Nation’s largest physical therapy group meets capacity targets with data-driven PPC strategy.


Embracing Digital Transformation with New Partnership & Goals

One of the largest physical therapy groups in the country, ATI Physical Therapy was having a hard time recognizing the value of digital marketing in driving new business. They tried digital ventures before but found it to be a costly investment with no tangible results. 

This reinforced their reliance on traditional physician referrals, supported by their sales team, for new patient acquisition.

However, a vast number of clinics and increasing competition made it difficult to efficiently drive growth through traditional marketing and referral channels. They needed a new partner who understood how to leverage digital marketing and could accurately report its impact on new patient growth. 

That’s where Cardinal stepped in. To support their digital transformation, we collaborated with ATI Physical Therapy to drive new business, focusing on underserved locations to help meet practice capacity goals through targeted paid media. We also took on the role of strategic advisor, recommending and guiding the implementation of the marketing technology needed to identify lead attribution and measure marketing impact.

About The Company

ATI Physical Therapy

One of the largest physical therapy groups in the country, ATI (Athletic Therapeutic Institute) Physical Therapy is an Illinois-based outpatient physical therapy provider and nationally recognized rehabilitation provider with over 25 years of experience in the PT space.

Specializing in research-based physical therapy and workers’ compensation rehab, ATI Physical Therapy helps more than 400,000 patients annually. The PT group also serves over 200 sports medicine contracts covering pro teams, universities, high schools, middle schools, and athletic clubs.

With 850+ locations across 24 states, ATI Physical Therapy employs more than 6,000 clinicians, physical therapy clinic staff, and corporate team members.


  • Limited digital marketing experience
  • Numerous locations struggling to meet capacity goals
  • Need for significant improvement in overall marketing structure


  • Drive new patient referrals to underserved locations
  • Improve tracking and marketing attribution 
  • Streamline marketing efforts for their platform
Step 1

Aligning Digital Tactics with Practice Capacity Goals

Before partnering with Cardinal, ATI Physical Therapy had paused their PPC advertising for three months due to a lack of perceived value in digital strategies.

Recognizing the potential of digital outreach, Cardinal reinvigorated ATI Physical Therapy’s PPC strategy with a focus on optimizing spend based on each clinic’s capacity. Given ATI’s extensive network of locations, a dynamic approach was adopted to categorize clinics as “starved” or “stable,” allowing for a more strategic allocation of resources. 

This continuous optimization and collaboration with ATI Physical Therapy has been crucial in directing efforts and budgets toward underserved clinics, ensuring a more equitable and effective digital marketing strategy.

Step 2

Connecting Patients to ATI with New Google Ads Strategy

Gaining Efficiency with Account Structure

ATI Physical Therapy’s existing Google Ads account structure lacked the customization needed to address the variances between the goals and markets of different practices. Also, their monthly budget allocation was too low to support all clinics. Our strategy optimized spend based on practice goals and capacity.

To improve targeting, we calculated the median patient distance for each location (varied from 4 – 20 miles), and each month, we pulled the “starved” locations and increased spending for those to allocate resources more effectively.

Optimizing Keyword Strategy

To maximize the impact of ATI Physical Therapy’s advertising budget, our keyword strategy focused on finding healthcare consumers ready to choose a provider and book an appointment.  They typically have a referral in hand or are seeking direct access to physical therapy.

We also targeted generic, non-branded keywords such as “physical therapist near me” and “physical therapy near me,” along with other terms used at the last step of the patient consideration journey. 

Crafting Patient-Centric Messaging

We developed new ad messaging themes and copy to highlight ATI Physical Therapy’s unique selling points, including the group’s convenience, cost, and quality of care. As part of ongoing optimization, we are conducting value prop testing to see which messaging resonates best with their ideal patient. 

We also optimized landing pages and ATI Physical Therapy’s website appointment scheduler to identify patients with referrals or those seeking direct access. This allowed us to glean deeper insights into the patient journey and the impact of our digital efforts. 

Step 3

Advancing Analytics to Show Marketing ROI

Having been burned before, ATI Physical Therapy doubted the effectiveness of digital methods. So, they relied on us to create strong analytics and data reports to demonstrate marketing return on investment.

To do this, we built custom dashboards that integrated data from their call tracking software, Invoca, as well as Google Ads. Their dashboards detail an array of key data points, including:

  • New patient leads & bookings per clinic 
  • CPL for each location
  • Total calls per region

These holistic dashboards allowed us to identify optimization opportunities that have increased lead quality and new patient referrals.

To ensure compliance with HIPAA’s strict privacy standards, we transitioned the group from Google Analytics to Mixpanel, providing a secure and compliant analytics framework essential for handling sensitive healthcare data.

Having made a strong case for analytics and data reporting, we cemented our place as a strategic digital marketing advisor for ATI Physical Therapy.

Our Results

Digital Patient Acquisition Boosted Lead Volume & Topline Revenue

Thanks to Cardinal’s digital marketing strategy, ATI Physical Therapy has seen a significant jump in performance from February 2023 to June 2023. In just 4 months, they’ve experienced a:

  • 54% decrease in CPL (cost-per-lead)
  • 77% increase in CVR (conversion rate)

We’ve also helped them realize how impactful digital can be when it comes to driving new patients. 80% of new patients generated by our campaign do not have an ATI Physical Therapy-specific referral from their doctor, meaning that PPC advertising significantly drives new leads. 

As our work with ATI Physical Therapy continues, we’re expanding on our digital strategy, to include search engine optimization (SEO). Given how important it is to educate potential patients before they make a provider choice, our SEO strategy ensures patients find answers to their questions by creating relevant, informative content that adheres to SEO best practices. 

Our partnership has helped increase ATI Physical Therapy’s visibility on search, helping patients find solutions to physical therapy questions, building awareness of ATI’s solutions, and enhancing the kind of brand trust that ultimately drives new business.

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