Google AdWords Targeting 101 for Medical Marketers


Learning to effectively and efficiently target keywords for paid search campaigns is a skill that can take some time to master. Start your journey towards digital advertising excellence with this quick primer on Google AdWords targeting for medical marketers.

Keyword targeting is difficult work: after finding the sweet spot between high search volume and low cost, building out all your categories, and discovering all those niche keywords, it can be frustrating to discover that you still have to do plenty of optimizing to make an impact. There’s no single secret to good keyword targeting, and even the most successful campaign hinges on a great deal of trial and error after it’s launched.

But while winning strategies must be earned and not taught, it’s helpful to follow a series of steps that make finding those strategies that much easier. Below is a quick primer on what tools you need to use when developing a keyword portfolio for your next medical marketing campaign, how to use them, and how to optimize your strategy for maximum conversions.

Keyword Planner

Google AdWords offers many different tools that enable medical marketers to target particular audiences with their campaigns, but primary among them is the Keyword Planner. Found on the “Tools and Analysis” section at the top of your AdWords homepage, the Keyword Planner sets the industry standard for search engine marketing (SEM) platforms.

The tool displays millions of potential keyword combinations by order of average bid, search volume, and more. Your hospital or medical practice will most likely want to master two of Keyword Planner’s features when conducting SEM research: “Search for new keyword and ad ideas,” and “Get search volume for a list of keywords or group them into ad groups.”

Search for New Keyword and Ad Ideas

The very first step in creating an AdWords campaign is to create a keyword portfolio that aligns with the interests of your target demographic. While it may be tempting to simply start creating ad copy and work in the keywords later, the result often comes across as forced and unnatural to patients. By using AdWords to compile a list of highly relevant keywords at the outset, you can generate highly relevant copy that resonates with your target audience, simultaneously increasing your online visibility and bolstering trust in your brand.

It’s typical to start out with at least a general idea of what kind of keywords you’d want to incorporate into your SEM campaign — the process is fairly intuitive: anything that your potential patients would enter into the search bar to find your services should be considered for inclusion. If you’re an orthopedist in Phoenix, you’ll obviously want to include “Phoenix orthopedist,” but you should also expand on that phrase by including multiple variants, like “Phoenix orthopedic surgeon,” “Orthopedists in Phoenix area,” and “Arizona orthopedics.” All of the variants you come up with from this root make up a single keyword category; a list of potential terms that users might search to find out more about a single idea, topic, or story.

If you’re not sure where to start, the “Search for new keyword and ad ideas” function can be incredibly useful. Simply type in a few rudimentary keywords like “pediatrician,” and the tool will surface a list of related keywords that you might not have considered. Once you’ve collected enough keywords to make a portfolio and have organized them into categories, you can begin to assign value to each of them according to average bid and search volume.

Search Volume

This list will also provide you with the search volume for each suggested keyword phrase, indicating which keywords are worth including in your ad copy.

However, it’s important to set realistic goals and expectations — terms with particularly high search volumes are nearly impossible to rank for, and whatever traffic they do end up bringing to your site won’t necessarily be relevant. In other words, even if you end up seeing a hefty increase in your overall click-through rate (CTR), if these visitors aren’t actually interested in your services, and aren’t converting as a result, you’re effectively wasting your budget.

The ideal keyword or keyword phrase will be popular enough to reach a significant audience, but niche enough to be both affordable to bid on and attract more “active” patients who are interested in your services and likely to convert.

Remember to Keep Optimizing!

While following many of these guidelines will undoubtedly improve your keyword targeting results, it’s important to keep in mind that these improvements don’t tend to happen overnight. It takes weeks and months of optimization in most cases to start seeing real results in the form of new patients.

In our experience, even the strongest search campaign won’t flourish until a PPC manager takes control and puts in the time, energy, and most importantly, attention necessary to understand what it takes to get results from that campaign’s target audience. Furthermore, organizations need to focus their attention on more than just keyword targeting — they need to be optimizing the campaigns themselves, as well the landing pages that users are sent to when they click on an ad. With the right approach and a little bit of patience, it won’t be long before you start generating real, tangible results for your hospital or practice.

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