Health Systems’ 5 Most Common Digital Advertising Mistakes

In the course of doing digital marketing consulting and management for several different health systems nationwide, Fathom has found their digital advertising accounts typically have several common problems. (We’ve even graded the paid search performance of the Truven 15 Top Health Systems.) Hospitals can make better use of advertising dollars and increase return on paid search by avoiding the following pitfalls.

1. Geo-targeting too large of an area.

Geo-targeting is such an important aspect of driving new patients and service line growth for a health system. When working with limited and sometimes shrinking marketing budgets (true of most health systems), saturating the market closest to where you provide care is imperative. Many times, advertising campaigns are targeting several designated marketing areas (DMA’s) or even multiple states and therefore limited by budget. When campaigns are limited by budget, ads do not appear every time a user performs a relevant search query in the core market. By honing in on the core market, a hospital’s ads can show up more often.

2. Keeping keywords primarily in broad match.

Broad-match keywords are great for increasing reach and showing up for many different search queries that are not bid on directly. However, broad-match keywords are extremely susceptible to wasting money on irrelevant keywords. By using those keywords with broad-match modifiers, you can control which are in the actual search query and therefore ensure relevancy. This will help make the daily budget last longer, generating more relevant clicks and ultimately, patients.

3. Lacking negative keywords.

In addition to having mostly broad-match keywords, many health systems’ paid advertising accounts lack a robust negative-keyword list. Having both plenty of broad-match keywords and very few negative keywords is a very bad combination. Therefore, make sure you create a negative-keyword list that gets added to each campaign and new campaigns in the future.

4. Forgetting ad extensions.

Ad extensions are free to add to ad copy and have the potential to significantly enhance ads. The cost of clicking an ad extension is the same cost of clicking the headline of the ad. Ad extensions also provide a significant increase in click-thru rate, which is a very important factor in determining quality score, cost-per-click. Just as importantly, ad extensions help increase the chances that a prospective patient chooses your health system over your competitors. We have seen significant performance improvements with ad extensions such as sitelinks, call extensions, review extensions, call-out extensions and location extensions.

5. Not using custom landing pages.

Many health systems send their paid advertising traffic to pages within the normal website navigation. This is not necessarily bad, but if you are looking to generate new patients and grow the service line, you need to invest in custom landing pages that are designed to facilitate direct communication. This means having clear calls-to-action, content specific to the search query, and a responsive page that is suitable regardless of device.

Hospital PPC Report

Start maximizing your digital advertising budget and growing your service line revenue by avoiding these traps.


Learn how to bid better against competing local, regional and national health systems: “Health Systems & Paid Search: A Study of Service-Line Competition.”

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