In this blog post, I explore the viability of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising for senior care providers, as well as some PPC best practices that can help providers connect with more people in need.

I was recently asked by a marketer at a senior care provider (and prospective client) if they need PPC advertising. My answer was an emphatic yes. In some form or another, PPC can be a critical part of your broader digital marketing strategy and help you capture demand and build your lead pipeline.

 

Why Do PPC Ads Work for Senior Care Companies?

To understand the benefits of PPC for senior care, let’s take a step back and consider the context. First and foremost, the senior care space is a crowded one. The digital landscape is competitive. Even the most bulletproof SEO strategy in the world will take some time to gain traction and deliver high rankings, especially for competitive keywords.

For many senior care providers, especially those who have a financial incentive to keep beds occupied or patient rosters full, the need for high-quality leads is quite urgent. Speaking of patients, residents, and their families, the need for senior care can be urgent, too, often coming on the heels of a diagnosis or acute health event. Sprinkle in the lasting effects of the global pandemic and many senior care marketers find themselves in a bit of a pinch.

Enter PPC, which can be a very effective way to:

  • Place content and CTAs at the top of search results for competitive keywords
  • Connect with target audiences in need of senior care NOW
  • Buy search engine visibility that’s targeted toward specific locations
  • Get bottom-line results for high-intent, highly competitive keywords faster than with SEO

 

How Senior Care Companies Can Build a Strong Foundation for Cost-Effective PPC

Now, as effective as PPC ads can be, I do urge caution. The wrong PPC strategy can blow a marketing budget and generate nothing but low-quality leads. To avoid that outcome, build a foundational PPC strategy that’s strong in these five areas:

1. Develop a Strong Keyword Strategy

Step one is to build a list of the top keywords you want to advertise for. Remember that senior care is a very “local” choice for many people, so you’ll want to factor location into your keyword list. Next, focus on the keywords most likely to drive the conversions you’re looking for, be that a form fill or a phone call. This includes long-tail keywords, which tend to reflect the natural language people use when querying a search engine (coincidentally, long-tail keywords tend to be less expensive).

keywords-ppc-strategy-senior-living

Keep in mind that senior care is a local choice and people are looking for nearby options.

 

Speaking of expensive keywords, temper your expectations around broader, high-volume keywords. I don’t have to look to know that “senior community new york” is a highly competitive keyword phrase. Keywords like these might get thousands or tens of thousands of clicks a month, making them costly targets for paid advertising. Think about what makes your company unique, why do people choose you?

Focus on the keywords that reflect what your ideal customers are searching for. For independent living communities, that may be targeting keywords for people who value your amenities and are searching for “senior living community with pool and gym.” Or for long-term care facilities, family members are looking for “compassionate nursing home with good reviews.”

Finally, make sure to build out negative keyword lists. These are keywords that you’d rather not display ads for. “Senior living community” might not make sense if you provide in-patient hospice services (your audience is looking for something more specific than simply a 55+ living community). Negative keyword lists help ensure that your ads reach the right audiences at an efficient cost.

2. Consolidate Your Google Ad Campaigns

Proper account and campaign structure is an essential element of effective PPC advertising strategies. Google stresses account organization for a reason. A consolidated campaign structure can help improve ad budgeting, improve ad quality scores, and result in more insightful campaign reporting.

Campaign consolidation is also the first step toward utilizing algorithmic ad-buying tactics, such as smart bidding. A simple way to consolidate is to create two campaigns per location: brand and nonbrand. Then you can push service granularity to the ad group level.

Campaign-level consolidations can help drive more leads at a lower CPA. Think With Google estimates an 11 percent increase in reach efficiency after brands consolidate their campaigns.

3. Lean on Smart Bidding

Smart bidding uses predictive machine learning to automatically set bids during an auction. It’s a portfolio bidding strategy that groups together multiple campaigns, ad groups, and keywords to reach certain performance goals. Most ad platforms offer some kind of smart bidding option.

Smart bidding can help reduce the cost to serve up display and search ads. In senior care, for example, you can use smart bidding to pull out certain locations for incremental budgeting on an as-needed basis. This is useful for locations that chronically underperform on some channels.

While smart bidding might seem like a great way to hand off all bid management to Google, it doesn’t always make sense to completely automate your bids for search and display ads. In some cases, doing so can allow a small problem, such as a CPC increase, to grow into a margin killer.

3. Leverage Data to Improve Senior Care Lead Quality

To improve the quality of the conversions driven by paid search, you need to know which ads actually result in new customers, be that a long-term care patient or a new resident at your independent living community. So, how do you know which ads actually result in new business?

You need to have some sort of tracking system in place—and integrated reporting. CRMs like Salesforce and HubSpot offer integrations with Google Ads and can help you tie ads to leads and actual new patients or residents. It’s not always easy, though. Our SVP of Performance Marketing, Rich Briddock, says to “tie back lead quality to advertising efforts, there really isn’t a one size fits all solution. It’s almost all custom, and just it requires a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get it working.”

There are solutions, though.

Implement Call Tracking

First, we recommend to all our clients that they implement a call tracking solution. It can help you gain a better understanding of the effectiveness of your online and offline marketing efforts. Without call tracking, it’s difficult to know where a phone call came from.

A person may see your ad online and decide to call versus filling out a form. In the senior care space, people often want to talk to a real person when evaluating options.

Call tracking can help you determine which keywords and ads are driving calls and appointments.

Integrate Offline Data

If you don’t have a closed-loop reporting system or a CRM that integrates with Google Ads, manual data transfer processes can help you gain insight into campaign effectiveness. You can pass back data from your patient management system (PMS) or electronic health record (EHR) system to a CRM and Google Ads by uploading offline conversions of actual new customers.

By telling Google’s algorithm which ad interactions led to higher quality leads and actual customers, it can optimize campaigns around the features that produced those customers. This is an effective method for lowering new patient acquisitions costs.

Rich Briddock shares one manual approach to gaining these insights: The easiest way to do it in a manual fashion would be– Probably phone calls would be the easiest way. If you have a call tracking solution, you can essentially see where the source of that call came in from. If you have CallRail it will tell you that source originated from Google Ads on the landing page. It originated from an SEO session on the website. It originated from a Google PPC call extension.

You know roughly where it came from; then you could match the call his phone number against the phone numbers that you have in your CRM, if you have a CRM or a PMS, if you have a PMS where you’re tracking what happened to that lead, so if it became a patient. In theory, you could download a list of all your new patients for the last 90 days, go to CallRail, look at the customer phone numbers in your PMS or your CRM, match it against the phone numbers in CallRail, and you’d get roughly what source they came in from.”

Listen to the full episode Build a Foundation for Better Marketing Measurement to gain more insight into building a data-driven PPC advertising strategy.

4. Use Responsive Search Ads (RSAs)

With responsive search ads (RSAs), you let Google optimize your headlines, ad copy, and CTA based on what’s most likely to engage and convert. You supply the ad headline and description variations and let Google’s AI choose the optimal combinations based on audience, device, location, and other variables. RSAs have proven highly effective, and for years they’re what we recommend to most senior care providers looking to get more out of their PPC strategy. They work so well that RSAs are now the default ad type for Google Ads. Expanded text ads are still available, but Google wants people to use their technologies backed by machine learning.

responsive-search-ads-senior-care

RSAs automatically identify the best headline and copy combination to achieve your campaign’s goal. 

 

Instead of manually testing headline and copy variations as individual ads, RSAs automatically identify the best headline + copy combination to achieve your campaign’s goal. Responsive display ads should follow creative best practices by having a variety of 7 images, 5 headlines, and 6 descriptions to give the algorithm as many options as possible to serve the most relevant ad for each user.

They require a little more setup and planning when launching a new campaign. But that work pays off with more clicks, conversions, and better-performing ad campaigns.

Here are a few tips to get more from your responsive search ads:

  • Leverage Google’s ad strength tool to improve the effectiveness of your copy
  • Use countdown customizers to add urgency for special events, like open houses
  • Tailor your RSA text to the user’s location with the location insertion field. Instead of uploading data files with thousands of location rows, this feature allows ads to be customized to the user’s state or country.

Lastly, while RSAs automate a lot of the manual testing of ad creative, you still need to analyze campaign performance. Look across campaigns to identify trends and to understand what your customers are responding to. Implementing these insights across your account will improve the overall performance of your PPC advertising strategy.

5. Create an Exceptional Post-click Experience

Too often, advertisers neglect the post-click experience, which is what happens after someone clicks on your ad.

Your ad is only as effective as your landing page. If you fail to deliver the message and experience promised in your ad, you’re ad clicks and conversions won’t actually result in new business. That’s how you tank your ROI.

The goal of your web page or landing page is to get conversions. They can contain plenty of content, but they must adhere to an information hierarchy that encourages users to act.

Senior Care Facility landing page

The hierarchy of content on your senior care facility’s landing page should encourage users to take action. 

 

Content should be organized into clearly defined sections that address prospects’ questions, motivations, and barriers. Users need to first know they are in the right place after clicking to arrive on the page and subsequently presented with the information they need in order to convert. Testimonials and other credibility factors should also be placed higher and in more than one place on a page.

The journey from ad to landing page—including messaging, tone, user experience, even aesthetic—should be as seamless as possible. Your campaign landing pages need to be dialed in order to maximize conversions, including:

  • Rocksolid landing page copywriting
  • A hierarchy that encourages action
  • Prominent CTAs that make it easy for people to convert
  • Consistent branding
  • Testimonials and social proof
  • FAQs

Lastly, reinforce the ad messaging and appeal to user motivations with clear, unique selling propositions. If someone is quickly scanning the page, they must be able to immediately interpret the benefits your senior care organization provides.

CASE STUDY

How a Renowned Senior Care Organization Increased PPC Conversions 32 Percent

The team at Centers Health Care needed to create its own pipeline, rather than relying on lead aggregators or in-person hospital referrals alone. Their goal was to overcome inexperience with launching efficient PPC campaigns, dramatically increase monthly admissions, and build brand awareness for all of its locations.

To see how we did it,

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From Foundational PPC to Rapid Scalability

I can’t stress enough how important it is to put these foundational pieces in place. Without these best practices, it becomes quite difficult to efficiently scale PPC, something that most multi-location senior care providers want to do. The good news is that simplicity is usually the best bet, especially at the outset. That goes for keyword strategy, campaign structure, and even ad creative.

With these pieces in place, the sky’s the limit.

 

Alex Membrillo Cardinal CEO

Alex Membrillo

Founder and CEO

Some say Alex Membrillo was born to be the CEO of a digital marketing agency focused on growing multi-location companies. Others say the Flock chose him. Together with his outstanding team of high-flyers, Alex has led Cardinal to the promised land. Awards proudly include A Best Place to Work designation. A spot on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing privately-held US companies for three years running.

And yes, a closet-sized office just past the foosball table by the restrooms.

Having once tasted the bright lights and stardom that comes with being named a Digital Marketer of the Year by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), Alex is no stranger to the spotlight. He’s a Forbes Agency Council writer with placements in leading national publications including Entrepreneur, Search Engine Journal, Physicians Practice, and The Wall Street Journal. He has also served as an expert speaker for conferences including the American Marketing Association, SouthWired, SMASH Senior Care Marketing & Sales Summit, Vistage Executive Leaders, SHSMD, and HCIC.

More importantly—and beyond all the credentials and cool accolades—Cardinal has experienced exponential growth under Membrillo’s leadership. His innovative approach to digital marketing has transformed the industry, especially the world of healthcare and private equity. His team is also growing in lockstep with his client portfolio, the two groups of people he lives to serve (alongside his loving family, of course).