How Hospitals Can Target Active Patients Online to Improve Their Digital Marketing ROI

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Thanks to the internet, today’s patients are more empowered than ever before — here’s how hospitals can use search engine marketing tactics to capitalize upon this fact.

Over the past decade, the internet has fundamentally altered the traditional patient path to treatment, becoming the go-to resource for those in search of health-related information. Today, Google processes approximately 89% of all search engine-based health inquiries, which amounts to more than 28 billion searches annually in the United States.

More importantly, almost 25% of those searches are resolved by a medical ad, resulting in more one billion clicks each year. While the medical industry is notoriously competitive when it comes to running pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, with the right approach to keyword targeting, there’s an absolutely huge opportunity for medical marketers to connect with consumers who are actively looking for treatment options. Here’s how to build a search engine marketing (SEM) strategy that effectively targets these “active” patients, thereby improving outcomes while reducing overall cost.

Effectively Targeting Active Patients

The term “active” refers to a patient who is not only actively searching for new treatment options, but is also taking control of the process and making his or her own decisions. In comparison, a “passive” patient is someone who may still be in the research or educational phase of their consumer journey, or is simply relying on their doctor, surgeon, friend, etc. to make these decisions for them. This distinction is critically important, as it directly relates to the ROI of your digital ad campaign.

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Reaching active patients the moment they become transactional requires a very specific approach to keyword targeting. In general, patients who are actively searching for “Resources” or “Therapies” are much more qualified than those entering keywords relating to “Symptoms” or “Diagnosis."

For example, a patient searching terms like “back pain,” “neck pain,” “stiff neck,” etc. can be presumed to be in the Symptoms stage of their patient journey, and therefore far less likely to convert; they’re simply gathering preliminary information, and may view an advertisement as an unwelcome intrusion. Conversely, a patient searching with keywords like “orthopedic surgeon,” “chiropractor,” or “spine surgeon” has likely reached the Resources stage, making them far more likely to click an ad and book an actual appointment.

Hospitals can also capitalize on digital’s targeting and optimization capabilities in order to further improve campaign performance. When you focus on measuring keyword performance in terms of leads and inquiries and marry that focus with the average cost per lead generated, you gain a nuanced understanding of exactly where your leads are coming from, both in terms of volume and cost efficiency. Armed with this information, hospitals can target their media choices in accordance with actual consumer behavior, which will always generate better outcomes.

Generate Real Results

Earlier this year, we worked with The Vein Center at Muto Surgical to develop a campaign that would drive new patient appointments for a free vein screening event in March of 2016. While the strategy encompassed a wide variety of channels and media, we leveraged this active approach on Google and Bing PPC ads to great effect: in total, we were able to generate 37 qualified leads for a cost per lead of $46.30, resulting in 20 confirmed new patient bookings for screening appointments and an approximate 10x return on their initial investment.

What’s clear is that despite the ever-increasing level of competition in the local healthcare search market, there’s still plenty of room to capture the attention of patients in need of treatment via effective keyword targeting and generate real results.

Medical Practice Marketing, Digital Marketing, Physician Marketing