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Paid Search & The Truven 15 Top Health Systems

By | July 24, 2014

As a follow-up to our recent publication, “Social Media Benchmarks for Health Systems,” we wanted to take a look at how the same health systems are using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Most health systems that are seeing success online are typically using more than just one type of digital marketing tactic. Our hypothesis was that most of the Truven 15 Top Health Systems are doing some form of paid advertising to help generate incremental patients and increase brand awareness.

Truven graded health systems all over the U.S. on quality and efficiency. It divided the health systems into 3 categories based on annual revenues: Large health systems (>$1.5 billion), medium health systems ($750 million-$1.5 billion), and small health systems (<$750 million). As one would expect, the larger health systems tend to invest more of their marketing budget in search-engine marketing vs. the medium and smaller ones that have less marketing budget. In addition, larger health systems tend to attract patients from all over the nation (or at least the region) and therefore need additional budget to target prospective patients—at least for the service lines they are most recognized for.

Using a keyword spy technology called SpyFu, we were able to get a very rough estimation of what health systems are spending on Google AdWords (specifically related to search campaigns only). As we tell our clients, we use this data to get a better understanding of trends given lack of access to actual budgets for comparison.

Castro-Top 15 image 1

We generally use SpyFu to determine the following:

  1. Is the advertiser using Google Adwords to promote a health system (or has it in the past)?
  2. How much is being spent in relation to other health systems?
  3. What keywords are the ads showing up for?
  4. What does the ad copy look like and which is being showed most often?
  5. What kind of landing pages are they using?

As you can see, the larger health systems do indeed spend more than medium and small health systems. What you can also see is all health systems within Truven’s Top 15 at some point invested in search-engine marketing. Only two health systems currently do not appear to be promoting their hospitals and service lines via paid search.

Taking this a step further, we used The Search Monitor’s new tool (called Lighthouse) to gain perspective on how two of the large health systems are investing their marketing dollars among various service lines. This tool is similar to Spyfu, but provides more granular data and in a more digestible fashion.

Advocate Health Care

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Mayo Foundation

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To take this analysis a step further, we examined a couple of the top-spending health systems to see how well some of them are following PPC best practices. We reviewed Advocate Health and Mayo Clinic in more detail below.

Advocate Health Ad Campaigns

Interestingly, Advocate Health is investing heavily in medical staff and nurse recruitment keywords, such as nursing jobs, medical jobs, hospital careers, etc.

Ad Example:

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To help support our recommendations with facts, we consulted Google’s study, “Creative That Clicks.” Advocate Health Care is employing several tactics to improve its ad copy’s chances of success:

  1. The ad copy has the keyword ‘nursing jobs’ (which is what was searched) in the headline.
  2. It also mentions ‘jobs’ again in description line one.
  3. It capitalizes the first letter of each word, which increases click-thru rate 62% of the time when paired with the keyword in the headline.
  4. Finally, the ad has a strong call-to-action of “Apply today!” which helps prequalify users and likely increases conversion rate.

We did notice areas for improvement in Advocate Health’s ad copy:

  1. Using the display URL to add targeted keywords would increase click-thru rate by 8%.
  2. The average position where an ad appeared was between 5 and 7. Unfortunately, poor average position prevents advertisers from displaying sitelinks, which provide a quick and easy way to improve click-thru rate (by 20%-30%) and potentially quality score.
  3. Call extensions would help those users who are more comfortable picking up the phone and talking to someone rather than researching online. Call extensions have also been found to increase click-thru rate (CTR) by 8% on average.

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Landing Page: http://jobs.advocatehealth.com/

Advocate Health Care does a fantastic job with the landing page. It is using a sub-domain to funnel PPC traffic which is highly relevant to the keywords its users are coming from. It has a microsite-type feel where users can browse different type of jobs for nursing, rehab, and home health. It also has a video and lists all of its facilities.

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Testing different variations of the page could yield some potential improvements. For example, one element for testing could be reducing the size of the images at the top of the site. This will bring other elements above the page fold, especially the navigation that allows users to browse job groups and search for jobs by location and category.

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In addition, users may be confused after clicking an action-oriented ad and landing on a page that does not have a strong, clear call-to-action. We would recommend a big call-to-action button that allows users to get to a form and apply with ease.

Finally, other than the domain itself, whether this was a site specifically for those looking for jobs or just the health system in general is unclear. Clarifying with content stating the site caters to job seekers would help. Also, changing the buttons at the top to show jobsnursing jobs, rehab jobs, home health jobs—would help.

Mayo Clinic Ad Campaigns

Next, we’ll take a look at Mayo Clinic, a large health system that invests heavily in paid search to support overall digital marketing and patient acquisition strategies. However, Mayo Clinic is also a thought leader in the healthcare space and invests heavily in informing and educating the public.

Ad Example:

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Mayo Clinic does a fantastic job with ad copy. It takes advantage of several ad extensions that help improve CTR and quality score:

  1. Similar to Advocate Health, it has the exact keyword in the headline and also mentions a variation of the search query in the description lines. Again, according to Google, this increases CTR by about 15% on average.
  2. Different from Advocate Health, Mayo Clinic is using sitelinks and review extensions (since it is in the top 3 positions). In addition to the 20%-30% improvement in click-through rate that sitelinks provide, review extensions have been shown to increase CTR by as much as 10% according to Google.

A few ad copy best practices that Mayo Clinic should consider incorporating are:

  1. Capitalizing the first letter of each word in the ad. Google found that doing this positively impacts CTR 62% of the time.
  2. Having a call-to-action that is reflected (and consistent) on the landing page.
  3. Add the targeted keyword to the display URL (e.g., www.mayoclinic.org/lung-cancer). Again, this tactic has been shown to increase CTR by 8%.
  4. Using call extensions not only is proven to increase CTR by up to 8%, it also drives clicks directly to the organization and is a factor in determining quality score.

Landing Page: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lung-cancer/care-at-mayo-clinic/why-choose-mayo-clinic/con-20025531/

The landing page for Mayo Clinic is very relevant to the search query (lung cancer treatment). It also has a prominent call-to-action button for scheduling an appointment above the fold. Otherwise, this landing page is significantly different than most other landing pages we recommend for our clients. Again, part of the reason is that Mayo Clinic positions itself as a thought leader that provides valuable information. While the content is organized, the landing page is way too busy with numerous calls-to-action (for different goals), no phone number, and advertising to other Mayo Clinic services and products that are not relevant to lung cancer. The effect is potential confusion for the user.

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As originally anticipated, all of the Truven 15 Top Health Systems of 2014 are or were invested in paid search. As Spyfu shows, the larger health systems tend to invest more in search-engine marketing to help raise awareness, acquire patients, and even be an educational resource. However, the middle and small health systems are still finding the budget to invest in SEM. Health systems that decide to invest in paid advertising should do what it takes to stand out from the competition and maximize return-on-investment.

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Back to Basics: Managing AdWords Ads

By | July 16, 2014

With all of changes in AdWords emphasizing the importance of ad extensions and quality score, it is easy to get caught up in those features and overlook your ads themselves. At the end of the day, they are just as important as everything else. Here I’ve outlined some tips and best practices for managing your ads, including tools to simplify your job.

Testing & Optimizing

I firmly believe in the ‘ABT’ motto: Always Be Testing. A few things to keep in mind to ensure you’re getting the most out of your tests.

  • Test vs. Control – Be sure you’re only changing one thing in each ad variation, so you can easily and clearly tell which version performs better. For example, if you want to test headlines, be sure your description lines, display URLs, and destination URLs are all the same.
  • Rotation Settings – I like using the ‘Rotate Indefinitely’ setting in Google Adwords and ‘Rotate More Evenly’ in Bing AdCenter. This will ensure your ad variations are getting shown equally and help you better understand which variation is truly performing better. Using ‘Optimize of Clicks’ or ‘Optimize for Conversions’ lets Google display the ad it thinks will get the most clicks or conversions, and doesn’t give your ad variations equal display time, resulting in skewed test results.
  • Declaring a Winner – First, be sure you’ve let your test run long enough to gather significant data. Depending on the account, I like to run at least 2 weeks or setup a click threshold before launching so I know when I can evaluate the ad variations. Next, be sure you’re reviewing the right metrics. While CPCs and CPAs are important to consider, these metrics may not tell the whole story. Looking at click-thru and conversion rates is also important, but again, they could be leaving out important insights on performance. I like to look at overall ad efficiency to determine a winning ad. To calculate this metric, multiply the conversion rate by the click-thru rate.

Let’s look at an example. The snapshot below suggests at first glance the first ad is the winner. It has a few more conversions at a slightly lower cost per conversion. With a target CPA of $100, both ads are meeting our goals. However, when looking at the overall efficiency of the two ads, the second ad looks better:

 CTR

A Few Ad Reminders

Run at least one text ad with punctuation in Description Line 1 for the extended headline.

Google example:

huge selection widgets

Differentiate your ads:

  • Use trademarks and  registered marks for the terms you have registered and trademarked.
  • Try adding the Countdown Script for sales/holidays to text ads for a sense of urgency.

holiday sale

Create an ad group for each image size for image/display ads. This helps keep data around each ad size easier to see. You are able to easily manage the number of ads per ad group this way, making it much easier to test variations in your image ads. It also allows you an opportunity to “own” the page on site within the GDN. If the site offers multiple ad sizes, your ads could show in each of them if they are separated into different ad groups by image size.

Using Tools

3rd-party tools and platforms can help online advertisers greatly. Sometimes, we need that extra insight not offered within Adwords or AdCenter to help us make decisions. When it comes to ads and competitive insights, there are a few specific tools from The Search Monitor (TSM) that can be very helpful.

  • Rank Report – This report lets you see where you and your competitors are winning and losing ad ranks. You are able to compare your average rank and number of times seen versus your top competitors. You can leverage these insights in bidding decisions. For example, if your competitors are in a better rank than you, you might consider bidding up so your ad rank improves.
  • Trademark Report– This report lets you keep an eye on competitors bidding on your terms AND using your trademarks in their ad copy. If you notice a competitor wrongfully using your trademark, you can work with Google’s trademark policy team to restrict the use of your trademark within the competitor’s ads.

With tools and testing, you can rest easy knowing your ads are well managed.

If you have any tips of your own to add, please share them in the comments section … I’d love to hear them!

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PPC Budget Forecasting on the Fly

By | July 3, 2014

It’s Friday afternoon and an e-mail comes through to your inbox from your client:

 “Do you think we can spend an extra $10,000 this month? We have extra budget and would love to see what the numbers would look like if we spent it in PPC . Can you provide me an update by EOD?”

Emails like this can be a blessing and a curse. Of course, you would love to generate extra revenue and opportunities but can you really provide accurate data in enough time so that you can get the rest of your work done on top of these estimates before 5 pm on a Friday? The answer is yes!

You don’t need to get caught up in crunching numbers and pulling multiple data sets. In fact, all you really need is AdWords.

Once in AdWords, you’ll want to make sure to add both ‘impression share’ and ‘lost impression share (budget)’ columns. From there you’ll just need 5-10 minutes and a few quick calculations and then you’ll have more than enough accurate data to send your client so that you both can start your weekend early.

To get started, follow these easy steps:

  1. Set your date range to the last 30 days and export to Excel
  2. Create columns for potentials (you’ll need ‘potentials’ columns for impressions, clicks, conversions, costs, and CPA)
  3. Calculate potential impressions first by using this formula (Impressions/impression share)*lost impression share (budget)

From here, use the following formulas for the rest of the potentials:

  • Potential clicks: potential impressions*CTR
  • Potential conversions: potential clicks*Conv. Rate
  • Potential cost: potential clicks*Avg CPC
  • Potential CPA: potential cost/potential conversions

(Source: Search Engine Watch)

Now you have real data that you can feel confident about. Of course, adding additional keywords or moving targeting and settings around will help to generate additional opportunities. For now, you can use this as a guide to show clients how they can generate additional opportunities quickly with the campaigns they already have. Showing their missed opportunity could help you drive additional revenue and ultimately trust from clients in just a few minutes!

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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.

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

The Art of Rebranding

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Know Thy Competitor: Using Adwords Auction Tool to Assess Competition

By | June 18, 2014

sun tzu

It is said,

  • If you know your enemy and know yourself, you will win 100 battles.
  •  If you know yourself and do not know your enemy, you will win one and lose one.
  •   If you do not know your enemy nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

            -Sun Tzu

While Sun Tzu applied this wisdom on the battlefield to win wars and conquer enemies, these lessons can be and have been used in industrial marketing to increase qualified leads. To win on the battlefield of business, we must BOTH know thyself and our enemies.

Luckily in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, Google Adwords has a fantastic tool to help you know your enemy, AKA competitors. What is this revolutionary tool? … The Auction Report!

What is an Auction Report?

An Auction report is simply a report containing a list of your competitors. More than just a flat list of names, Adwords orders the list by highest threat level to lowest threat allowing you to focus your attention on the enemy that matters most (in Sun Tzu’s time this would have been Genghis Khan and his Mongolian Hoard!!).

What can I see in an Auction Report?

Along with the list of competitors, Adwords shows you:

Impression Share – This is how often your competitor appeared when someone searched for a term you yourself are bidding on.

Avg. Position – This is your competitors average ad position. A good rule of thumb is to look for competitors ranking in the 1st to 3rd position. If they are ranking this well these competitors are most certainly taking some business from you in the zero sum game of sales.

Overlap Rate – Tells you how often ads from your competitors are appearing at the same time your ad appears. The higher this number the higher the threat they are.

Position Above Rate – The lower this number is the better for you! If this number is 100% this means that every time your advertisement appears to customers, your competitor’s ad appears above your ad 100% of the time, every time!

This is pretty much akin to Mike Tyson knocking you out with a hard right hook and standing over your lifeless body while the ref counts to 10.

Great! So where do I find the Auction Report?

Click on the Keywords tab > Details tab > Auction Insights “All”

 auction

Learn more about Google Adwords Auction tool at Google Support!

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Maximize your event marketing investments with 21 Tradeshow Tips for Manufacturers:

21 Tradeshow Tips for Manufacturers

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