Connecting the Dots between PPC and SEO in Medical Marketing


Coordinating paid and organic search marketing will lead to smarter insights and better investments for your medical practice or hospital.

Digital channels are indisputably essential to successful medical marketing, with some 72% of consumers using search engines to research medical conditions. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and search engine optimization (SEO) are crucial channels for any medical marketing team, but all too often operate in separate spheres, creating missed opportunities.

Some separation between marketing specialities is inevitable, but only an integrated approach can unlock the full potential of these models. If it’s time for your marketing department to reassess your process, here are some advantages of each method — and reasons you may want to combine forces.

Advantages of PPC Advertising for Medical Marketers

With PPC ads, medical marketers pay a fee every time someone clicks through to their website. The obvious disadvantage here is financial, as paid advertising can eat up your budget —  often without successful conversions — and competitors that outbid you will pull ahead. This ad space is especially tight for medical marketers, with costs a full $0.85 higher than the average across all industries, and the click-through-rate (CTR) about 0.12% lower.

However, this model is proven to boost site traffic, and allows your team to adapt quickly to changing conditions. PPC provides an immediate source of data with a substantial sample size, meaning you can be confident that the keywords in the ads are meaningful factors for conversion. The ads themselves typically appear as the first search engine results, which does promote brand recognition even if the user doesn’t click through. In fact, a Nielsen Research study suggested that a brand name appearing in both organic and paid results got 92% of clicks, while organic search only resulted in 60% of clicks.

PPC is also invaluable for time-sensitive and targeted campaigns. That means better seasonal promotion or better control of the narrative if, for example, you need to mitigate narrative press. You can also perform precise patient or HCP targeting, based on factors like time, day, device type, and location.

The Need for Search Engine Optimization

SEO is an unpaid content-based strategy that relies on organic search results. Unlike PPC, this is a long-term strategy — with a new blog program, you may find yourself waiting almost six months to see a correlated uptick in site traffic. It can also be difficult to capture the same quantity of data as with PPC, even though click-throughs allow you to glean quality insights.

It takes work to build relevant and popular content, but SEO doesn’t require the same type of constant monetary investment and management as PPC. Moreover, the efforts are sustainable; so long as your content remains relevant and responsive to users’ search queries, you’ll only increase your visibility over time. Studies have suggested that SEO is 5.66 times more successful than paid search, and that 70-80% of search engine users focus only on organic results.

Building a Cohesive Marketing Strategy

To develop a comprehensive picture between PPC and SEO models, the key is to streamline the knowledge-sharing and decision-making processes. If you’re not lining up key metrics across channels, you could be missing out on opportunities to optimize your marketing strategy and reduce costs. Your key performance indicators (KPIs) should complement each other, aiming for similar long-term objectives. That will make it easier to expand a comprehensive marketing strategy to social media and email marketing.

Analyzing organic traffic can show you not only what users are searching for, but also what Google thinks is the best answer to any given query. PPC, on the other hand, can help you learn about your possible target audience at a scale and speed beyond what organic searches can provide (not to mention the additional metrics provided in Google Analytics). In return, this helps you better target your SEO efforts, making them more cost-effective, which can be important for smaller businesses used to focusing on PPC.

For example, say you’re running a PPC campaign for new patients in a large metro area. If you run different ads for different neighborhoods or regions of that metro area, you can determine which area is most interested in your ads and then create content that will elevate your ranking for that search term. On the other hand, if you notice that your practice has a particularly high search ranking for a certain procedure, you’ll know to run paid ads about that procedure to convert new patients.

Discovering Effective Keywords

Both paid and organic search teams aim to identify terms that best line up with their target audience’s online behavior, leading to traffic and successful conversions. Generally SEO is not an effective method for fast keyword testing, and the results can be murky. Instead, the PPC team should take the lead with testing new terms.

For the best results, organic and paid search teams must share their keyword insights with each other. Popular topic keywords from PPC can become blog posts or articles. Paid ads can include includes common negative keywords to save costs. “Help” keywords suggest an opportunity to present your product as a solution. Long-tail keywords can be especially useful for SEO purposes, as these are more specific and less competitive terms. And if you’re looking for a streamlined way to focus title tags and meta descriptions, automatically incorporating PPC results could be a great habit.

Coordinating to Save Money

Promoting organic content can actually make your paid campaigns cheaper, as search engine algorithms recognize relevant and popular URLs as being more valuable, and lower your bidding price accordingly. Meanwhile, with too much emphasis on PPC, the marketing department could be wasting money. Ad optimization might only lead to incremental improvements. If you convert some PPC keywords to organic content, you may be able to lower your paid engagement with those terms without sacrificing traffic. Experts suggest decreasing your auction efforts by a small margin — perhaps 10-15% for only a few terms at a time, once a week.

The Bottom Line

Specialities within medical marketing can inevitably lead to siloing. But the effort to bridge the gap between PPC and SEO methodologies can lead to invaluable — and actionable — insights. Medical marketing is a highly competitive field, and the marketing teams who work together will be best positioned to build long term strategies, make agile transitions, and ultimately increase ROI across the board.

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