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PPC vs. SEO: Which is better for your medical practice?

Determine how and when pay per click and search engine optimization is the right approach for your medical practice.

business people debating the merits of PPC vs SEO for medical practices

At a Glance

  • Both search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) have merits for medical practices. SEO builds long-term organic reach, while PPC offers immediate results and precise targeting.
  • SEO requires continuous optimization and doesn’t provide immediate traffic, while PPC can be expensive and offers limited long-term impact.
  • Many medical practices find that a mix of SEO and PPC, tailored to the practice’s budget and goals, will be the most effective approach.

Establishing a robust online presence is paramount for medical practice growth. Both online visibility and digital marketing on search engines are crucial to connecting with potential patients and enhancing the reputation of healthcare providers.

Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising are fundamental pillars in achieving this. SEO optimizes the practice’s website and content to rank higher in organic search results, making it more accessible to users actively seeking relevant medical services. Conversely, PPC advertising allows medical practices to reach their target audience directly through paid ads that are prominently placed on search engine result pages.

In this article, we'll explore the question of SEO vs. PPC for medical practices, providing insights, outlining challenges, and offering case studies to guide you in making informed decisions tailored to the unique needs of your medical practice. We'll show how each method can drive new patients to your website.

Understanding the fundamentals of medical SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) forms the foundation for establishing a robust online presence in the medical field. Your overall SEO strategy can truly help you stand out from your competitors.

SEO best practices enable you to maximize the value of your website as a marketing tool. You optimize your website and online content to meet the criteria that search engines value. The result is better rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO involves various techniques, such as:

  • Optimizing website content
  • Using relevant keywords
  • Improving site structure and navigation
  • Earning high-quality backlinks from authoritative sources

These SEO elements signal to search engines that your website is relevant, trustworthy, valuable and speedily accessible to users searching for specific medical topics or services.

Crafting quality content, populating your website with relevant keywords, and ensuring a quality online experience for website visitors are integral components of an effective SEO strategy. By incorporating local SEO strategies and adhering to SEO best practices, you enhance the visibility of your practice in search results.

Independent practices that aim to establish themselves online and build a long-term flow of natural traffic to their website will benefit more from SEO than PPC.

The benefits of good SEO

The traffic gained from SEO by medical practices is organic and sustainable. Unlike paid advertising methods, SEO focuses on organic, unpaid traffic, making it a long-term, cost-effective, and reliable means of driving visitors to a website.

As medical practices grow with SEO, they become a recognized source of information for the industry. Creating valuable blog content that answers common questions related to your medical practice and specialty will help potential patients see your site as a credible and valuable resource. This leads to improved traffic and organic views.

One significant difference between SEO and PPC is the cost. SEO is an evergreen investment in your business and can have residual effects beyond initial costs. PPC relies on continued investment, while SEO impact grows from the groundwork of initial payments. You’ll be able to determine your SEO value — and your long-term SEO performance — by analyzing your website’s organic search traffic and the value of any conversions made from said traffic.

The power of PPC for medical practices

PPC marketing is much more straightforward than SEO. PPC advertising is a digital marketing strategy that allows a business to promote its services and reach its target audience through paid online advertisements. The term "pay per click" means that you pay only when a user clicks your ad, making it a cost-effective way to attract potential patients to your site.

This model involves bidding on keywords relevant to your medical services. When users search for related terms, ads appear prominently in search engine results and marked as “sponsored” or “ad.” This prime placement increases the likelihood of user engagement and click-throughs, as users immediately associate your site with their search query. An example of this would be “children’s dentist near me.”

The benefits of PPC advertising

The advantages of PPC lie in its ability to provide instant visibility. It’s very quick to set up. Then, your ad is displayed to potential patients actively searching for services you offer, ensuring your practice is at the forefront of their consideration. Because of this placement, you’re instantly connected with an audience most likely to use your services.

Another benefit of PPC for medical practices is the control. Once you plan a budget, you have better control over the spending and target options. PPC allows campaigns to effectively mark what searches they want to appear under and what audiences they want to target. Sponsoring a link at the top of a search most closely related to your practice allows you to build traffic from audiences that will most likely use your services.

Tracking PPC campaign results is much easier for medical practices than tracking SEO. With PPC, you can see how many clicks your link has garnered and how traffic has increased due to the PPC link. Metrics are easy to measure, and results help build more effective campaigns in the future.

Challenges of medical SEO vs. medical PPC

While SEO and PPC have their advantages, they come with their own set of challenges.

SEO challenges for medical practices

One of the primary challenges on the medical SEO roadmap is the time it takes to see real SEO results. SEO is a long-term strategy. Some of the optimization techniques for a website can produce quick results. However, it may take several months before your content-related efforts bring a significant improvement in search engine rankings.

Additionally, the constantly evolving landscape of search engine algorithms requires ongoing efforts to stay ahead. Content marketing isn’t a one-and-done process. It requires medical practices to constantly update and optimize their website, blog, and data content to stay ahead of the competition.

PPC challenges for medical practices

PPC, on the other hand, demands a keen understanding of bidding strategies and budget management. Without proper oversight, costs can escalate, impacting your return on investment (ROI).

One of the significant drawbacks of PPC is its limited long-term impact. There is no guarantee that the traffic flow to your medical site will continue once a PPC campaign ends. Long-term results are limited, especially once investment ends and the ads stop running.

In addition, it can be a daunting task to monitor, update, fix, change bids, watch the competitive landscape, and update ads with compelling copy. Many medical offices opt to use a professional medical PPC organization to help, so as to not waste money on improper audience targeting and ineffective ads.

Case studies of SEO value

To illustrate the effectiveness of both strategies, let's look at a few case studies that showcase successful campaigns.

Case Study 1: Chiropractic clinic boosts business

A chiropractic office in a competitive healthcare market wanted to stand out from the pack and increase its patient base. Recognizing the need for better visibility and updated marketing practices, the Los Angeles chiropractor opted for a new medical SEO strategy. By doing some keyword research and rejuvenating the website and all of its content, the clinic received more than 31,000 website visitors, and 428 new online reviews, and reached #1 rankings on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

The campaign not only generated a surge in website traffic but also resulted in a significant rise in patient inquiries. The SEO impact allowed the clinic to swiftly address the competitive landscape and expand from a single practice to a multi-location practice.

Case Study 2: Anesthesiology office enhances visibility

An anesthesiology office that opened early in the COVID-19 pandemic wanted to attract patients and operate efficiently. Through strategic SEO reviews of its website, the practice generated more and more traffic, going from 450 to 7,000 visits a month in less than a year.

While the results weren't instantaneous, the practice experienced a steady increase in organic traffic over time. This sustained growth translated into the ability to expand the office’s offerings.

Case Study 3: Gaining organic traffic and patients

An outpatient vascular surgery clinic saw the competition gaining and wanted a robust digital presence that would distinguish it as a thought leader and premier provider. Using advanced search engine optimization strategies, the clinic created a new website. It also started sending patients a feedback survey at the end of each visit.The new website now appears on the front page of Google searches and is easier to navigate. The clinic is averaging 64 new patients a month, has a growth rate of 10%, and attracts 15% of its new patients online. About 10% of patients now participate in feedback surveys, often leaving 4 or 5 stars.

SEO vs. PPC, or both? Crafting a strategy for your practice

Sometimes, you don’t need to decide between PPC and SEO, both marketing tactics can work together. In many cases, they’re the perfect combination for a medical marketing campaign.

Building a webpage based on sound SEO practices — with quality keywords, optimized meta tags, and answers to the most common questions an audience may have —will help to get you to the top of a Google results page. Taking that page and using it as a PPC ad link? That’s the recipe for success.

Finding the right balance for your practice is key to successful PPC and SEO integration. It's not necessarily 50/50. Combine them based on your practice’s specific needs. Let’s look at a few ways you can integrate the two ideas and how to keep your practices current.

  • Integrating SEO and PPC for maximum impact. Identify keywords that perform well in both organic search and PPC. By strategically incorporating these keywords across your website and PPC campaigns, you reinforce your practice's visibility.
  • Targeted landing pages. Develop landing pages tailored to specific medical services or for each doctor. Align these pages with both SEO and PPC efforts, ensuring a consistent and compelling user experience.
  • Data-driven decision-making. Leverage SEO insights and PPC insights from your campaigns to refine your overall digital marketing strategy. Analyze which keywords drive the most traffic and convert the best, then adjust your approach accordingly.
  • Navigating the ever-changing landscape. Staying ahead requires an adaptive mindset. Keep abreast of the latest SEO trends, PPC developments and changes in consumer behavior to fine-tune your strategy continuously. Combine periodic SEO health checks with analysis of PPC campaign metrics.

Consider hiring professionals

Medical practitioners are often too busy to run effective PPC and SEO campaigns independently and waste a lot of money attempting it. It may be worthwhile to hire professionals with experience in medical marketing who understand the unique needs of independent practices to help guide them through this process.

A dedicated team of professionals can develop and execute a marketing campaign more quickly and effectively than the members of a medical practice. Marketing professionals understand what keywords rank well, how to capitalize on niche markets, and how to perform a proper site audit.

A multi-faceted approach that combines SEO and pay-per-click advertising could help you achieve optimal online visibility and success. While PPC advertising offers immediate visibility through paid spots, SEO provides a sustainable long-term strategy by improving organic search rankings.Rather than approaching PPC and SEO as competing strategies, medical practices should recognize their complementary nature, leveraging each to target different stages of the patient journey. By adopting a balanced and comprehensive search engine marketing approach, medical practices can effectively reach and engage with their desired audience, establish a reputable online presence, and ultimately foster lasting patient relationships to thrive in a competitive healthcare market.

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Nadene Evans

Nadene Evans is a marketing expert with years of healthcare journalism under her belt, having researched and published medical content for NurseFly, Vivian Health, and other healthcare provider publications. An advocate for independent providers, Nadene helps small practices promote their businesses through digital marketing and great content.

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