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Are You Advertising Your Urgent Care Clinics Online?

By | April 17, 2015

One of the newest paid advertising trends Fathom Healthcare has noticed is the investment in advertising of urgent care centers online using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

Why Urgent Care Centers

Promoting urgent care centers has become a priority for health systems recently. But why? From a macro perspective, there’s been significant growth in urgent care centers in the past 3 to 5 years. According to a Forbes article titled “A Boom In Urgent Care Centers As Entitlement Cuts Loom”, more than 8,000 urgent and immediate care centers were open in 2013 in the U.S., and most of these are run by nonprofit health systems. In addition to health systems, private equity and investor-owned companies have also entered the mix coupled with retail health clinics, such as CVS Minute Clinic, which offers similar services. The need for immediate and affordable care is evident and many different types of healthcare organizations are making it a priority.

From a digital marketing perspective, urgent care centers are a great fit with paid search advertising. Most health systems traditionally promote their service lines through paid search, such as bariatric services, orthopedics, neurosciences, oncology and women’s health. Many of the conditions/treatments examined around these service lines have a long “research” cycle before even considering scheduling an appointment. However, users searching for “urgent care” clinics are much more impulsive and are closer to “immediate need”.

Secondly, urgent care centers are able to get new patients in the door within 30 minutes to an hour after clicking your ad. Therefore, health systems can immediately see the impact (and revenue) from their advertising efforts, where traditional healthcare advertising can take weeks or even months to get the patient in for an appointment.

Lastly, Google AdWords and Bing ads have made it extremely easy for advertisements to connect with new patients via their click-to-call feature on mobile devices. Since most urgent care-related injuries and treatments are impulsive, users are more likely to hop on their smartphone, search for help, and effortlessly connect with an urgent care center or find the location nearest them. In fact, according to Google in 2014 Q4, over 60% of urgent care related searches were from mobile devices!

Urgent Care Google AdWords Benchmarks

According to Google AdWords data, in 2014 Q4, search queries related to urgent care grew 26% year over year; desktop queries grew 5% and tablets grew 14%. The majority of growth came from mobile devices, with 53% growth! Average cost per click (CPC) across all devices was relatively consistent, averaging out to $2.40. Average click-through rate (CTR) was significantly higher for mobile (3.11%) and tablets (2.96%); where desktop CTR was 1.95%.

Urgent Care Search Queries by Device

Urgent Care Paid Search Best Practices

So, if you are going to test out promoting your urgent care centers, what are some things to consider to increase your chances of success?

  • Mobile / Responsive Website: with over 50% of users searching urgent care related keywords from mobile devices, it’s imperative to have a website that renders properly on mobile devices.
  • Click to Call Campaigns: make sure your campaigns are opted into targeting mobile devices and using call extensions so users can easily click the phone icon on their phone, and be routed to one of your urgent care centers.

Urgent Care Mobile Ad

  • Mobile Bid Modifiers: In addition to targeting mobile devices, you should consider bidding higher for mobile devices using bid modifiers. Why? Because there are fewer ads that show up on mobile devices, so you’ll want to bid higher for those top two spots above the organic listings.

Urgent Care Performance by Device

  • Ad Extensions: With this space being overly competitive, it’s important to implement relevant ad extensions including location extensions, call extensions (as mentioned above), sitelinks, call out extensions and review extensions. All of these extensions will help your ad stand out from your competition and help improve your ad rank.

Urgent Care Ad Extensions

  • Call Tracking: Consider using call tracking to track the number of calls from users who visit your website. This will give you a better understanding of your return on investment (ROI). One of the biggest challenges is understanding the direct impact from your advertising investment in terms of new patients generated, and call tracking can help with this.

Final Thoughts

If you decide to test the promotion of your urgent care center(s), I would recommend implementing the best practices above to improve your chances of success. Remember, having a sound mobile strategy is even more important with urgent care than most other healthcare advertising campaigns.

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VIPPS Certification and Paid Search for Health Systems and Hospitals

By | April 16, 2015

Healthcare marketers and advertisers, I feel your pain; you have to deal with so many obstacles, especially when it comes to online advertising. Previously, I had written about two specific challenges that healthcare advertisers deal with on a regular basis: Advertising on health-related content & using site remarketing.

Today, I am writing about another challenge that you may have faced or could be facing in the near future. Google AdWords has recently disapproved some of our health systems’ ads on the grounds of not having a VIPPS Certification and a link in the footer of their website to their pharmacy page.

Link to Pharmacy Page

From my understanding, if your website links to information regarding your pharmacy AND patients are able to fill or refill prescriptions, your Google AdWords ads could be disapproved since they are considered an online pharmacy. However, if the pharmacy link goes to the various locations of your pharmacies and there is no way for patients to fill or refill prescriptions, you should be OK.

So, what does VIPPS stand for? VIPPS stands for Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites. According to the official VIPPS website: “To ensure public health…[it] requires an Internet pharmacy to comply with the licensing and survey requirements of its state and each state to which it dispenses pharmaceuticals.”

VIPPS Certification Logo

So, how do you know if your AdWords account has been dinged by this pharmacy-related issue? I would recommend filtering for disapproved ads. Then, hover over the callout icon and see why. If you see “[Healthcare and medicines] online pharmacy required”, then you may be in trouble!

Google AdWords Health and Conditions

Next, what are your options if your ads have been disapproved and an “online pharmacy certification” is required? You can take 1 of 3 routes:

  1. Remove any links on your site to the pharmacy page. Ha, yeah right! Yes, I realize there is a low possibility of this happening for most hospitals and health systems, but I figured I could mention it.
  2. Apply to be accredited and pay for the VIPPS certification. Pricing can be found here and is dependent on the type of pharmacy you are. Fees can range from $5,000-$8,000, which can be a pretty significant chunk of your marketing budget.
  3. Create strategic landing pages for your specific service-line campaigns that are on a completely different domain that DOES NOT LINK to the pharmacy section of the site. You cannot simply use a sub-domain since it technically links back to the root domain.

Well, there you have it, another day in the life of a healthcare marketer! Have you had to apply for a VIPPS Certification to get your ads back up and running? What has your experience been like? Hopefully, you haven’t had to face this issue and don’t have to moving forward. Good luck!

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The College Research Timeline and Paid Search

By | April 14, 2015

For a high school student, choosing where they want to attend college is likely the most difficult and important decision of their lives to date. Between location, size, cost, available aid, and programs offered, there are many factors that need to be considered before a decision is made. For many, this process begins years before the student steps foot on campus on move-in day. Therefore, marketers for undergraduate colleges and universities need to be cognizant of this fact and be able to tailor their paid search efforts based on the time of year. Let’s take a look at what milestones you should be aware of throughout the year and how your paid search program should adjust accordingly.

Timeline Milestones

While each student’s process and each college’s deadlines are different, most follow similar patterns. I have developed a baseline off which a paid search program can be developed.

Junior Year

  • Fall
    • Begin researching schools
    • Plan for/begin to schedule ACT/SAT exams
  • Spring
    • Take SAT/ACT
    • Continue research including beginning college campus visits

Senior Year

  • Summer
    • Plan for the application process; students should have a good idea of what schools that they want to apply to including their deadlines as well as what is needed for the application
  • Typical Deadlines
    • The Common App (used by over 500 universities nationwide) goes live August 1st for the following years’ enrollment
    • Schools that offer early action/early decision have application deadlines usually between November 1st-November 15th
    • “Regular” admission deadlines are typically between January 1st-February 1st
    • Rolling admission deadlines are usually by May 1st but most schools with this type of admission recommend getting applications in by March 1st
  • Spring
    • Students review the acceptances they have received to work towards making a decision
    • Students work to secure financial aid

Many universities require enrollment (not just application) by May 1st

What Needs to Be Adjusted?


Having messaging revolving around where students are in their research process is crucial to their user experience. This applies to your ad copy, calls to action, as well as the content of your landing pages. While your pages may have all of the pertinent information a student needs to make a decision, not directing them toward the ideal part of that information may be confusing or overwhelming. For example, try creating a content feature around your school’s financial aid opportunities in February.           

Budget and Goals

Consider applying your heaviest search spending between August and December when the most research and applying is being done by seniors. Display efforts, however, are good for branding year round. They will likely be very impactful in the spring when the audience for college research is juniors just beginning their research process. Having a clear understanding of your goals for each part of the research life cycle will allow you to plan your budget effectively.

Paying attention to the college research timeline is your first step toward effective paid search spending and lead acquisition. What techniques do you use?

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SEM is “Most Effective” B2B Marketing Strategy | CMI Manufacturing Report (2015)

By | April 2, 2015

Content Marketing Institute recently released its annual Manufacturing Marketing Trends report.  The report, which surveyed hundreds of B2B manufacturing marketers across North America, ranked search engine marketing (also referred to as PPC, SEM and search advertising) as the most effective advertising method for manufacturers.

onlinestraWhat’s interesting about this finding is that 85% of B2B marketers reported using traditional print or offline promotion to distribute their content, promote their products, and ultimately drive new sales.  However, only 34% of those same marketers felt such tactics were successful.

On the other hand, a majority (57%) of all B2B manufacturing marketers found search engine marketing (or PPC) to be the most effective marketing strategy. Yet, 3 out of every 10 manufacturing marketers in the US are not taking advantage of this advertising channel.

At Fathom, we were struck by these numbers.  If search engine marketing is the most effective channel for promoting your message and products, and ultimately drives more sales than traditional methods, why aren’t all manufacturers introducing SEM into their marketing strategy?

If your company is part of this 30 percent not yet utilizing SEM, here are 7 reasons why you may want to consider adding it to your marketing mix:

1.  You can accurately track ROI on all investments– in CMI’s manufacturing report, only 2% of companies surveyed felt their organization was doing an incredible job tracking ROI on digital marketing spend.  This is astounding, given that Google, Bing and other paid channels allow you track very specific metrics of success (cost per form submitted, cost per call, avg. conversion rates, etc.), AND even tie leads generated via their platforms directly to revenue through a connection to your CRM.   Here’s a Lead-to-Revenue connection guide Google recently published that will help any company advertising through Google Adwords and also using Salesforce tie leads back to revenue:

2. You can be seen by your EXACT target audiences of choice: Paid Advertising platforms allow you define your target audience in a number of very specific ways, including geography (country, state, city, zip code), gender, age, interests – the options and combinations are almost limitless.  LinkedIn allows for even more detailed targeting (by job title, company size, groups, and more) and Twitter recently entered into a partnership with Acxiom and Datalogix that will allow advertisers to target Twitter users based on past offline purchase behavior. Pretty cool (and targeted) stuff!

3. You can distribute your message immediately: 65% of companies say they created more content in the last 12 months than ever before, and plan to continue creating more content in the next 12 months. With all this content being created, you need to find an efficient way to distribute it. Paid advertising (through Google, Bing, LinkedIn) allows you to distribute your message immediately.  Once your manufacturing marketing strategy is in place and assets (ad copy, image ads, landing pages) are created, you can launch a campaign in any of these mediums in just a couple hours. It sometimes takes Google and Bing a couple hours to approve your messages, but within a day, you can usually have your ads running and visible to whichever demographics you’ve chosen to target.

4. You can optimize performance of your ads (or message) on the fly:  Not seeing great engagement with your ads? No problem – you can change ad copy in the matter of seconds, and test ad copy and landing page copy to see which provides the best results. Whether you’re measuring success in terms of clicks, cost/click or conversions, you have the ability to tweak all variables in nearly real-time to make sure you’re optimizing your spend.  Wouldn’t it be nice to do that with print ads in magazines or commercials on TV!

5. Cost-Per-Clicks are a bit more reasonable in the manufacturing space:  unlike the insurance & legal industries (which see costs as high as $700/click), the manufacturing space – for the most part – offers relatively lower Cost Per Acquisition.  These costs are determined by an auction-type algorithm,, where costs fluctuate based on competition in your space.  If your competitors aren’t advertising yet on Google or Bing, implementing Paid Advertising campaigns is a great way to capture market share at a low cost.  Chances are, if you’re an OEM, you have a healthy lead value (calculated based on cost of your products x lifetime value of the customer).  High lead values and low competition (or cost/lead) are a recipe for success in the SEM space.

6. You can attract buyers at any stage in the funnel: in SEM, you have the opportunity to promote pretty much whatever it is you want online.  Whether it’s a landing page with a video that demonstrates your newest product, a whitepaper or tech sheet that gives more details to customers who are in the “research stage”, or a strong call to action (like “request a demo” or “contact us”) that engages visitors near the end of the buying process, you can promote it through Paid Ads on Google, Bing, LinkedIn, and other digital advertising channels.

7. You can stay in front of potential buyers who have shown signs of interest:  one of the most exciting and successful forms of paid advertising is called Remarketing.  This is a digital marketing strategy manufacturers can use to re-target any visitor who has come to your site in the past with very specific messaging, based on the actions they took.  For example, if they visited a specific product page but left without submitting a demo request, you can create an ad promoting your “free demo” and include incentives, additional details, etc.  If a visitor did complete a demo request, you can re-target them with a message promoting benefits of the product you ultimately think they’d like to buy.  The possibilities are endless here, and the beauty is that these types of ads are usually MUCH less expensive than traditional Pay Per Click ads, yet produce some of the highest conversion rates.

If your interest in SEM as a manufacturing marketing strategy is piqued, you might want to explore the following blogs, written by Fathom’s experienced Paid Advertising experts:

If you enjoyed the stats presented in this blog and want to find more, you can view Content Marketing Institute’s full manufacturing report here.

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How Much Do Hospitals Spend on Google AdWords?

By | March 20, 2015

Cover_SEM benchmarksAs a follow-up from my previous post “How Much Should Health Systems Spend on Search Advertising?” I wanted to provide statistics and potential benchmarks for healthcare marketers to compare against their own paid advertising performance.

That said, I am pleased to announce the release of our latest guide, “Search Advertising Benchmarks for Health Systems.” It packs a lot of useful information into just 7 pages … and one’s the cover! My intention in writing it was to give marketers a better idea of how health systems and hospitals are investing their advertising dollars online.

All data points in this report are from U.S. health systems and hospitals that conducted Google AdWords advertising with Fathom in 2014.

What’s included?

  • Annual spend by health system
  • Top service lines promoted by health systems
  • Performance by device
  • Average cost-per-click by health system and service line
  • Average click-thru rate by health system and service line
  • Emerging service lines being promoted

Download the guide today to see how your paid search campaigns stack up.

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