What You Need to Know About Hospital Retargeting

Site retargeting is a very common and effective paid advertising strategy. Its popularity has increased significantly year over year as you can see from the Google Trends data below and it’s beginning to capture a larger chunk of advertisers marketing budget.

Hospital Retargeting 1

Before I discuss remarketing as it relates to hospitals and treatment centers, let’s go over the basics just so everyone is on the same page.

How Does Retargeting Work?

JavaScript code is installed on your web site. The code “cookies” users once they arrive on your website. The advertiser creates “lists” or “audiences” that then organizes the user in a particular group based the page a user did or did not visit. Then, ads “follow” these on various web sites within available ad networks and show them image ads and text ads to bring them back to your website.

Why is Retargeting Effective?

The average conversion rate for first time visitors across all industries is 3%. What’s this mean? 97% of visitors to not complete a desired action during their first interaction with your brand.  Why? Perhaps because users didn’t find the information they were looking for, they were just researching, they are comparing you towards your competitors, etc. The reasons could be endless; however, retargeting allows you to turn users into new patients.

Getting Started with Retargeting

The majority of advertisers that are trying for the first time or investing only a small amount usually use Google AdWords for their remarketing efforts because it can be done through the same interface as their search and display campaigns and it’s easy to set up. After the retargeting code has been installed and the “lists” and “combinations” of audiences have been created, you just need to create the campaign, ad group, and upload some image ads or just use text ads.

Advertisers that have been using retargeting through Google for some time might try out a retargeting vendor, such as AdRoll, Retargeter, etc. to expand their reach since these third party vendors typically have access to more ad exchanges and also allow you to retarget to users on Facebook.

Hospital Retargeting & Google AdWords

One big learning in healthcare marketing is that you must tread lightly when using retargeting for hospitals, health systems, clinics, and treatment centers. In fact, if you’re trying to use retargeting through Google AdWords for any of the sub-verticals within healthcare mentioned above, you might want to not waste your time.

Google AdWords does not explicitly say “hospitals cannot use retargeting,” but it might as well. I’ve spoken to multiple Google representatives, and although they say the same things in different ways, the bottom line is if you’re a hospital or treatment center, you can’t really use retargeting. If your website has any mention of conditions or treatments (even in just the navigation), then you cannot using retargeting for your hospital. Google is obvious concerned with violating any HIPAA rules and regulations but they are actually being too strict. They claim if someone else uses your computer and then sees ads about a specific service line (e.g., bariatric surgery) or condition (e.g., obesity), the user on the computer would know that the computer owner was looking for bariatric surgery and they are being remarketed to. However, this is totally untrue. Google still allows you to use display targeting (keyword, placement, interest targeting, and topic targeting) based around service lines and conditions/treatments. How could a user really distinguish how he or she is specifically being targeted?

So, what happens when you try to use Google AdWords retargeting for your hospital or treatment center? Most likely your lists will be entirely disabled, as in the screenshot illustration below:

Hospital Retargeting 2

You can find more information here. As you can see, Google classifies this as “health or medical information”.

Hospital Retargeting & AdRoll

Here’s a workaround; do not use Google for your hospital retargeting efforts. We recommend using one of our partners: AdRoll. The platform is easy to use, customer service is great, and most importantly; they tell you exactly what you can and cannot do from a healthcare marketing perspective. Here’s the gist of it:

Option #1:

  • You can segment users into specific ‘lists’ depending on what pages they visit (i.e. visited the bariatric surgery section on your site).
  • Your messaging and ad must be general, such as information about the hospital/department, but not specific to treatment or condition.
  • The landing page can then be specific to service line, treatment, or condition.

Option #2:

  • You target the entire web site (i.e. main list including all visitors)
  • You have an ad that mentions the hospitals expertise in a particular service line
  • The landing page can then be specific to service line, treatment, or condition.

If you’re in the healthcare marketing field, you are most likely used the various challenges that go with it. If you want to use retargeting to take your hospital’s advertising strategy to the next level, consider a third-party retargeting company rather than Google. If you have any further questions as it relates to hospital retargeting or would like Fathom’s assistance, contact us here.

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One Comment

  • Kaido says:

    Hi Joe,

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on marketing HIPAA compliance software (also know as EDI healthcare transaction tools) with Google Adwords?

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