How to Win at AdWords

David BrooksDavid Brooks

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Every practice owner who’s tried Google AdWords has heard a horror story about someone spending thousands of dollars and getting nothing. And that early failure has forever soured the practice owner from using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to grow his/her practice.

The fact is that PPC marketing is extremely expensive only if you do it wrong. Effective PPC marketing requires daily monitoring of spending, click-through rates, keywords and advertising copy.

Here are six important concepts to follow when setting up your PPC campaign:

1. Precision, Precision, Precision
The first step in an effective PPC campaign is to focus on precise and specific keywords that your prospective patients might use to find a practitioner just like you. In many cases it will be a two- or three-word keyword phrase, not a single word.

For example, if you are a Los Angeles-based cosmetic dentist, bids on keywords like “dentist” or “dental appointment” will potentially attract a diffuse audience of curiosity seekers...a waste of precious marketing funds.

Better to focus on three-word phrases that narrow in on precisely what you do and what patients want.

2. Ad Copywriting
You don’t have to be Don Draper…or even Peggy Olson to succeed at AdWords. In fact, it’s probably better that you don’t emulate soft-sell, overly creative or witty ads.

Since you are strictly limited to 25 characters for your headline, and no more than 34 characters for two lines of ad copy, you must be brief and to the point. Patients using search simply will not understand the indirect or the vague. They will simply ignore your ad or, worse, click on it for the wrong reasons.

Before you start writing ads, check out competitors’ ads in response to common search queries. Take notice of the ads that consistently appear in the top three positions…they are usually the best-performing ads.

Next, determine how your practice is different…and better. If your competition is emphasizing “cheap,” focus on other benefits that patients may value like “high quality,” “friendly staff,” “convenient location” or “night/weekend appointments.”

3. Be Very Focused on the Destination Page for your Campaign
The best practice for PPC is to create a special destination URL (i.e., a “landing page”) that is very focused on one thing: getting a patient to call or contact your office for an appointment.

For example, check out, which is the PPC landing page for a NYC-cosmetic dentist.

The headline and top section of the page are simple and straightforward: the visitor has found exactly what he/she is looking for -- a midtown Manhattan cosmetic dentist that specializes in same-day dental crowns.

On the right is a clear and concise “call to action” -- a large, prominent phone number, and a simple, genial appointment request form.

The page also includes elements designed to boost patient confidence: testimonials from satisfied customers, and icons showing extensive professional credentials. There’s also a detailed list of the doctor’s most popular dental procedures.

Note what’s not there: extraneous content, links to other sites (like Facebook or Twitter). The page is not cluttered with content that is not specifically aimed at the task at hand: generating the appointment request.

Unless your website’s home page is equally focused, you’d do much better to create a special, focused landing page rather than directing visitors to a regular page.

4. Pay Close Attention to Your “Quality Scores”
Google AdWords works as an auction market where the prices of keyword bids are set by mostly competitors, not Google.

Google does get involved in adjusting your keyword bid price based on their calculation of your account and campaign “quality.” While there is no definitive formula for determining your “Google AdWords Quality Score,” many experts agree that your score is highly influenced by the following:

a) Relevance of your keyword and ad copy to the landing page

b) The ratio of the number of times your ad is displayed vs. the number of times the ad is actually clicked (i.e., your "click thru rate" or CTR). Some cynics claim that the CTR is 90 percent of the quality score since Google only gets paid when someone actually clicks on an ad.

Your campaign Quality Score directly influences your ad rates, so it is extremely important to watch and improve. And, from Google’s perspective, it makes sense -- not just financially -- but also from the perspective of a patient’s “search experience.” If an ad is not relevant to a searcher’s needs and desires, then Google -- not the advertiser -- is blamed for a poor experience.

If you achieve a Quality Score of 8/10 or better, you are doing well. The best campaigns pay the lowest effective “cost per click” (CPC). If your keywords are vague, your ad copy bland and unhelpful, and your landing page is not appealing, you will likely earn a quality score of 1/10…and pay a penalty in the form of demonstrably higher CPC costs.

Pay attention, too, to how fast your landing page loads. Google counts page speed as part of its Quality Score. The reason: a slow-loading page is just as frustrating and unsatisfying to a user as an irrelevant one.

5. Don’t Be Afraid of High Click Costs
The days of $0.05 click costs in most medical categories are long gone. When you are setting your ad budget, you must carefully calculate your acceptable cost per new patient, then figure out a target number of new patient calls you want each day.

CPC costs for many popular keywords exceed $5 per visit…not appointment. Next, don’t forget that you are paying for new patient appointments, not just clicks. The best landing pages generate only about one appointment request for every 10-15 visitors. At $5 per click, a new patient appointment might cost $50 to $75. Setting a daily budget of $10 may not result in sufficient traffic to generate a meaningful campaign response for days.

6. Don’t Ignore High Click Costs
Just because your specific medical profession and/or geographic region has higher-than-average click costs, take steps to concentrate your effectiveness. Here are a few ideas that we have implemented for the AdWords accounts we manage on behalf of some of our practitioners:

a) Limit ads from displaying by geographic region. In many cases Google can detect the precise geographic location of a searcher. Since most patients are unlikely to travel more than a fixed distance to your office, use that information to not advertise to patients who are too far away.

b) Consider restricting your ads based on time of day. An answering machine or answering service is not really capable of answering questions from prospective patients. So why advertise on nights or weekends? Again, Google allows you to “pause” your campaigns to only the time of day when your staff is available.

c) Searches that include your best keywords should also exclude negative words like photo, botched, complaint, discount, cheap, horror stories, education, tuition, jobs, etc. The concept is called a “negative keyword.” Adding them to your campaigns tells Google not to display your ad when the undesirable term is included in a search.

If you haven’t already done so, adding these three measures (geo-targeting, day part targeting and negative keywords) may significantly reduce your daily traffic. While your ads will not be displayed as often, that’s actually a good thing. As you filter out non-relevant searches, you’re focusing in on likely patients. Relevant ads are more likely to generate a click and an appointment request. Remember, Google is watching the ratio of “impressions” to clicks. The more clicks with the fewest impressions strongly influences your campaign’s quality score…and potentially lowers your effective CPC costs.

Ultimately, fearlessly embracing high CPC costs (with proper cost-controls and campaign targeting) allows you to consistently get more exposure for your ads…and more customers for your practice.

Here’s an excellent summary of Google’s tips on high-performance AdWords campaigns.

David S. Brooks is Vice President, Client Services for, a leading web-based directory for patients to find qualified healthcare professionals. offers free- and paid-listing services for healthcare providers including custom websites, search engine visibility services, and appointment request/reminder systems. Follow David on Twitter @practicegrow.

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