In 2020, it’s critical your practice consider digital marketing a key part of business success. However, for an integrative medicine practice there are nuances to how you can market your business online.
Practices that are providing patients with services including stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine are currently prohibited from advertising those services on Google. Google policy does not explicitly list out every treatment or medicine that may be prohibited, and you may come across digital advertising restrictions for other injection treatments or services that Google labels “speculative and experimental medical treatments”. In addition, this article discusses other Google Healthcare and Medicine policies you may come across.
Understanding Digital Advertising for Integrative Medicine Practices
Do you run paid search advertising on Google for your practice? Great advertising starts with your targeting and your ad copy and ends on your clinic’s website.
Targeting Your Prospective Patients
Whether you manage your paid advertising yourself or hire a local marketing agency or digital marketing expert, you should make sure you understand how you are targeting your prospective patients.
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all targeting options, but represents the types of targeting available and how specific your targeting can be. If the top level of this funnel is the universe of everyone, consider narrowing your advertising to only specific types or groups of your prospective patients, such as combining geographic region with focused keywords about the types of services you offer. Don’t forget to target your practice name!
DON’T: Remember that Google will not allow you to place ads for certain services such as plasma rich platelets, stem cell therapy, hCG for weight therapy, and more, as outlined in their Healthcare and Medicines policy. They may alert you to an entire campaign and provide limited feedback on how to correct it. You will need to review all three elements: keywords and targeting, ad copy, and your website’s landing page for words and phrases that are not approved and remove them before attempting to run your campaign again.
DO: Focus your advertising efforts around your practice and services your offer that are approved. A good rule of thumb is to review what similar practices are doing. Search for “integrative medicine practice near me” or near any location of your choosing. Google has different policies by country, so you can take notes from other integrative medicine, functional medicine and physical medicine practices that are in the United States.
|While we focus heavily on Google in this article, remember that Google is not the only player in this space and you have additional options for your digital advertising such as Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads). When you identify who you’re targeting, you may also discover it makes sense to use other forms of digital advertising to reach your prospective patients.|
Writing Ad Copy for Your Practice
Your ads will look different on a search results page (also known as an SERP) depending on where it is placed (and where your ad is placed has to do with bidding, quality scores and more—a topic for another day!). The first results often receive the most space. Your ad copy should take advantage of all the space Google offers: Make sure you or your agency are following best practices. At minimum your ad sets (also known as Ad Groups) should include:
- 2 Responsive ads (a dynamic ad that uses your headlines and descriptions in different combinations)
- 1 Expanded text ad
- 4 Callouts (an ad extension that appears in certain ad positions)
- 4 Sitelinks (an ad extension that appears in certain ad positions)
DON’T: Your ad copy cannot include words about hCG and weight loss, but can include phrases like “Nutrition Counseling” or “Aging Support” instead of testosterone injections. Similar to your targeting efforts, make sure you are using permitted words in your ad copy. Also know that only registered and approved online pharmacies, manufacturers and advocacy organizations are allowed to use prescription drug terms in their ad copy.
Sometimes you may find that your ads are restricted but not disapproved. This means you should review your ad copy and update it to adhere to all of Google’s policies, or your ad will not display as often as it could.
DO: Use captivating headlines, speak to the intangible benefits a patient may experience after visiting your practice or clinic, and remember to use a Call to Action (CTA): Free Consultation, Visit Now, Schedule an Appointment, etc.
Consider testing a traditional ad copy format where your ad descriptions include short benefit statements separated by a period, as well as ad copy formats where your ad descriptions are in full sentences and look more like an organic search result (and less like an ad).
|What is an organic search result?
These are the results that a search engine like Google pulls up without doing any advertising at all. Updating your website with keywords so that Google lists your website higher is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO. In addition to keywords, there are technical components to SEO, as well as considerations for building a network of websites that link to yours, and more.
What Works on a Healthcare Landing Page?
Your advertising efforts end on your website. (Well, not really: They end with an in-office visit by your new patient. There are some programs that will allow you to connect the dots between your online advertising and a visit to your location. This is an emerging technology to watch for!)
Consider creating special pages just for your ads. Instead of sending all your prospective patients to your practice website’s homepage, you can create landing pages for the types of services your advertising and that they are searching for.
DON’T: Google uses algorithms and technology to make decisions about your digital ad campaigns. Don’t feature your services for stem cell treatments on your landing page, or your campaign may get flagged or disapproved.
DO: Your landing page should complement your targeting and ad copy for the best quality score. If you are advertising physical medicine services such as acupuncture, massage therapy, applied kinesiology and more, your ad copy and your landing page on your website should mention similar keywords and phrases.
When you have a relevant landing page, Google notices. Your quality score—a measure by which Google determines the quality of your keywords, copy and landing page—will improve. A higher quality score means a lower cost to you! (Other elements to consider, like how much you are willing to pay for the ad, also weigh into how much you pay overall.)
Using SEO to Market Your Integrative Medicine Services
We’ve covered a number of services that we know you cannot advertise on Google, including stem cell therapy, regenerative medicine, hCG weight loss treatments, and prescription drugs. What about natural arthritis therapy with Hyalgan injections, B12 injections and IV drips, or trigger point injections? Whether you decide to play it safe or take a risk, you have another option to consider: search engine optimization.
To date, we are not aware of Google penalizing websites for providing information about the services you offer, even if they are typically not allowed in advertising. Providing information about these services on your website will help you improve your website visibility when people are searching for information about them. However, make sure you research and confirm your strategy with due diligence as Google algorithms and recommendations change over time.
DON’T: Don’t go overboard. Flooding a page with keywords is called keyword stuffing, an older tactic that Google recognizes and is a big no-no.
DO: Provide content that is valuable to your prospective patients. You are not just writing for Google. Don’t forget the ultimate goal is to get your prospective patients to make an appointment or come in for a consultation!
Remember to include location information on pages as well because Google will provide different results to people depending on their location with respect to yours. Take advantage of the trend and higher ranking Google gives to local healthcare providers when someone is looking for a service provider near them.
Digital Marketing and SEM for Integrative Medicine Clinics
Using paid digital advertising (specifically, we have discussed PPC or pay per click) and considering SEO when building your website are both tactics that make up your SEM strategy, or Search Engine Marketing. But the world of digital marketing is more than what you are doing to reach people on Google!
Remember to consider social media marketing (and social media advertising), as well as keeping your business listings up to date on other relevant directory websites. Being clear about the types of patients you are looking for and learning more about what websites they use is a great first step in identifying other ways to support your practice with digital marketing.
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“Healthcare and Medicines – Advertising Policies Help.” Google Ads Help, Google, support.google.com/adspolicy/answer/176031.
“A New Policy on Advertising for Speculative and Experimental Medical Treatments.” Google Ads Help, Google, 6 Sept. 2019, support.google.com/google-ads/answer/9475042.