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Paid Search Marketing: What It Is & How It Can Get You to the Top of Search

Paid search can be a huge boost to your marketing, placing you at the top of search engine results pages. We explain how it works and how you’ll benefit.

Using SEO to grow your practice’s online visibility isn’t necessarily free, but it’s affordable, it’s got a high ROI, and you can easily find guidance online.

So why would you pay Google to get you to the top of the search results when you can just do it yourself?

Well, because it can accelerate your time to results. SEO tactics like building links from healthcare publications, completing your profiles on online physician directories and general review sites, optimizing your practice’s website, and others ensure you’ll surely and sustainably move up the rankings, but Google advertising could get you to the top of the page ASAP.

Google My Business in Search

What It Is

You might not notice which results are paid when you look at a search results page because they look so much like organic results. The page title is in big, blue letters, the URL is in smaller green letters, and the intro copy is in gray. Your only real clue is the little green “Ad” to the left of the URL. (Paid search results can also include information not available on organic results, like specialty, hours of operation, and—particularly valuable—those treasured orange stars that otherwise only appear in local results.)

Those prime listings, the first results on the first search results page, belong to advertisers who pay Google for the privilege. They’ve bypassed the detail work of SEO to snag a top spot by other means.

And many are finding that it’s worth it: about 32 percent of searchers click on the first result, and 60 percent of searchers click somewhere within the top three.

How It Works

1. You bid on keywords.

Like anything else in the search world, paid search is based on keywords. You just pick your favorite—“midtown Manhattan nutritionist,” “good dermatologist for kids”—and tell Google how much you’re willing to pay to be the first result shown to searchers looking for a nutritionist close to work or a dermatologist who offers Kybelle and Dysport.

These Ad group ideas center around keywords:

Keyword group

2. Google does math.

If you and another advertiser are both calling dibs on the same keyword, Google performs an auction of sorts to decide who gets the top spot. They factor in your quality score—determining how relevant and useful your ad will to the searcher and the search term—along with your bid to assign an ad rank. And may the best kid-friendly skin doctor win.

3. You pay per click.

You don’t have to pay for your ads when they’re displayed—just when they’re clicked. So if you win the auction, get your ad displayed, but don’t get any traffic, the impression was free. And even then, you could still be grabbing the attention of potential patients who don’t click through to your site but do take note of your practice, specialty, and phone number to get in touch with you later.

The Advantages of Paid Search

1. You get to the top—the real top.

Even the highest-ranking websites don’t get to see the very top of the page, above the map of local search results. That’s reserved for paid search ads, which bid for the right to be the first results to meet searchers’ eyes. The practices that are geographically closer to the patient still take second place (or third, or fourth) to your ad.

2. It speeds your way there.

The most effective keywords are usually the ones that are hardest to optimize for, particularly if you’re a small practice running a small site. Your name, or the name of your practice might make the front page of organic search results, but it wouldn’t get a lot of traffic on its own—you’re only going to get searches from people who already know about you. “Dentist in Los Angeles” would be the gold ring, but to reach the top of search results for such an in-demand keyword, you’re probably going to have to lay down some money.

3. It can be targeted.

Google knows which customers might be interested in your services. (It turns out they can learn a lot from people’s search history.) Paid search lets you target those potential patients specifically.

4. It provides instant gratification.

It can take weeks or even months to start to see results after you launch a link-building campaign. With paid search, you can bid your way to the top—and get the immediate thrill of seeing your practice rank above your competitors on the search results page.

5. The ROI is high.

Paid search allows you to set your own budget and bid prices, and the pay-per-click model means you don’t have to pay for an exposure that doesn’t drive traffic to your site. And medical keywords are particularly cost-efficient—the cost per click can be fairly low, and the impact on your search results can be fairly high.

And if you feel like you might be cheating a little bit by buying your way to the top of the results page, you’ll find that the feeling passes once new patients start ringing your phone.

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