SEO v. PPC
Our webinar focused almost exclusively on inbound marketing strategies – organic SEO, social media, and how to focus the experience that consumers get after arriving at your website. We did, however, get some questions about the role of paid advertising in building provider visibility.
“Do you have any research to show if there is any pushback (or avoidance) by the consumer to paid ads?”
“I’m all for SEO, but are there situations where you’d advocate for PPC?”
The answer is, as you might expect, that it all depends on the situation. Yes, there are clearly some situations where paid advertising on search engines and elsewhere can play a productive role in service line development.
There isn’t much evidence that consumers are left with a negative perception from advertisements, only that they’ve gotten better and better at ignoring ads if they want to. The numbers are a little shocking – in fact I recently read you are more likely to be accepted to MIT or complete Navy SEAL training than to click on a banner ad! On the other hand, Google’s financial results, driven almost exclusively from ad revenues, clearly indicates that there is still plenty of engagement with paid advertisements out there.
The search engines, to combat consumers’ preference for organic results, have made ads more difficult to distinguish from native search results. So much so the FTC has recently warned Google, Yahoo and Microsoft that they’re getting perilously close to deceptive practices.
In general, I’d rarely recommend paid search advertising for individual providers absent competition from incorrect or misleading information that you are trying to outrank. The reality is that few provider searches are done using the provider’s name except by the provider themselves.
The more effective paid advertising strategy is in promoting services rather than individual providers. These take two forms, demand capture and demand generation.
Demand capture attempts to connect with a health consumer at the moment in time that they’re actively evaluating options or shopping for healthcare services. This is the rationale behind new mover campaigns, for example – it’s a unique opportunity to catch someone looking for a new physician. In the digital world, with 77, we need to catch local health consumers as they’re searching for relevant search key phrases. Demand capture can be accomplished through organic search, but complete coverage almost always involves some search engine marketing as well with these tools running year-round.
Demand generation is the other end of that spectrum where you’re putting an offer in front of a consumer who isn’t actively looking for that service. Pushing Facebook ads to 50+ year old males who like bacon is a great example of this! These ads don’t need to run all of the time (in fact, they’ll often begin to annoy consumers unless you’re introducing new messaging and creative regularly), but provide a great campaign foundation.
In other words, work to get your organic SEO foundation on a solid footing first and foremost and then extend with paid advertising to fill gaps and as a way to get more aggressive in generating business.
The Challenge of Good Data
We talked a bit in the webinar about the challenges of collecting and managing data about physicians. We received questions about strategies for keeping information such as insurance information and a provider’s ability to accept new patients up to date.
“You mentioned insurance as a ‘data problem.’ Can you share strategies that health systems use to make sure that this data is up to date and accurate on the website?”
Unfortunately, there’s a gap between the way that this should happen and the way it actually happens.
Most provider directories are fed the basic information about providers from a credentialing department. According to Aetna: “Credentialing is a process used to evaluate the qualifications and practice history of a doctor. This process includes a review of a doctor’s completed education, training, residency and licenses. It also includes any certifications issued by a board in the doctor’s area of specialty.”
In other words, you have a department in your organization that’s tasked with connecting with each of the providers employed by the health system or with privileges at your facilities and verifying their data regularly. The mandate of such a department should really be expanded to encompass ownership and management of all data about these providers!
I am yet to see this happen anywhere.
Instead, this is a routine task taken on by the marketing and Web teams. I’ve seen many attempts to streamline this process by offering forms for providers to fill out or a system that they can log in to and maintain this data, but never with much success. The result is most often a highly manual process to chase down this information periodically and correct information on an ad hoc basis as it’s reported.
Keep the questions coming!
We loving seeing such engagement from our webinar attendees! If you haven’t checked out the webinar yet and want to learn more tips for promoting doctors online, be sure to check out the webinar: Online Physician Promotion: Increasing Conversions to Fill Schedules. And if you have questions, be sure to submit them here!