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Online advertising for doctors - the Practice Growth Podcast

Learn about the advantages of online advertising as well as tips to get started.

patientpop the practice growth podcast

The Practice Growth Podcast is an educational resource for doctors, dentists, and other healthcare providers about how to market and manage a thriving healthcare practice.

In Episode 12, host Lisa Christy speaks with JJ Workman, PatientPop senior manager of search engine marketing, about online advertising options for doctors. The pair discuss the advantages of online advertising for marketing a healthcare practice as well as tips to get started. Click below to listen.

Find new episodes of The Practice Growth Podcast every other week on the PatientPop blog, or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Lisa Christy: Paid search. Search engine marketing, search engine advertising, sponsored listings, paid for placement, PPC, CPC, CPM. There are so many terms associated with buying and placing advertisements online it can make your head spin. I’ve worked with search engine marketers for years, and sometimes even I don’t understand what my colleagues do, let alone what to call it.

Online advertising can be a great supplement to a healthcare practice’s digital marketing strategy, so it’s important to know what it is and how it works. If you’re like me and need a little help understanding the topic, then you’ve come to the right place. Stay tuned.

Hello and welcome to the Practice Growth Podcast, the doctor’s resource for marketing and managing a thriving healthcare practice. I’m Lisa Christy. Joining me today to discuss online advertising is JJ Workman, PatientPop senior manager of search engine marketing.

JJ has extensive experience creating online advertising campaigns for healthcare and aesthetic service providers. He designed the PatientPop search advertising service program, and he continues to manage the search engine marketing team. JJ also leads the online advertising initiatives for the PatientPop marketing team. JJ, thank you so much for being with us.

JJ Workman: Lisa, thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Christy: Let’s just jump right into it. What exactly is online advertising? How does it fit with other digital marketing efforts?

Workman: Well, online advertising is going to be a really broad concept that can be applied across a number of different channels. I guess a simple way to think about it is you’re showing ads to people. Rather than them being present on radio or on television, you’re going to have placements that are in digital spaces.

One very common form of online advertising would be what we call paid search advertising. If you do a search on Google.com or you do a search on Bing.com, there’s going to be ad placements that exist up above what we call organic results. Up at the top of the page will live some ads.

Check out: Marketing your private practice with paid advertising

If you are browsing the web and you’re on one of your favorite news sites, it’s highly likely that you’re going to see what we call display ad placements, where it’s pictorial. It might be animated, in some sense. There’s going to be some words generally present within the ad, as well, and some sort of call to action that’s going to direct the user back to the website — that’s really the hub of your digital marketing efforts.

You will also see advertising in video. You’ve probably experienced pre-roll on YouTube, and all of that is designed to drive some sort of marketing objective. That, in a broad sense, is what online advertising is.

Christy: Just to summarize, anything that you see online — those banner ads, those ads at the top of the search engine results, those ads on Facebook, sponsored content — all of that is considered online advertising.

Workman: 100 percent.

Christy: Perfect. What are some of the advantages of online advertising, especially if we’re talking about it in conjunction of a digital marketing plan?

Workman: Advantages that I talk about most frequently are equal opportunity and precision with targeting. Measurement is certainly going to be an advantage, as well.

With equal opportunity, anyone that’s willing to pay the market rate for the ad space — whether you’re bidding on a keyword in the paid search environment, whether you’re bidding on a placement within the display space or the video space — if you’re willing to pay the market rate that someone else is willing to pay, you have just as much opportunity at that exposure as anybody else.

Online advertising is unique, in my mind, as an advertising medium in that you get to decide specifically who sees or hears your content.

With paid search, the reason that you’ve seen Google and other search engines be so successful with their advertising product is it provides just inherently a direct link between someone that’s actively seeking a problem and the provider of a solution. The user gets exactly what they want, when they want it, and the advertiser is only paying to show their product, their widget, their service to people that are actually seeking it.

From a measurement standpoint, you also have the ability within the digital marketing space to really learn a lot about your users and their behavior patterns, and you can see how people respond to things. You have analytics on everything that exists from the impression when that ad was shown to behavior on your website. With a lot of other advertising mediums, it’s a lot more difficult to connect those dots.

Christy: Difficult…more difficult to measure?

Workman: Exactly.

Christy: Great. You did mention that online advertising is something that any person can do. Can you walk me through the process of what creating and bidding an ad on Google or Yahoo or Bing, for example, would look like?

Workman: Yes, absolutely. The first thing that I would say is you don’t necessarily need to be everywhere. I think part of what needs to be considered when we think about how we create an ad on a certain platform is what do I want to accomplish? What is the end outcome that I’m looking for?

If you have the goal of creating leads, a paid search platform like Google, Yahoo, Bing makes a lot of sense. If you have the objective of wanting to build your audience or build awareness, just generally speaking to your brand, you want to put more eyes on it within a specific area, you might think about something in the display space, maybe the social space, maybe the video space. It may be more difficult in those areas to draw a direct line from your advertisement to a new patient. So deciding on which platform you want to use, I think, is the first thing to consider.

Now, let’s say that we want to move forward with something in paid search. I’ll use Google as an example. Of the three that you had mentioned — Google, Yahoo, Bing — that’s definitely the one that I would gravitate toward first.

You’re going to create an account, then you need to make some decisions about how to structure your campaigns. If you think about things in terms of a pyramid, the bottom of the pyramid, we have our keywords. Those roll up into ad groups, which can be thought of as families of related keywords. When those keywords are searched, we’re going to serve ads that are contextually relevant to those types of search terms. You’re going to make budget decisions at the campaign level, and geographic targeting decisions are also going to happen at the campaign level. That’s what I would say in terms of structure.

The platforms make it pretty simple beyond that. They’re relatively user-friendly. There’s a lot of videos, how to’s that you could find on YouTube, support.google.com. I would encourage you to look at some of those resources if this is something that you want to do yourself, as well.

But then it’s really just a decision about what do I want to be known for? What you’re going to be thinking about then is prioritization. You don’t really want to pay to advertise on things that aren’t going to generate a return. You’ll focus on, I would say first the services or the treatments or the procedures that have the highest profit potential and mean the most to the success of your practice.

Paid search marketing: What it is & how it can get you to the top of search

Christy: You did talk a little bit about budget. Obviously, when we’re talking about advertising, there is some budget that’s associated with it.

Is there a certain budget that you recommend to healthcare providers who… let’s say for example, I am a dermatologist and I recently purchased a laser for tattoo removal. How would you recommend I get started? What would be my budget? What would be the keywords that you would want me to bid on?

Workman: Most generally, [tattoo removal], [tattoo removal near me], [tattoo removal in city], those types of things. If you seed what’s called the Keyword Planner Tool in Google AdWords with just those three, it will give you a number of other suggestions from other users that it has learned also had an interest in that thing. It will also give you suggested bid amounts on the different keywords. In terms of budget, you’re going to derive your, let’s call it monthly budget/weekly budget/daily budget from those figures. I think that you want to set your floor at least four what I call low-funnel clicks per day.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. [Tattoo removal near me], [tattoo removal in my zip code], those suggest this person is relatively near the end of a customer journey, if you will. I want to drive at least four of those low-funnel opportunities, I would say, at a minimum per day.

Just have patience and understand that it could take a couple of months to book your first appointment. Ultimately, we would expect that if we’re targeting the right sorts of keywords for our practice, they’re contextually relevant and they’re low funnel like we just described, it’s going to be profitable.

Related podcast: Marketing new aesthetic services at your practice

Christy: Got it. OK, we have talked a lot about paid search advertisements, let’s actually focus a little bit on some of the best practices when it comes to buying ads and boosting posts on social media.

Workman: Got you. There needs to be a plan in place. You need to give some thought to what the objectives are and what outcome you actually want to see before you start throwing money at an advertising platform.

If I’m a practice, if I’m a provider, what I want to decide is how am I going to view success with this advertising effort? Do I need it to produce patients? Or if I’m in urgent care, for example, is it very likely that somebody is going to be scrolling through their Facebook feed at the moment that they need to book an urgent care appointment? Is that ever really going to happen? No.

In the paid search environment that we described a little bit earlier, that’s going to happen all the time. Does that mean that social advertising is invaluable for an urgent care? Also, no. It is valuable for an urgent care, but in a different way.

The way that I’m going to leverage that in this example is I’m going to build a relationship with the community that I have the ability to serve over time. I’m going to show them well thought out content, and they’re going to think good things about me when they see my brand name on that paid search when they do have an incident six months from now, a year from now. Because I’ve consistently and at a regular frequency shown them material that hopefully they found valuable.

That’s another thing that you want to think about with your sponsored content, because you’re going to leverage social advertising to build a relationship. What is it that your audience needs from you or would appreciate from you now? Even if they’re not going to be booking an appointment with you, how can you serve them in other ways so they’ll feel good things about you and think good things about you when that booking moment does happen potentially on another channel?

Christy: It always comes back to this end goal, what is your end goal that you’re trying to achieve with advertising? Then you start to build your plan from there.

Workman: Exactly, and understanding the strengths and the weaknesses of different advertising channels. Paid search is not great for building a relationship, but it’s great at driving leads with people that are searching for specific sorts of things. Social media is fantastic at building a relationship, and there are ways that you can drive leads out of social ads and display ads, as well; it’s just different.

Learn more: How to reach new patients using social media

Christy: We have talked a lot about how it is possible for anyone to dip their toes into search advertising. You have worked with countless numbers of doctors on helping them with their search advertising.

I am just curious, in your experience, what are some common missteps that you’ve seen doctors make when trying to manage their own search advertising or online advertising efforts?

Workman: Generally speaking, one that stands out above all others, it’s budget context. Not every market is the same size.

Sometimes I’ve seen the perception that $500 worth of advertising should cover me. “I’ve checked the box, I’m doing this,” but then they will Google search the terms that are important to them at 3 in the afternoon, and they don’t see their ad. It doesn’t make sense [to them] why they don’t show up because, “I’m paying to advertise.” They’ve just exhausted their budget for the day. A super competitive term in a really large geography might have needed a budget of $50,000 a month.

It’s important to understand that you don’t need to show up 100 percent of the time to make a difference for your practice. You just run your own race, and you evaluate your own numbers. As long as you’re profitable within your campaigns, you feed them to the extent that the marketing budget will allow.

I think that it’s an opportunity cost issue. I don’t think, frankly, for most practitioners that it makes sense to spend their own time managing those campaigns. Not that they can’t be great at it, just would they have more leverage if they delegated that elsewhere?

Christy: Sure. Say our audience agrees with you, say that they also think that their time is much better spent serving their patients than it is trying to master online advertising, and they decide that they want to partner with an agency or an outside person to help them with their online advertising. What is it that they should look for in this partner to know that they’re really partnering with the best?

Workman: I think that’s a great question. There’s a number of things that I would evaluate. One, is this organization reputable? Does the body of work clearly communicate to me that they have been there and done that? They’ve served clients like me successfully at scale? I would want to speak with an account manager, if at all possible. This is going to become an extension of my team, do I get along with this person? Do I feel like this person understands my business? Do I feel like this person is capable and qualified to run this type of program for me on my behalf?

Christy: Great. Well, JJ, thank you so much for all of this time that you took into explaining online advertising to me. It’s been really enlightening, and I really appreciate it.

Workman: It’s my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me, Lisa.

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