How Negative Keywords Help Boost Your Medical Practice’s Digital Advertising ROI


With negative keywords, savvy digital marketers can prevent their ad spend from reaching the wrong audience.

As internet users flock to search engines for medical queries — a Pew report shows that 80% of people online have sought out answers to health-related questions — it’s becoming increasingly important for digital marketers in the healthcare industry to use their ad spend wisely.

With pay per click (PPC) campaigns, medical practices can more effectively target their ideal customers than they can with traditional media. Strategically selected keywords can promote your business to potential patients at key decision-making junctures, but you’ll only have to pay if they click on your content.

While it’s important to structure your keywords so that your online content reaches interested users, it’s just as essential to preserve your ad spend by filtering out customers who don’t fit your buyer personas. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with negative keywords can boost your digital advertising ROI by preserving your PPC investment for people are the most likely to become patients.

What You Need to Know About Negative Keywords

According to Google, negative keywords are “[a] type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.” With negative keywords in place, Google won’t show your ads to anybody search for those specific phrases. In other words, negative keywords help Google better understand which keywords you don’t want to appear for.

For example, you may use “free” as a negative keyword. While someone may be interested in the skincare treatment that your medical practice specializes in, you don’t want to pay for clicks from users who are primarily looking for free services. There may be other places that can provide them with that kind of care, but your business, in this circumstance, only wants to target customers who will pay. With “free” as a negative keyword, your content won’t appear to these users, preserving your ad spend for potential customers who fit within your target audience.

How to Determine Negative Keywords

In order to select the most effective negative keywords, you’ll have to get creative while relying on whatever data is available to you. Brainstorm the types of business or services that may use similar keywords as yours, and then figure out which negative keywords you can employ in order to prevent your content from being promoted to their customers.

Let’s say that your medical practice specializes in ear, nose, and throat care. Your regular keywords might coincide with at-home products that people can use to avoid a trip to the doctor altogether. In this instance, you could add “home” or “at home” to your negative keywords so that you’re not paying for users who aren’t seeking professional attention. (Whether you want to target these users in order to persuade them that care from a licensed physician is preferable to at-home remedies is up to you.)

Additionally, you can analyze data from previous PPC and SEO campaigns that can drive insights into what keywords you consistently rank for. By understanding how your website appears in organic searches, you can employ evidence-based negative keywords that you may not have predicted.

Entering and Maintaining Your Negative Keywords

The negative keywords tab is easily accessible in Google Adwords, right next to the regular keywords tab. You’ll have the option of entering campaign-level negative keywords or limiting your negative keywords to discrete ad groups depending on your current needs. Also, you can define whether each negative keyword you use is exact, broad, or a phrase match just as you would with regular keywords.

After selecting your negative keywords, it’s vital that you monitor their performance. New data may inspire additional negative keywords, market developments could shift your industry landscape, and competing businesses or services may make unanticipated changes to their own offerings. By continuously checking in on how each negative keyword is preserving your PPC investment, you’ll be able to improve them over time.

Medical Marketing Guide: Google Advertising