Ultimate Healthcare PPC Guide | 10 Essential Tips

This comprehensive guide offers 10 essential tips for effectively leveraging paid search for healthcare, ensuring that your message reaches the right audience with precision and impact.

Last Modified: 03/11/2024


Should Healthcare Businesses Use PPC Advertising?

The healthcare industry faces unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to marketing. One of the most pertinent questions is should healthcare businesses use PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising. The answer, more often than not, is a resounding yes.

It is important to meet your target audience where they are. Both patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs) are increasingly turning to online search engines to find answers and solutions for their healthcare concerns.

In an industry where timely information and accessibility can be crucial, PPC ads ensure that healthcare businesses are visible to those actively seeking medical information, treatment options, or local healthcare providers.

Paid search for healthcare goes beyond just visibility; it plays a huge role in patient education and engagement. With the right keywords and ad content, healthcare providers can address common queries, highlight their specialties, and even dispel medical myths, thereby positioning themselves as trusted sources in the digital healthcare space.

10 PPC Tips For Healthcare

1. Understand Your Brand

In the healthcare industry, where the stakes involve human health and well-being, it's particularly important to have a deep and nuanced understanding of the brand you're representing.

This includes a thorough knowledge of the diseases, symptoms, treatments, and facilities associated with your healthcare brand. Such an understanding ensures that your advertising efforts are not only factually accurate but also empathetic and relevant to the audience's needs.

For instance, knowing the specifics about the diseases and treatments your brand deals with allows you to craft search ads that resonate with the concerns of your target audience. This could range from patients looking for symptom relief and treatment options to HCPs seeking advanced therapeutic techniques or new medical research. By aligning your ad content with these specific needs and interests, you increase the relevance and impact of your campaigns.

Additionally, ensure that your ads accurately reflect the content available on your website, as providing information about services or details not present on your site can result in a negative user experience and diminish trust in your brand.

It is this synergy between the ads and the website content that can significantly improve conversion rates and build a loyal audience base.

2. Know Your Competitive Landscape

Understanding the competitive landscape is crucial in the realm of paid search for healthcare businesses. This knowledge is not just about identifying who your competitors are, but also understanding how they position themselves in the market, the keywords they target, the type of content they produce, and their overall advertising strategy.

Firstly, knowing your competitors helps in identifying gaps in the market that your healthcare business can fill. Perhaps there are specific treatments, services, or patient education areas that are underrepresented in competitor PPC campaigns. By targeting these areas, your business can stand out and address unmet needs.

Secondly, analyzing competitors' strategies can provide valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t work. This includes understanding the types of ad copy, keywords, ad extensions, and landing page designs that resonate with your target audience.

Additionally, competitive analysis helps in setting realistic benchmarks for your campaigns. By knowing the performance metrics of competitors' ads, such as click-through rates, conversion rates, and cost per click, you can set more informed KPIs for your campaigns and measure success against industry standards.

3. Master Keyword Research for PPC 

Importance of PPC Keyword Research

Effective keyword research involves understanding not just the popular search terms, but also the intent behind these searches. In healthcare, search intent could vary from informational (seeking knowledge about symptoms or conditions), to navigational (looking for a specific healthcare provider or product), to transactional (ready to book an appointment or purchase a healthcare product). By understanding these different types of search intents, healthcare marketers can tailor their keywords and ad copy accordingly.

For instance, someone searching for "symptoms of diabetes" is likely at an informational stage, whereas a search for "best diabetes treatment near me" indicates a transactional intent.

Keyword research helps in categorizing keywords based on user intent, which then guides the creation of tailored ad copy and landing pages. For example, ads targeting informational searches might lead to educational blog posts or FAQs, while those targeting transactional searches could direct users to appointment booking pages or specific treatment descriptions.

Best PPC Keyword Research Tools

One of the best tools in this domain is Google Ads Keyword Planner. This tool is especially valuable because it not only suggests keywords related to your initial inputs but also provides insights into the search volumes, competition level, and estimated bid rates for these keywords. It's directly integrated with Google Ads, making it extremely convenient for campaign management.

Another highly recommended tool is SEMrush. It stands out for its comprehensive features that go beyond keyword research, offering competitor analysis, keyword position tracking, and an extensive database of over 20 billion keywords. In SEMrush you are also able to analyze competitor search ads, including seeing their ad copy and their targeted keywords.

There are also other helpful PPC keyword research tools, like Ahrefs or SpyFu, that can guide your ad creation. Embracing a multi-faceted approach by integrating various tools is not just beneficial, it's essential for developing a robust keyword strategy. Each tool brings its unique strengths and perspectives, enabling you to construct a more comprehensive and effective keyword list.

PPC Keywords for Digital Marketing To Healthcare

PPC advertising in the healthcare sector requires a nuanced understanding of the target audience, particularly when differentiating between patient and healthcare professional (HCP) keywords.

Patient keywords typically revolve around their direct needs and concerns. For example, "Telemedicine Keywords" like “virtual doctor appointments” or “online medical consultation” are gaining traction, especially in the wake of increased telehealth services. "Treatment and Procedure Keywords" such as “laser eye surgery cost” or “knee replacement recovery” cater to patients seeking specific medical procedures. "Symptom Keywords" like “persistent cough remedies” or “migraine relief” are commonly used by individuals trying to understand and address their symptoms. Lastly, "Condition-Specific Keywords," such as “type 2 diabetes treatment” or “asthma management tips,” are sought by patients looking for information on specific health conditions.

When focusing on HCPs (Healthcare Professionals), the PPC keyword strategy should pivot toward more technical and specialized terms that resonate with their professional interests and needs. These keywords often encompass advanced medical research, detailed treatment methodologies, and opportunities for professional growth.

For instance, HCP-related keywords might include phrases like “clinical trial updates in cardiology,” “advanced neurosurgery techniques,” or “CME (Continuing Medical Education) credits online.” These keywords cater to HCPs seeking the latest developments in their respective fields. Additionally, terms like “new oncology drug trials” or “pediatric immunization guidelines” are specific and highly relevant to practitioners looking for current treatment trends and research.

4. Make Separate Ad Groups for Patients and HCPs

Creating separate ad groups for patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs) in PPC campaigns is a crucial strategy in healthcare digital marketing.

Target Audience Keywords Groupings

Creating separate ad groups allows you to target different keywords for each ad. Tailoring ad groups allows for more effective keyword strategies. For patients, keywords might focus on common health concerns or local healthcare services, while HCP-targeted keywords could be more specialized, like specific medical conditions, treatment protocols, or medical research. This approach enables efficient budget allocation and maximizes ROI from PPC campaigns.

Chose Appropriate Verbiage in Ads

Choosing the right verbiage in PPC ads is a critical component of effectively communicating with distinct audiences in the healthcare sector, namely patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs). The language used in these ads can significantly influence the reaction and engagement levels of each group.

For patients, the language should be empathetic, reassuring, and easily understandable. They are often seeking information that can be sensitive or anxiety-inducing, so it's important to use terms that are clear and non-intimidating. Avoiding medical jargon and using layman's terms can make the information more accessible.

For instance, instead of using a term like 'oncology,' ads could say 'cancer care.' This sensitive approach not only helps in making patients feel more comfortable but also ensures that they can easily comprehend the information being presented

Conversely, HCPs tend to respond better to ads that use more technical and medical terminology. This audience, which includes doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, is more likely to engage with content that speaks their language - one that is professional, concise, and clinically accurate.

For example, using specific medical terms like 'cardiothoracic surgery' instead of 'heart surgery' can make the ad more relevant and credible to an HCP audience. It's important to note that HCPs don't typically refer to themselves as such. Instead, using specific titles like physicians, doctors, and nurses in ad copy can make the content more relevant and show that your site has information targeted at healthcare professionals.

These professionals often seek detailed, research-based information, and using appropriate medical terms can signal that your content is of a professional standard, potentially leading to higher click-through rates among this audience.

Have Dedicated Landing Pages For Each Audience

Alongside creating separate ad groups, it's crucial to have dedicated landing pages for each audience. This ensures a consistent and relevant experience from the ad to the website. For patients, landing pages should be easy to navigate and understand, providing clear information about healthcare services, treatments, and symptoms. For HCPs, the landing pages should be more technical, with detailed research, advanced treatment methodologies, and opportunities for professional growth.

These dedicated pages not only improve user experience but also enhance the effectiveness of the ads by providing a direct and relevant destination that aligns with the user's search intent.

Optimizing Ad Timing

The timing of ad placement plays a pivotal role in the effectiveness of PPC campaigns in healthcare. While HCPs tend to conduct their searches during office hours, patients often do their research outside of these times, usually during evenings or weekends. This difference in search behavior should inform the scheduling of PPC campaigns to maximize visibility and engagement with the respective audiences.

5. Match Your Ad Copy & Keywords To Website Copy

Matching your ad copy and keywords to the website copy in paid search ads is a fundamental aspect of creating a successful PPC campaign.

When the language and keywords in your ad copy closely match those on your landing page or website, it creates a seamless transition for the user. This consistency ensures that users find what they were promised in the ad, reducing confusion and improving their overall experience.

Search engines like Google use Quality Score as a metric to determine the relevance of your ads to user queries. When your ad copy and keywords are closely aligned with your website copy, it signals to search engines that your content is relevant and valuable to the searcher’s intent. This can lead to higher Quality Scores, which often result in lower cost-per-click (CPC) and better ad positioning.

6. Reap the Benefits of Search Ad Extensions 

Leveraging search ad extensions in a PPC campaign can significantly enhance ad visibility and increase click-through rates by providing additional valuable information directly in the ad, making it more informative and engaging for potential customers. These extensions not only improve user experience by offering more paths to conversion but also boost the ad's performance by making it stand out in the crowded search results.

Benefits of Sitelink Extensions

A sitelink extension is a feature in PPC ads that allows advertisers to add additional links below the main ad text, directing users to specific pages of a website, such as product categories, contact pages, or special offers.

healthcare ppc sitelink extensions

This feature helps create visibility as it takes up more real estate on SERPs. It also improves user experience by offering a shortcut to the information or products that interest them most.

By providing these direct links, sitelink extensions can significantly increase the click-through rate of ads, as well as facilitate higher conversion rates by reducing the number of steps a user needs to take to find what they're looking for.

Location Extensions for PPC

A location extension is a feature in PPC ads that allows advertisers to display their business address, phone number, and a map marker alongside their ad text.

healthcare ppc location extensions

By providing location details upfront, location extensions can increase the likelihood of in-person visits, enhancing local visibility and offering a seamless bridge between online advertising and physical customer interactions.

Callout Extensions Benefits

A callout extension in PPC ads allows advertisers to include additional descriptive text beneath their ad copy, such as unique selling points or special offers, without links to separate pages. This feature helps highlight specific attributes or benefits of products and services, enhancing the ad's value proposition to potential customers.

healthcare ppc callout extensions

By using callout extensions, advertisers can effectively communicate key differentiators and promotions, increasing the ad's relevance and appeal, which can lead to higher click-through and conversion rates.

PPC Call Extensions

A call extension is a feature in PPC ads that adds a phone number or call button directly to the ad, enabling users to initiate a phone call to the business with just one click.

healthcare ppc call extensions

By making it easier for users to reach out directly, call extensions can significantly increase the number of call-based inquiries, enhancing lead generation and customer engagement opportunities directly from the search results.

7. Beware Healthcare PPC Ad Restrictions

Healthcare PPC advertising, particularly on platforms like Google Ads, is subject to a range of specific policies and restrictions. These guidelines are in place to ensure the safety, accuracy, and appropriateness of the content being advertised, especially given the sensitive nature of healthcare-related topics.

Google Ads Healthcare Policy

This policy encompasses a range of guidelines intended to protect users from misleading or harmful medical content. It includes restrictions on certain types of healthcare and medicine-related content, particularly around how they are presented and what claims can be made. For example, ads must not create a sense of urgency or pressure the user into a medical decision, nor can they make unrealistic promises of cures or guaranteed outcomes.

Google Ads Restricted Drug Terms

Under Google Ads' healthcare policy, there are specific restrictions on advertising prescription drugs and related content. Advertisers are often required to undergo certification processes to advertise these products. 

It is often required to include Important Safety Information (ISI) in search ads, especially for prescription drugs. The policy also restricts the use of certain drug terms, especially those related to controlled substances, prescription drugs not approved in the targeted region, or products with a history of abuse.

Unapproved Substances Google Ads

Google Ads also prohibits the promotion of unapproved substances. This includes drugs and health supplements that have not been authorized by local health authorities or are known to be unsafe. The aim is to protect users from products that could be harmful or lack scientific validation. This policy requires advertisers to be diligent in ensuring that their products are approved and compliant with local regulations before promoting them on the platform.

In summary, healthcare PPC advertising on platforms like Google Ads involves navigating a complex set of policies and restrictions designed to safeguard users and ensure ethical advertising practices. Advertisers in the healthcare sector must be well-informed and compliant with these guidelines to successfully run their campaigns without facing setbacks or penalties.

8. Have All Necessary Certifications and Clearances

If you're advertising prescription drugs, specific types of medical treatments, or services, certifications are often required. For instance, Google Ads has strict policies for pharmaceuticals, and in many countries, you must be certified by Google before you can advertise prescription drugs.

Similarly, advertising medical services such as plastic surgery or addiction treatment can require certifications and adherence to additional guidelines. See Google’s healthcare and medicines paid search guidelines to learn more. Alongside having the proper certifications, it is also extremely important to follow healthcare cybersecurity best practices to make sure any confidential information stays secure.

9. Aim to Be Above Healthcare PPC Benchmarks

Understanding healthcare PPC benchmarks is crucial for creating effective search ads, as it provides valuable insights into industry standards for click-through rates, conversion rates, and cost-per-click. These benchmarks serve as a guide to gauge the performance of your campaigns, helping you to optimize ad spend, refine targeting strategies, and improve overall campaign effectiveness in the competitive healthcare digital marketing landscape.

Source: WordStream.com - Created by DataWrapper

Of course, there are more than just the listed sections above in healthcare. We will dive deeper into more general healthcare benchmarks that will cover pharma, biotech, clinical trials, and other healthcare sectors.

PPC Conversion Rate Benchmarks

The conversion rate is a critical metric as it directly reflects the effectiveness of your ads in achieving desired actions, such as appointment bookings or information requests. A high conversion rate indicates that your landing pages are successfully resonating with and engaging the target audience, leading to tangible results that align with your healthcare marketing objectives.

For paid search in healthcare, the average conversion rate is 3.36% (According to WordStream)

PPC CTR Benchmarks

The click-through rate (CTR) is a vital indicator of how compelling your ads are to your target audience. A higher CTR means that your ad copy and keywords are relevant and engaging to potential patients or healthcare professionals, effectively driving more traffic to your website or landing page.

For paid search in healthcare, the average CTR is 3.27% (According to WordStream)

CPC Google Ads Benchmark

Cost Per Click (CPC) is a crucial metric that represents the financial efficiency of your ad campaigns. Monitoring and optimizing CPC helps ensure that you are effectively managing your budget, enabling you to reach the maximum number of potential patients or healthcare professionals at the lowest possible cost.

For paid search in healthcare, the average CPC is $2.62 (According to WordStream)

10. Create Strategies for SEO and Paid Search

How Paid Search and SEO Work Together 

Paid search and SEO in the pharma and healthcare industries can complement each other effectively to enhance a website's overall visibility and performance in search engines. Integrating both strategies can lead to a more comprehensive digital marketing approach, maximizing traffic and conversion opportunities.

Paid search provides immediate visibility and traffic, which is particularly useful for new websites or promotional campaigns. SEO for medical websites builds long-term foundations and gradually increases organic traffic in this space. Together, they ensure a balance between immediate results and sustainable growth.

Data from paid search can also reveal user behavior that can be used to optimize organic content and vice versa. For example, ad copy with high click-through rates (CTR) can inspire meta descriptions or page titles for SEO.

PPC & SEO Collaboration Strategies

Dominating Search Engine Results Page Real Estate

By appearing both organically and as a paid ad, you increase your real estate on the SERPs for important keywords, boosting visibility and credibility. The more often a user sees a website in the SERP, the more likely they are to go to that website.

This can also protect your brand space by ensuring competitors do not take over your branded keyword space with their PPC campaigns.

For example, a dental practice appears at the top of SERPs for "cosmetic dentistry" through PPC ads while also ranking in the top organic results for the same keyword. This dual presence not only enhances visibility but also establishes the practice as a leading authority in cosmetic dentistry within the region, discouraging competitors from bidding on the same branded keywords.

Content Optimization

Utilize the content that performs well in SEO to inform your PPC landing pages. High-quality, informative content that ranks well organically can improve the relevance and quality score of PPC ads, potentially lowering cost per click (CPC) and improving ad placement. 

A/B Testing Insights

Use PPC to test different landing pages, headings, and calls to action quickly. The immediate feedback from these tests can provide valuable insights that can be applied to optimize title tags, meta descriptions, and landing pages for SEO. 

Healthcare PPC Guide Infographic

Keep this cheat sheet handy when implementing a healthcare PPC strategy!

healthcare ppc infographic


By understanding and implementing these tailored approaches, healthcare providers can significantly improve their PPC performance, driving more targeted traffic and conversions to their services page.

Effective PPC in healthcare demands a strategic approach: knowing your brand and competitors, precision in keyword research, and targeted ad creation are foundational. Ensure your campaigns are impactful by aligning ad and website content, utilizing ad extensions, and staying compliant with industry standards. Strive for excellence by exceeding performance benchmarks and harmonizing your SEO and PPC efforts for overall marketing effectiveness.

Looking for healthcare PPC services? Contact The Experience Design Studio (XDS) today!