A Pay-Per-Click Reality Check

Jonathan Fashbaugh | June 3, 2015

Pay-per-click advertising is frequently tossed into the mix in dental practice marketing. Unfortunately, it is regularly deployed with a one-size-fits-all approach that rarely works well. Here are some questions you should ask if you have a pay-per-click campaign such as Google Adwords running, or are considering the use of pay per click in your online marketing efforts.

What is the Campaign’s Goal?

Pay per click is tricky. It can be targeted using various keyword strategies to appeal to people who are searching the Internet for information, which means that you can make it very specific. This presents some challenges and some opportunities. You won’t know if you’re leveraging these opportunities and successfully navigating the challenges if you don’t have a goal in mind, monitoring things closely along the way.

Your goal might be one of the following:

·      More new patient leads during a slow season

·      Instant exposure while waiting for organic listings to come online

·      Additional exposure for a specific type of treatment such as dental implants

·      Reaching outlying areas without sacrificing organic search engine placement for your immediate area

·      Promoting a time-sensitive offer or event

·      Trying to capture more mobile traffic

·      Any combination thereof and more…

Pay-per-click is incredibly versatile, but the campaign will fail if your goal is not clearly defined and understood by all involved in the campaign.

What Keywords Do I Want to Target?

Be careful. It’s easy to say, “Well, I’m a dentist, so: dental keywords,” but generalized keyword input is dangerous, especially if you’re trying to get the most out of your pay-per-click dollar.

Obviously dental practices have different priorities, and the person running your campaign should know these priorities. He or she needs to communicate with you to let know what is involved in trying to reach different types of patients via pay per click.

For example, many dentists want to target dental implants, and because pay-per-click advertising costs fluctuate according to demand, this means that dental implant-related keywords can be incredibly expensive. This is especially true in major metro areas. If you don’t understand this, keywords can gobble up your budget and limit your visibility unless you adapt.

Likewise, you need to communicate what types of patients you want to attract and avoid. Your pay-per-click company may not understand that not all practices participate in Medicaid. If you don’t let them know that, they may not know to add “Medicaid” as a negative indicator, hiding your ads when someone searches for “Medicaid dentist cityname”.

What is My Strategy for Geo-Targeting the Campaign?

Using pay per click to attract patients from across the country is foolish. Unfortunately, many marketing companies don’t understand this. It may not even be efficient to allow your ads to display in areas across town from your office.

Display advertising can be especially wasteful because it can show up anywhere. If it’s not locked down, you may find yourself paying for clicks on ads like this one, which showed up in my Skype, which is now a Microsoft product that includes Bing ads:

The perfect dentist! Great! The only problem is that this practice is located three states away from me. I should not see their ads. The next ad that I saw here featured the Pillsbury Dough Boy. For national brands like Pillsbury, this strategy makes more sense.

Carefully tailor your campaign to display ads only when the opportunity is just right (or very close). Search engines like Google and Bing make it very easy to get as much traffic as possible and don’t go out of their way to make sure that the traffic is actually valuable. You, the advertiser, pay per click, so they have a financial incentive to make sure that your ads are clicked on as frequently as possible.

You may even want to target your ads by day of the week and time of day so that you’re not paying for clicks that may result in a conversion outside of office hours when your staff is unable or unwilling to immediately respond.

How Much Am I Willing to Spend?

If the disparity between your budget and the likely cost of the clicks is too wide, change your plan. Target a different type of treatment or leverage those marketing dollars in another way.

Understand that you will pay more per lead with pay per click than you will with many other types of online marketing.  Keep this in mind when it comes to the keywords you select so you’re not paying hundreds of dollars for poor quality leads. Would you pay $200 for a teeth-whitening lead?

Sure, it’s possible that a patient who comes into the office for teeth whitening could turn into a high-dollar reconstructive case, but we’re just talking about leads- not guaranteed patients. There are a lot of variables that play into the size of your return on investment with PPC. Fortunately, many are within your control.

How Will I Monitor My Campaign?

How often will the person controlling your campaign check on it? How often are they making changes to the campaign in response to findings? Pay-per-click campaigns should be evaluated based on a number of statistics beyond how many clicks your ads receive. It’s critical to monitor spending according to specific ad groups, assuming your PPC specialist set up your campaign with multiple ad groups.

Implement conversion tracking on your website so you know when a click turns into a phone call or an email. Without proper tracking, you’re forced to make decisions based on absent or erroneous data. I recently encountered a website with poorly implemented Google Adwords conversion code that treated every click as a conversion. Clicks are good, but they are not the same as a phone call or email from a prospective patient.

Are My Expectations Realistic?

PPC can bring nearly instant traffic to your website. This is great, but it does not mean that you’ll have your campaign running at peak performance from Day 1. Every campaign is different and takes a while to optimize, assuming that the company you use does more than simply turn your campaign on and collect a check.

Make sure that your PPC company has your best interests at heart. If they are paid based on the amount of money you spend on clicks, then, like the search engines, they’re financially incentivized to spend as much of your money as they can. If you are working with a company like this, take an active role in monitoring the campaign’s actual efficacy in the form of new patients they generate.

PPC is also a temporary tactic. You’re leasing online visibility. Have a long-term strategy in the works, or you may find yourself spending large sums of money year after year while your competitor down the street enjoys “free” visibility in the local and organic listings.


About the Author

Jonathan Fashbaugh has been working with dentists on their marketing for 10 years. He is the president of Pro Impressions Marketing Group, holding a degree in Digital Media Arts from Full Sail University. He has written many articles about website design and search engine optimization. He has also taught Internet marketing courses at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. You can learn more about Jonathan and Pro Impressions at https://www.proimpressionsgroup.com.

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