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4 Proven Strategies for Healthcare PPC

Written by Kelsey Hadaller, Senior Account Manager and Alka Du Mont, Account Manager

As healthcare marketers, we are challenged with a variety of restrictions related to the products we advertise, the targeting we can implement and the ad copy we can use. According to a Pew Research study, 59% of adults and 72% of internet users in the United States consult the internet when seeking health information (an “online diagnosis”).1 Additionally, 77% of users looking for health information online “[begin] at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo.” Despite policy limitations, PPC advertising is strong in the healthcare vertical. In this whitepaper, we will discuss four tested strategies to take your healthcare accounts to the next level.


Strategy 1: Dynamic Search Ads


When it comes to health care, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact language that people use to describe their ailments. Dynamic Search Ads can help you fill in the gaps in keyword coverage and you will learn the colloquial terms that users search when looking for your services. A DSA has a dynamically generated headline and landing page URL, created from the user’s search query, and uses Google’s organic web crawling technology to target relevant search queries based on the content on your website. If you have a content heavy website, you will see better results because you will cast a wider net. It comes as no surprise that there are some health care industry restrictions to the content of your ads and you should check the restrictions[1].




The main benefits to the healthcare industry of using DSA ads:


  • You save a ton of time in building the initial keyword list and the headline ad copy, which is pulled from your website. Additionally, if you are in a healthcare vertical that is constantly changing regulations or research, your site’s new content will be indexed and applied to these campaigns, saving the time of updating keyword and ad copy.
  • A DSA can be for a specific service line if you hone in on certain pages on your site.
  • The headline is very relevant to the user since it includes the exact query in the results page. The headline is also given more character space to accommodate longer search queries, giving the ad even higher visibility and relevancy for users. This should translate to higher CTR and conversion rates.


The key to successful DSA campaigns are to have the following components:


  • Content-rich websites and pages that are easy for Google to crawl and index. If you want to target a segment of your services, try to include as many pages as possible to broaden your parameters.
  • Use bid adjustments to control when and where your ads are shown.
  • Apply account level negatives to your DSA campaign and invest the time in constant Search Query reviews to mine for new negatives.



A current healthcare client at Hanapin Marketing implemented a DSA campaign for one of their seven service lines and saw a 35% increase in CTR, 50% reduction in Avg CPC, and 35% drop in cost per conversion. Another client in the substance abuse industry implemented a DSA campaign that focused on insurance, and saw a 1487% increase in CTR, 72% reduction in Avg CPC, and 59% drop in cost per conversion.


In the healthcare industry, it can be costly to research new keywords to expand our market share, but dynamic search ads can educate you on the terms that you might have missed when setting up your account.


Strategy 2: Implement All Relevant Ad Extensions


Call Extensions

Encourage searchers to convert before they leave the search engine results page. Yes, you’ll still need to pay for the click on the call extension, but if calls are considered a type of high quality conversion, this could be the easiest way to increase conversion volume at a low cost. This is especially true for mobile.

In the below example, the user searched “chiropractors near me”. The first result, Rock Creek Spine, is using a call extension so users can click the number on their mobile devices and call the facility without needing to navigate to the website.



To gain as much insight as possible on calls and their quality, advertisers should use call tracking software. AdWords also provides the below metrics on call extension calls using call forwarding numbers.



Location extensions

If you are advertising for a brick and mortar location, use AdWords and Bing location extensions to help searchers through their journey. In the below example, the user is searching for urgent care. Since this user is likely in an emergency situation, he/she is most likely to either click on the first, easiest location to find or choose the closest urgent care facility. Only the first search result for afterhoursinc.com is showing a location extension. Once a user clicks on that location, he/she will be redirected to Google Maps.



Relevant Sitelink Extensions

Sitelinks give advertisers a one up on their competitors by improving CTR and Quality Score. More importantly, sitelinks provide searchers an option to shift their research or shopping journey. Consider using the below types of sitelinks to not only improve CTR, but conversion rates as well.

  • Find a Location
  • Contact Us
  • Accepted Insurance
  • Schedule An Appointment
  • Find A Plan
  • Financing Options


Review Extensions

Searching for a healthcare or insurance provider is overwhelming. Make the choice easy for users by displaying reviews in your text ads. Take the below search results as an example. DentalPlans.com is outbidding the competition for the keyword [dental insurance] and is using structured snippet extensions and sitelink extensions. Humana, however, is using structured snippets, sitelinks, and most importantly, review extensions to show their 3.7-star rating. It’s crucial to use as many extensions as your competitors when said competitors are well known. When ad copy and value props mirror each other, review extensions make all the difference.




Callout Extensions

While the change to Expanded Text Ads has increased the character limits for headlines and description lines, not all benefits can fit into one text ad. Use callout extensions to point out unique value propositions. Try the below themes to lift CTR and boost Quality Score.

  • Business hours
  • Free trials
  • Amenities
  • Special offers



Strategy 3: Smart Display Campaigns


Using the power of Google’s machine learning, Smart Display is one of the latest tools to increase reach and brand awareness for healthcare companies.  For health-related topics that are complex and require a lot of research, Smart Display is an efficient way to keep your brand name in front of your prime market while they are online.




A Smart Display campaign is a series of responsive ads, generated from a list of headlines, images, and descriptions that you set in the campaign, and there are three levels of optimization tools that result in thousands of permutations of display ads. These ads are automated in the following ways:


  • These ads are configured to the size needed for the placement and will show on the Google Display network, roughly 3 million apps and websites. The ad content is also considered for the components, like headline, image, and description, that will most likely convert.
  • Bidding is determined by Target CPA and Google places a bid instantly that is weighted based on the likelihood of conversion in each auction, in the most cost-effective way.
  • Placements are based on historical performance and content of that page or app, and the probability of conversion.


A Smart Display campaign is ideal for a healthcare client that is looking for an additional method to find new users by casting a broader net, and to also lift brand recognition in other channels. For example, a client in the rehabilitation industry created a Smart Display campaign at the end of April and in two months, organic conversions increased by 41.4%. This lift can also be attributed to other optimizations, but you can allocate some of this lift to the increased brand awareness. This client also saw that cost per conversion for their Smart Display campaign was $54.29, versus the search average of $256, and an average CPC of $0.60, versus the search average of $22.


Furthermore, a Smart Display campaign can be an effective way to bring back users that have visited your site, but have not converted. For example, in Analytics there is a metric called “% of new sessions”. This will tell you the volume of sessions triggered by users that have not been to your site before. If you have 37% of new sessions, this means that 63% of the users are return users, and therefore, can signal that your service is complicated and requires multiple visits before a user converts. Smart Display can be layered with a remarketing or similar audience list, which will help you engage with users that need extra information in their decision-making process.


To have a good balance of high and low funnel targeting, there needs to be investment in brand awareness activities. Smart Display is a unique way for healthcare companies to stay in the top of the minds of their future patients and clients, and using Google’s machine learning increases the cost-efficiency of a costly task.


Strategy 4: Competitor Campaigns


The below table shows conversion data by campaign category for one of Hanapin Marketing’s healthcare accounts. Conversions from competitor campaigns make up nearly 33% of the account’s overall conversion volume. Take the following steps to develop a strong competitor targeting strategy for your own healthcare account.


Campaign Category Conversions Conversion Rate
Competitors 885 8.80%
General 1254 8.14%
Brand 565 29.20%



Step 1: Know Your Competitors


As advertisers, it’s important to not only have a list of top competitors, but to also understand your brand’s unique strengths. We recommend creating a document listing all direct competitors with notes on similarities, differences, and what makes your brand stand out.


Use some or all of the below tools to expand your competitor list.


Step 2: Structure Your Campaigns


Depending on the number of competitors you are targeting, create one or multiple campaigns using variations of competitor brand terms. If you have a top priority competitor or if any one competitor is spending a significant amount the daily budget, break this competitor into its own campaign to better control spend.


Step 3: Write Unique Ad Copy


When coming up with which ad copy to use for your competitor campaigns, avoid using your branded campaign ads. Revisit the document you created listing what sets your brand apart from each competitor and call that benefit out in the text of your ads. Use the Adwords Preview Tool to see how your ads compare to your competitors. Make sure your ads do not have the same headlines as your competitors as this will likely lead to lower click through rates for competitor campaigns.


Step 4: Optimize


Consider the search intent behind competitor queries when setting bids, budgets and KPIs for competitor campaigns. Conversions on competitor keywords are often big wins since these users were likely going to convert on the competitor’s site instead. If using call tracking software, optimize budgets based on quality of calls instead of quantity.



[1]Pew Research Center, http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/01/15/health-online-2013/

2Google, Healthcare & Medicines Policy,  https://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/answer/176031