective ways to reach patients who may be interested in participating in a clinical trial.

However, setting up a Google Ads campaign is easier said than done — and setting up a highly effective Google Ads campaign is even trickier. Selecting the most promising keywords, using your budget effectively, and reaching the right audience can be a daunting task. For this reason, having a general overview of how the platform works can be incredibly helpful, whether you’re working with a digital marketing vendor or putting the campaign together yourself.

That’s why we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to getting started on Google Ads:

1. Plan the right keywords.

Google’s Keyword Planner tool can help you determine which keywords are right for your clinical trial campaign. It acts much like a thesaurus — you enter phrases you imagine potential patients may be searching, and the tool offers similar phrases and their search volumes.

Making Google Ads work for you requires choosing keywords that are relevant, but not excessively competitive (known as long tail keywords). Keywords that are too popular also tend to be too expensive, so make liberal use of Keyword Planner’s built-in bid estimator. Your budget can go a lot further if you take advantage of less expensive keywords.

2. Tell Google your goals.

Once you’ve planned your keywords, you’re ready to begin crafting your search ads. On Google’s new user-friendly ad platform, this begins by telling Google your goals — your options include getting more calls to your business, increasing brick-and-mortar store visits, or driving people to your website.

For a clinical trial, you’ll want to drive website traffic, and Google will tailor your search ads accordingly. Keep in mind that this means you’ll need a designated landing page that will draw patients in after they click — keep it simple but informative to compel patients to read more, give you their contact information, or get in touch with you.

3. Define your audience by location.

When your keywords and landing page are ready and your goals have been defined, it’s time to define your target audience geographically. Determine the radius that you’d like to reach — you can advertise to just a few square miles, or to a global audience. When you’re advertising for a clinical trial, consider the location of your test sites, the condition you’re treating, and the demographics of your target audience.

If your audience is older or, due to their condition, has limited mobility, you may want to restrict your audience radius to a smaller area. Otherwise, cast as wide a net as you feel is feasible and affordable, as failing to reach patient enrollment goals in time can be far more costly than a wide PPC ad radius.

4. Craft compelling copy.

With Google Ads, you can include a headline and a few short sentences to describe your clinical trial. This copy is your one chance to draw patients away from other paid search ads as well as organic search results, so it’s important that you get it right. Further, ads with a higher click-through rate also receive a higher Quality Score, which in turn lowers their cost per click — so good copy can actually lower your costs.

The headline is the most important component of your search ad. As the first thing prospects will read, it’s your first chance to stand out from other ads. Include your chosen keyword in the headline of each ad, so that users (and the Google algorithm) will know that your ad is directly relevant to what they’re searching. In your description lines, explain your trial in slightly greater detail.

5. Set your budget cap.

One of the best thing about Google Ads? You’ll never go over your budget, because you set a monthly cap. Google will also offer estimated results for your selected budget, so you’ll get a good idea of what you’re paying for.

However, you can get more bang for your buck by tracking conversions and implementing A/B testing. Google Ads allows you to create a number of unique ads with different headlines and copy; with this feature, you can test which ads perform the best and optimize your ads over time accordingly.

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