How Much Should Health Systems Spend on Search Advertising?

The title of this post is a pretty common question we get from digital-marketing and service-line managers who want to know how best to promote their health system through paid advertising. Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer because so many factors can determine the “right” amount to spend.

That said, here are some things to consider when budgeting paid advertising for a healthcare organization:

1. How many service lines would you like to promote? Will you be promoting specific doctors?

2. How big is your designated marketing area (DMA), and where to you want to target? Are you just local, or do you have any national presence for a particular service line?

3. What are your goals from paid advertising? Are they simply patient acquisition and service-line revenue growth, or do you also want to generate some awareness for the health system as a whole?

4. How competitive is your market? How many competitors are using paid advertising themselves? Learn more about how to spy on your paid advertising competition.

5. Are you running this on your own or hiring an agency for support? Make sure you budget for management fees if you are paying an agency.

6. What is your overall marketing budget? How much are you investing in other channels such as radio, TV, billboards, etc.? How are those channels performing compared to your digital marketing (if applicable)?

Fathom’s experience running digital advertising with several different health systems across the U.S. shows that in general, health systems allocate anywhere from $10-$40k/month on media spend, again depending on the factors listed above. Typically, they run at least 5 service-line campaigns where budget can range from as low as $2,000/month to as high as $5,000/month when targeting a local area.

If you are just starting out in online advertising, we would recommend first prioritizing your service lines. Then, test out 3-5 of them to start, gradually expanding your advertising footprint from there. If you’ve been running paid advertising for some time and are not sure how much more or less you should spend, compare your online advertising budget and performance to other advertising channels and see which ones are providing the most bang for the buck.

If nothing else, at least now you know what questions to ask.


Download “Search Advertising Benchmarks for Health Systems” to see how your paid search campaigns stack up to your peers.

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