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.
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
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:
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).
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.
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.
4. 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.
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.
5. 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.
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.
6. 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.
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:
- Rock solid landing page copywriting
- A hierarchy that encourages action
- Prominent CTAs that make it easy for people to convert
- Consistent branding
- Testimonials and social proof
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.
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.