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3 Tips for Hospitals To Fuel Content Marketing with SEM Data

By | June 23, 2014

As many of us know, SEM/PPC is an established source of patient acquisition for health systems and hospitals. Fathom has certainly seen great results with structured campaigns promoting specific service lines that send users to relevant landing pages with prominent calls-to-action.

For this specific post, however, I want to focus on how paid search can help address common online challenges health systems face:

  • SEO keyword strategy without access to organic keyword data
  • Writing engaging and compelling content that your audience wants (AKA, content marketing)
  • Dealing with negative PR (AKA, reputation management)

Specifically, I want to discuss 3 ways to use PPC search queries to help support these common marketing challenges.

1. Share PPC Keyword Data to Guide SEO

It’s not news to any of us that Google Analytics no longer shows organic search keyword data. This change was a major one that makes the lives of SEOs a bit more difficult.

We encourage the sharing of data between SEO and PPC analytics, especially because the keyword performance visibility exists within AdWords.

From the PPC side, sharing keyword data with the SEO team enables it to see which keywords are not only driving traffic, but also converting most frequently.

lap band 

2. Use Search Queries to Identify Topics for SEO and Content Marketing

In addition, looking at the search query reports shows what users are searching for in relation to the keywords we’re bidding on. For example, let’s say the content team is looking for a new blog idea for the maternity service line. You can quickly go into the women’s health maternity campaign to identify search queries that have a lot of interest.

pregnancy calculator

You can then suggest to the content team writing a blog post around calculating a pregnancy due date or even adding a new page to the hospital website to provide relevant and helpful information.

Also, in order to prove the validity of the suggestion or find additional ideas, check Google Trends to see if the search query is a ‘rising search’ (and in this case, it is).

stroke symptoms

Another example of using search queries to help fuel a content marketing strategy is to consider how users are searching. Users often look for information specific to gender or age; it’s important you write content geared toward these users, especially if you are seeing significant search via the search query report:

stroke symptoms II

3. Use PPC Search Queries/Google Suggest to Identify PR Challenges

One very important threat that health systems and hospitals face consistently is reputation damage. Fathom uses search queries of brand keywords to inform clients of negative PR that can potentially be addressed by driving traffic to a positive page—either via PPC or organic/SEO. Challenges come in the form of nurse strikes, hospital acquisitions/mergers (see our guide to hospital rebranding), and even hospital closings. The best stance is to be proactive when dealing with these challenges.

hospital closing

hospital closing II

Bottom line: SEM is much more valuable to health systems than simply being a vehicle for generating appointments, guide downloads, and phone calls. You are already investing part of your marketing budget in paid advertising (and if you are not, you should), so you might as well make full use of the data you already have to create a more integrated marketing strategy for your organization.


Check out the marketer’s guide to hospital acquisition to take the headache out of rebranding:

The Art of Rebranding

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How Do You Measure the Success of Digital Marketing?

By | May 16, 2014

Digital marketing certainly has changed from the early days of link building for organic SEO rankings and PPC strategies that ultimately depended on spend to get to 1st position.  Every action taken online has the potential to be tracked and measured, and the sophistication of search- engine ranking algorithms has risen to the task of using that information to improve the results you see when you look for something online. They are measuring their success and optimizing based on the ever increasing volume of digital information available.  And in digital marketing, we are asking the same questions—how are the current digital strategies performing, and how can they be improved?

Step 1: Capture the Right Digital Data

The question is simple, but with the quagmire of metrics available in any analytics tool, it’s difficult to determine which metrics are going to supply that answer.  Even more confusing is the fact that having a website doesn’t mean that data is going to be automatically captured for later analysis.  Capturing digital data around each action being taken online—whether it’s a click through to a page, a button-click on your site, or a purchase made through a shopping cart—has to be deliberately tracked and cataloged to be useful for digital marketing analytics.  Just think of a filing cabinet.  If one-third of the folders are marked by last name, another third are by company name, and the last third are by the year the folder was created … how would you ever find anything?

Step 2: Determine the Marketing KPIs to Monitor

So if the first step is making sure to capture the information to measure, the second step is picking some KPIs to monitor, right?  Well, sort of.

Choosing the right KPIs actually happens long before a campaign ever launches.  What to measure is directly related to the purpose and scope of the business objective that is identified during planning.  These need to be carefully crafted, or measuring the success of the campaign is impossible.  Success cannot be measured if there was never a declaration of intent for the project.   How do you know if you’ve crafted it correctly?  Here are some tips to be sure to answer before starting any digital marketing effort:

  1. Are we trying to attract new customers or improve retention/brand evangelism/repeat orders with current customers?
  2. What is the desired outcome of the visitors interaction?  Website visit? Lead? Review? Survey? Purchase?
  3. Why do we think our message with resonate with the target audience?

Ironing out these details is the key to measuring the success of the campaign.  For specific optimization efforts, such as testing one landing page version against another in order to improve the conversion rate, metrics such as time on page, bounce rate, and conversion rate will be the most important. 

For more general visibility into measuring the performance of a brand’s digital footprint, the following aggregate buckets can provide regular insights into the overall trending of a digital presence effort:

  1. Reach – Measures the expanse of the brand’s digital footprint.  KPI’s include metrics around how often the brand is seen, such as impressions and views of ads, visibility in social news feeds, and the volume of non-bounce email receipts.
  2. Engagement – This measures people interacting with your brand.  KPI’s include metrics around people taking an action to know more about your product or brand, such as traffic to your site, interactions with content on the site like PDF downloads or video views, subscriptions to the newsletter and more.
  3. Conversions – This tracks the volume of conversions.  Some examples of tracked conversions include e-commerce transactions, lead form completions, newsletter signups, and more.   Typically, a dollar value can be associated with conversion action.
  4. ROI – This metric shows how the effort was worth the return.  Here, the value of the conversion will be weighed against the cost of maintaining the program infrastructure, and will provide insight into opportunities for optimization or expansion.

So now it’s time to take a look at your strategies.  Review your campaigns and determine what each one is intended to achieve.  Make sure the traffic sources, page elements, and goal completions are being tracked properly in your analytics tools and begin building the dashboards that will show how your campaign is performing.

But you probably won’t be able to stop yourself at just measuring your success – there’s a trove of insights contained in the data, and you just drew the treasure map.

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Google Analytics Attribution for the Assist

By | April 16, 2014

If you have read any of my past blog posts, you might notice that I can’t help but use a sports reference every once in a while.  My previous posts Google for the Assist and Turning Your Paid Search Campaigns into a Slam Dunk both look at the world of online marketing through the eyes of a sports fanatic. So, last week when I watched NBA Player Steve Nash take the spot for the third most assists in NBA history, I couldn’t help but relate it to this post about attribution I had planned.

Steve Nash is currently 40 years old, and in the NBA you won’t find many players that age still holding their own on the court. Although Nash’s points per season have been on the decline since the 2006-07 basketball season, his contracts keep getting renewed, and he’s still seen as a competitive threat on the court. The number one reason for this is his ability to assist.

The importance of the word “assist” is often overlooked in the world of digital marketing. Many people think that if a tactic is not how the user converted then it’s alright to give 100% of the value to the source with the last interaction, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Starting the attribution conversation is the first step in accurately measuring your ROI [Tweet this] and getting better insights into which channels actually work for you. Getting some initial insights into the value of attribution is as easy as looking at your Google Analytics data and comparing how the pre-set attribution models stack up for your site.

Find the Best Attribution Model

In the following chart we compare the Last Interaction, First Interaction, and Position Based attribution models. While many companies still use Last Interaction and Last Click conversion models, it’s extremely important to set up models that best fit your needs.  As you can see, Paid Search has nearly 10,000 less conversions in the Last Interaction model compared to the First Interaction model, while Direct is the opposite.


So what insights can we gain by looking at this data?  Paid Search is capturing a significant amount of “upper funnel” traffic that comes back later and converts through another channel. And even though Paid Search was a major part of capturing that traffic, the last click models give Paid Search no credit for thousands of users.

Set Goals Carefully

The type of model you use could significantly change the way you set your goals and/or look at performance. If a client’s cost-per-lead goal was $30, then in the example below, we are not hitting that goal using a last interaction or 40-20-40 Position-based model. Based on the results you see using whichever model you are using, it is important that you truly analyze and understand the data so you can make the most informed budget allocation and planning decisions.


In addition to the three models compared today there are several more preset models in Google Analytics and customizations that fit your needs and goals the best.  However, before you rush and choose an attribution model, take time to talk your team, department, and other departments to create a model that best fits everyone’s goals – for now and the future.

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Using Online Data to Predict Patient Behavior

By | April 16, 2014

wheelchairPredicting the future ain’t what it used to be. In fact, it’s more real than ever. Social media. Big Data. Predictive Analytics.  These are big buzzwords, to be certain, but also keys to helping your healthcare system or hospital to provide better and more efficient patient care.

There are times in our lives that we wish we had that crystal ball. Picking breakout stocks or NCAA upsets is great, but imagine having insight into the future based on real data. And imagine that insight being actionable. That data can impact your healthcare system directly and help you reach more patients efficiently.

No need to imagine any longer.  Your crystal ball is here with healthcare predictive analytics.

Every one of your potential patients leaves a tremendous digital footprint.  They search Crohn’s disease, arthritis treatments or dementia care. They talk on Facebook about living with diabetes. They tweet about migraines and join forums to learn about concussion prevention.

And you, as a healthcare marketer, can use that data to anticipate patient needs, prepare your staff and provide better care.  Here’s how:

A variety of off the shelf tools can gather and analyze online conversations around keywords. Google and third party tools can track search volume. By marrying this data with your own historical data, you can then start predicting patient needs.

Here are a few examples of how online data can help your healthcare system or hospital.

  • Online conversations and searches around concussion injury tend to spike during the fall high school and college football season.  If you know that come November, your patients and prospective patients are hungry for information around concussion prevention, you can offer workshops, clinics and online information around the topic when it is most sought after.
  • Conversations around back and knee injuries often spike over Thanksgiving. As the dads and uncles take the backyard football games against the teenager, injuries are bound to happen. What can you do to anticipate this and offer tips, services or flexible appointment options in the days leading up to, and just after, Thanksgiving?
  • Bariatric conversations grow in volume and intensity during the holiday season and beginning of the new year.

Too obvious for you? How about these examples:

  • First, analyze the historical volume of conversations and searches around consumers talking about or searching on flu like symptoms. Then map that trend line to documented flu cases. It is very likely that the online information is a leading indicator of flu cases.  By monitoring online activity you can then anticipate the next flu outbreak.
  • If a local TV or radio celebrity takes up a cause, say breast cancer awareness, you can track the rise in local interest in mammograms and offer extended hours at your women health centers.
  • Suppose you find that weekend warriors in your area are active online during the first nice days of the year and lamenting how their old knee injuries prevent them from running.  You can make plans to heavily promote your runners’ clinics on social media and PPC advertising platforms during that first nice weekend in spring.

The days of guesswork around understanding patients are behind us. Using real data from real patients and understanding it in real times allows us all to provide better care more efficiently for our communities.


Check out our study of the competition health systems face in paid search.

Health Systems & Paid Search

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Spring Cleaning for Google Analytics

By | March 25, 2014


After a long winter, everyone looks forward to spring and the warm weather it brings. People clean their house, dust off the patio furniture and ready their gardens to grow. For everyone with a website and Google Analytics, it is time to do the same – clean out the old, get rid of the dirty data and get ready to grow.

Clean Out the Old

Goals – are they up to date? Are the goals converting? Do they measure the right metrics for your business? For goals that are not converting, find out why they are not converting. Sometimes, when a goal is no longer converting the answer is simply updating a goal URL that changed. Such as a contact form which has a new thank you page or now there are multiple forms and the old thank you page no longer exists. Update the goal with the new URL or create new goals for the new forms to fix the problem.

Another common issue with goals that are not converting is that the page is no longer easily accessible. For example, a landing page put in place for a paid campaign that is no longer running. If there are unnecessary goals, remove them. Removing old goals, cleaning up the non-converting goals cleans your data so that you get a good view of what is really happening on your site.

Get Rid of Dirty Data

After reviewing the goals, look at some of the basics to make certain they are in place. Link your Analytics to Google Webmaster. Link AdWords and Analytics to gather valuable paid data. Check your campaigns – are you using Google URL Builder to tag external campaign such as emails or non-AdWords paid efforts? When you review your campaigns, is there a consistent naming convention so you can review all email campaigns, all off site ads and any other tracked campaigns you have? If these items are not in place, get rid of the dirty data like referrals from emails or untagged paid campaigns and start tagging!

Get Ready to Grow

Dive a little deeper into Analytics, extend the date range to the past 12 months. Look at your content, what pages are your top content? What pages are at the bottom of the list? Make a plan – use your top content for ideas on new content. Review the top pages of your site for strong calls to action. Make sure the top pages are pages with up to date, relevant information. Now, look at those bottom pages. Are they getting the quality of visitors you want? Are the pages no longer relevant? Are they in need of a refresh or rewriting of the content? Do the pages need a call to action?

Review your site for new goals. As business grows, content on the site grows, as do the goals. Make sure that you are tracking everything on your site that helps you make business decisions. For example, are you tracking your whitepaper downloads? Whitepapers are informational for visitors and build visitors’ trust in a company as a thought leader. Tracking these downloads can help you identify popular whitepapers and present ideas for new content.

Everything you want to know about your website is in Analytics, keeping it clean, reviewing regularly and making sure it is all up to date is vital to using the data to make good decisions and keep moving forward.

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