Digital Healthcare Advertising: How to Avoid Reflux

Digital Healthcare Advertising: How to Avoid Reflux

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From patient and consumer privacy acts such as HIPAA and CCPR to platforms phasing out third-party cookies from their web browsers, the ecosystem of digital healthcare marketing is exciting, evolving and complex.

In this article, we take a look at actionable metrics for demand generation campaigns, effective strategies for healthcare marketers, and how to increase consumers’ confidence in your organization by not giving off the “creep factor.”

Reading Time: 4 minutes 16 seconds


Relocating to a new town and need to find a primary care physician. Having the flu and needing to find urgent care. Finding out a serious medical procedure is necessary and wanting to research which hospitals are the best. These are issues people face every day, and they want immediate, relevant results.

As an agency, it is our job to design effective creative campaigns, get our clients in front of these audiences and give users a positive experience when selecting services. And one way we do this is by attributing their paid media strategy to specific goals (appointments, referrals, purchasing of products, etc.) from demand generation advertising and continuous optimization from analyzing the data.

From our experience working with these types of campaigns, the key performance indicators (KPIs) remain fairly consistent regardless of industry:

  • Leads/conversions – The number of people who filled out online request forms, called to make an appointment, etc. These vary on what the organization and campaign are attempting to achieve
  • Conversion Rate – The percentage of visitors to the website that converted out of the total number of visitors that visited the page driven by advertising
  • Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA) – The cost to acquire a conversion (goals/benchmarks should be set depending on the condition if you are running multiple campaigns)
  • Revenue per patient – This metric is healthcare-specific as it measures the amount of revenue the hospital earns for each patient.

But we are not selling $8 t-shirts in this case. We’re selling our clients’ image to an engaged and concerned audience. So it’s crucial to create a plan that reaches our audiences effectively.

Tactical Examples

Advertisers can accomplish these goals and measure these metrics through several different media channels such as search engine marketing (SEM), paid social, digital display, digital video, email marketing and site-direct relationships with endemic partners, which can all be effective.

To take this one step further, marketers can use the channels above to increase conversions, and ultimately revenue, through a retargeting strategy.

According to Adobe, 96% of visitors that come to websites are not ready to convert. So retargeting can be very beneficial to continue sending your message to prospective clients. Other advantages to this strategy include:

  • Higher conversion rates
  • Lower cost-per-clicks
  • Reaching users who have already shown interest in your offerings
  • Users are more likely to convert after seeing more than one ad

Retargeting (also known to some as remarketing) is a form of online advertising that allows advertisers to connect with people who previously interacted with your website by serving ads to them as they navigate the internet. So how does it work? Depending on what medium you are using to drive website traffic, you will install a pixel(s) on your website so you can track the user after a website visit.

The process is quite simple:

Retargeting graphic flow chart in stages

Another tactic that can align well with retargeting when done properly is implementing programmatic advertising (both display and video) to reach their target audiences.

Programmatic advertising is defined as automating the decision-making process of media buying by targeting specific audiences and demographics. Whoa. That sounds creepy, right? It doesn’t have to be. There are many different strategies marketers in all industries use when it comes to programmatic advertising and using contextual advertising, which is one form of programmatic, can be very effective and safe for brands.

Contextual advertising is a two-step strategy for us. Step One: build condition-specific audience segments and understand the websites they are frequenting the most and are relevant to your campaign’s goals. Step Two: Do not activate these segments for the actual campaign but rather build a whitelist for your condition/service line and target these highly pertinent pages. Being able to retarget from this should increase all of your KPIs.

Be relevant, not creepy

People are becoming increasingly aware and concerned about their data privacy, especially with their personal health information. So how do you ensure users they aren’t going to have flashbacks of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal when they click on your ad? There are some simple parameters and strategies that can be set to help ease this fear.

  • Set a Frequency Cap: Be subtle. Restrict the number of times a website visitor is shown your ad after they leave your website without converting.
  • Set a Respectable Conversion Window: Be realistic and respectful of how long you target a user when it comes to a healthcare condition. One aspect of healthcare marketing that sometimes gets overlooked, and in this case, is advantageous, is the healthcare audience tends to turnover faster than other industries.
  • Retarget on Conversion-Only Pages: Nudge them across the finish line. Don’t retarget your entire site, focus on the page the user gets to in order to make a conversion. Make their customer journey on your website a more enjoyable one.
  • Retarget with General Ads, Not Condition Specific: Remind the user who you are, not what you know about them. If your ad drives people to learn more about a specific condition, like diabetes or weight-loss, for example, do not retarget them with a condition-specific ad. Make people feel comfortable after leaving your website, not like you are following them.
  • Install a “burn pixel”: The advertising achieved its goal, now set the user free. This snippet of code is important to put on your post-transaction page to ensure you do not continue to retarget users after they have converted. If returning patients/lifetime value is an important metric for your organization, this implementation is very necessary to avoid annoyance.

The digital landscape for healthcare can be complex and is continuing to change at a rapid pace. But it doesn’t have to be intimidating. Set goals for your paid advertising. Develop strategic digital media plans that align with what you are trying to accomplish. Don’t unnerve your target audience. If you can do those three things, your campaign will be in good health. – MR

Need help boosting confidence in your digital media plan or your trivia team’s performance? Contact Matt directly for expert guidance and answers.