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Why Your Medical Internet Marketing Campaign Isn’t as Effective as It Used to Be

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On the Crucial Online Presence

[By John Deutsch]

John DeutschA strong online presence is crucial to running a successful business, and healthcare is no exception.

However with constant change, especially in the past two years, many businesses are experiencing underperforming campaigns and struggling to figure out where to spend their marketing dollars. Should you invest heavily in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, focus your efforts on search engine optimization (SEO) or hit the ground running with social media?

The answer is that you should never focus solely on one marketing channel, as it could take months or even years to recover when changes in the marketing industry occur – and they inevitably will occur. Another reason to diversify your efforts is that the success of some channels depends on the success of others – for example, social media influences your search rankings and display advertising heavily influences your brand recognition.

As a healthcare marketing company with over ten years of experience in internet marketing, we have seen the industry get flipped upside down more than once and have seen it affect organizations that have weak marketing campaigns with little to no diversification. A good mix of tactics is the best way to reach your target audience while allowing you to adapt quickly in the face of changes.


Three Elements Crucial to Any Marketing Campaign

Search marketing, direct marketing and social media are three components that healthcare organizations should incorporate for a healthy marketing campaign. Here’s what you need to know about these marketing elements, including the changes each channel has gone through in the last few years and what we could expect to see in the future.

  1. Search Marketing

Search marketing typically refers to PPC and SEO, the paid and unpaid efforts used to increase online visibility in search engine results. Early marketers were able to easily leverage SEO to gain top search engine rankings and also invest minimally in PPC for quick leads, but the search marketing landscape has changed significantly in the last three to four years, altering the online marketing game.

We might say it all started when Google modified its PageRank algorithm in 2011 and then again in 2012 (the update often referred to as “the death of SEO”), causing many organizations’ rankings to plummet. Marketers were forced to rethink their organic SEO efforts to stay in Google’s good graces. Instead of relying heavily on getting backlinks (even from low-quality websites) and stuffing content with keywords, the focus switched to creating quality content in order to get real clicks and page views.

Meanwhile, companies like Google started trying harder than ever to monetize their services. The highly saturated market contributed to driving advertising costs up – and beyond that, the actual efficacy of online ads went down. In some of our own campaigns, we have seen over 30% inflation in ad prices per year and a loss of efficacy (decreased traffic and leads) despite increasing ad spend to match inflation – and this isn’t just a result of market saturation. It also has to do with the fact that consumers are less and less receptive to online advertising due to the over publicizing of ads.

As a result of this, organizations have to constantly innovate so that their ads are seen among all the online advertising noise. This, in addition to rising ad prices means that a return on investment can be difficult to realize. Working with a true PPC expert who knows your industry well is the only way to make your budget go a long way.

The bottom line: SEO and PPC are still the number one ways to draw leads online, but they have both seen significant change in the past years and are likely to keep changing, so your marketing strategy should not depend on either channel alone.

  1. Direct Marketing

With SEO having lost some importance and PPC advertising requiring a skill set that many health organizations lack, we are seeing trends shifting towards a more direct form of marketing. This is evident by the number of lead generation companies that have cropped up in the last few years, such as Healthgrades and Vitals, which allow providers to attract more patients and referrals, often for a nominal fee. Similarly, in the medical software industry, SoftwareAdvice dominates the SEO/PPC channels.

Organizations are also increasingly employing alternative marketing channels like email newsletters and direct email marketing to reach out to clients and potential opportunities. This starts with a simply crafted email addressing a very specific issue to a specific audience. It is an extremely effective and budget-friendly tactic to diversify a marketing strategy.

  1. Social Media

Just like other marketing channels, social media is constantly evolving and also increasing in price. This is due, in large part, to major social media companies becoming publicly traded companies in recent years (i.e. Facebook in 2012 and Twitter in 2013), but also to market saturation.

According to a LinkedIn study, 81 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses are using social media and, of those, 94 percent do so for marketing purposes. While networks like Facebook and Twitter remain free to use, they have started trying to capitalize on their popularity by pushing paid advertisement, often to the point of risking the integrity of their sites.

Whereas prior to companies like Facebook and Twitter having gone public, a well-crafted social media post (text, video or image) could go “viral” naturally, we are now seeing this happen less and less, often requiring an initial advertising spend to get the ball rolling. Facebook is a good example of this. In December 2013, Facebook changed the algorithm that determines what stories and updates users see in their News Feeds. This resulted in business pages losing viewership of their posts, as Facebook decided that brands would have to “pay to play.”

Stethoscope on a laptop keyboard


While we don’t recommend social media being the focal point of any healthcare organization’s marketing campaign, much less the only element, it is an integral component – and definitely one you should stay on top of if you want to remain competitive. Social media is also a major factor in Google’s algorithm for organic search engine rankings, so there is some added value to having a strong social media presence.


About the Author

John is the President and CEO of Medical Web Experts, developer of Bridge Patient Portal, the leading 2014 ONC certified solution for patient engagement and improved practice profitability. A vital component in the exponential growth of numerous healthcare IT and Internet companies over the last ten years, John has benefited immensely from a unique mix of professional experiences, boasting a strong background in both marketing and technology.

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2 Responses

  1. On Net-Neutrality

    Many types of healthcare companies are interested in slinging data across the Web.


    And, given the importance of healthcare procedures and information, data typically needs to travel quickly.

    So, what effects will N-N have on healthcare?



  2. Digital marketing to physicians is amazing


    And … concerning.

    Aaron Carroll MD via Ann Miller RN MHA


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