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David Mills
By David Mills on June 06, 2019

Healthcare marketing - Digital Ads vs. SEO

If you wonder whether healthcare marketing should focus on digital ads or organic SEO (search engine optimization), the right answer is often - "yes." Making a choice about how to prioritize ads in your healthcare marketing can pit your efforts to create the content required for effective SEO against digital ads. The digital ads vs. seo decision should be based on your current business needs, and balanced against long-term goals. Healthcare marketing, done well, can address both long-term and short-term business goals.

A helpful marketing approach, called inbound marketing, provides both a philosophy and a system for addressing this challenge. At its heart, inbound marketing seeks to meet the needs of customers as they explore and consider solutions for the problems they face. This is not an advertising interruption - because inbound provides answers to the questions that people are searching for online. Inbound marketing for healthcare is an approach based upon offering "value first" in the online setting, which is a great fit for healthcare companies that want to build long-term trust. 

The inbound approach emphasizes valuable online content, which builds good search traffic by supporting good SEO. This approach also helps the practice website to become an "authority site" by answering the questions that people are asking about their health concerns. Healthcare consumers look to authoritative sites to learn more about their healthcare needs and options.

Advertising operates on another principle - interruption -  because it stops you from viewing what you are interested in either by blocking or distracting you. People are becoming less and less interested in being interrupted, and the rise of ad blockers and ad-free TV streaming clearly make this point. Given the philosophical difference, does advertising fit alongside inbound?

The advertising vs. SEO answer can be, "yes, do both."

When used in a smart way, advertising can extend the value that you offer to help clients answer questions and solve problems by making those resources convenient to find. It can place your client serving resources in email, social networks, search pages, and digital ads alongside other content that consumers are interested in viewing.

Advertising can also help you extend your brand beyond your current search engine optimization (SEO) reach. That is, if you aren't ranking well on a number of keywords, or don't have a strong social network yet, you can use ads to "rent" that ranking or space. Beware of ignoring the longer-term goal of SEO in favor of only the rented online space that ads provide.

View advertising as a way of renting a store-front with good street traffic while you are working to own the building (SEO).

For some industries, this may be a long-term necessity because of the level of competition online, but that shouldn't stop you from working to "own" SEO listings that grow over time to reduce advertising costs. Remember the type of content you present in ads should add value rather than just interrupt.

Advertising alone isn't a good fit for healthcare:

  • When it pushes you away from building trust and relationships by presenting your practice as just a commodity based upon low price.  
  • When you are forced to offer deal after deal to make the ads work, instead of focusing on value based upon the combination quality, service and price.
  • When you want to build long-term market strength and can only afford one or the other.

Inbound systems can help you manage both organic and advertising

The systems that inbound uses to build traffic online and relationships cultivate great customers. With good marketing automation like HubSpot, you are able to manage best practice inbound and digital advertising. The same things that are required for good inbound are also required for good ads.

A smart approach to inbound is to blend digital ads where they fit your budget and business goals. The outcomes should be tracked side by side, allowing you to review the costs of acquisition and measure the behavior of those who become prospects from both channels. Customers who come from organic search tend to be much stronger for practice growth, and by blending the two effectively, you can often acquire patients that are self-educating based upon the content that you share.

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Published by David Mills June 6, 2019
David Mills