Paid Search & The Truven 15 Top Health Systems

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.

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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:

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., 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:

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.


Social Media Benchmarks for Health Systems [Free Report]

Social Media Benchmarks for Health Systems

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One Comment

  • Sunday says:

    Invariably, it goes to show that the higher health systems as shown by the Truven 15 Top Health Systems of 2014 are placing premium importance to paid search. This is heart warming for advocates of search traffic .

    However, my question is this, does having a huge budget always determine the success of search traffic? What is the place of good SEO in the success which these health systems are gaining?

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