The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

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 pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) have merits for medical practices. PPC offers immediate results and precise targeting, while SEO builds long-term organic reach.
  • While PPC can be expensive and offers limited long-term impact, SEO requires continuous optimization and doesn’t provide immediate traffic.
  • Most medical practices will find that a mix of PPC and SEO, 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 connect with potential patients and enhance the reputation of healthcare providers. 

Pay per click (PPC) advertising and search engine optimization (SEO) are fundamental pillars in achieving this. PPC advertising allows medical practices to reach their target audience directly through paid ads, ensuring prominent placement on search engine result pages. Conversely, 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. 

But which marketing tactic is best for your medical practice? This article will examine the pros and cons of medical PPC and medical SEO to help you determine which will help boost your practice and drive patients to your website.

Understanding PPC for medical practices

Independent practitioners have a lot on their plate. Learning SEO and various marketing tactics is something only some medical practices may want to add to their to-do lists. PPC marketing is much more straightforward than a robust SEO strategy. 

What is pay per click advertising?

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 only pay when a user clicks your ad, making it a cost-effective way to attract potential patients to your site.

In a PPC campaign, you can bid on specific keywords relevant to your medical services. When users search for these keywords, the ads aappear at the top or bottom of search engine results, 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

In terms of time management, PPC has SEO beat. It takes less than a week to properly set up the average PPC campaign, and you don’t need to learn much strategy beforehand. Although you should constantly monitor and optimize your ads, you can get started relatively quickly. 

When it comes to immediate results, PPC is also the better option. PPC campaigns lead to immediate visibility and traffic generation. A PPC campaign can be a good approach for independent medical practices looking for patients now.

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.

PPC challenges for medical practices

However, as with any marketing campaign practice, there are bound to be a few drawbacks.

A PPC campaign can be expensive. You’ll need quite a budget to build an adequate traffic flow from a PPC link. The more effective a PPC campaign is, the higher the cost will be.

The initial budget isn’t the end of PPC payments, either. If you want your medical practice to continue to build traffic from the campaign, you’ll have to continue investing. Most PPC campaigns have a built-up dependency on the traffic from the sponsored links, which leads to longer campaigns and more investments in the PPC link.

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

Understanding SEO for medical practices

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. Learning about the medical SEO landscape will empower you to get more views on your website, and therefore more patients. 

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.

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. ”

What is medical practice SEO? 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a pivotal strategy that empowers medical practitioners to enhance their online presence and visibility in search engine results. SEO refers to a set of strategies and practices aimed at improving the online visibility and search engine rankings of a website. In SEO, your end goal is to have your website appear as high in search results as possible.

SEO involves various techniques, such as optimizing website content, using relevant keywords, improving site structure and navigation, and earning high-quality backlinks from authoritative sources. These efforts collectively signal to search engines that a website is relevant, trustworthy, and valuable to users searching for specific medical topics or services. By establishing a strong and authoritative online presence for your practice, you can get a larger audience and successfully target readers who most need your services. 

The benefits of good SEO

The traffic gained from SEO by medical practices is organic and sustainable. You’re not dependent on the traffic you pay for to build your patient audience. 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. 

SEO helps build long-term visibility and credibility for websites. As medical practices grow with SEO, they become a recognized source of information for the industry. Creating a blog focusing on SEO and answering common questions related to your medical practice and specialty will help potential patients see your site as a repository of information and view your business website as a reputable online source. This continues to improve traffic and organic views.

One significant difference between SEO and PPC is the cost to operate. SEO is an evergreen investment in your business and can have residual effects beyond initial costs. PPC relies on continued investment, while SEO benefits are seen from the groundwork of initial payments.

SEO challenges for medical practices

However, much like PPC, SEO isn’t a foolproof practice either.

Results from SEO work are anything but instant. SEO takes time to build traffic to a site or establish your medical practice as a reputable source of information. If you need clients and patients now, SEO won’t help immediately.

Google regularly updates its search results algorithm to provide everyone with the best possible web browsing experience. This means that what worked for SEO yesterday may not work today. It requires a complex understanding of constantly changing algorithms that aren’t released to the public. Working with medical SEO requires flexibility and a willingness to audit web pages and content regularly to ensure they work well with newer algorithms.

While you won’t be paying endlessly to ensure traffic growth, you must continually optimize and release new compelling content. SEO 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.

Factors to consider for your medical practice marketing decisions

As with any marketing campaign, external pressures like target audience, marketing goals, budget constraints, and competitive landscapes will drive your marketing decisions every step of the way. Let’s explore how these factors could impact a PPC or SEO campaign for a medical practice.

1. Who are you trying to reach? 

A medical practice needs patients to take care of. Any medical marketing campaign aims to build an audience of potential patients who need the healthcare services provided. Knowing who those people are and how to reach them will help solidify the marketing goals of a PPC or SEO campaign.

2. How much are you willing to spend? 

Your initial budget will play a significant role in deciding whether a campaign focuses on PPC or SEO. As mentioned, PPC requires a budget, whereas SEO can need less of one, depending on your approach. SEO that significantly impacts a site’s ranking will require more time, work, and money, but a few backlinks to start out will require far less.

3. Who are your competitors? 

Before starting a marketing campaign for your medical practice, it’s essential to understand the competitive landscape on both the local and national levels. Knowing who is out there, what marketing channels they’re operating in, and what keywords they’re ranking for will help you build an effective competing campaign.

Understanding how these factors impact your marketing campaign will help you decide if PPC or SEO is right for your medical practice. But does it have to be either/or?

Integration of PPC and SEO

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.

Finding the right balance for your practice is key to successful PPC and SEO integration. Building a PPC ad that isn’t eye-catching with targeted keywords won’t draw in the patients you need.

There is a complementary nature between PPC and SEO that, when taken advantage of, helps boost the efficacy of a marketing campaign. Building a webpage that features quality keywords, optimized meta tags, and answers some of 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 balance between PPC and SEO is essential, but sometimes it’s not 50/50. It’s important to tailor the combination based on your practice’s specific needs. If your budget is low and you can’t pay too much for PPC, focus on SEO and spend a little on PPC. The SEO of your pages will do the work that the missing budget for PPC cannot.

Consider hiring professionals

Medical practitioners are often too busy to run effective PPC and SEO campaigns independently, and waste a lot of money attempting this. 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 working on a marketing campaign will be much more effective for a medical practice than if the practitioners went in alone. Understanding what keywords rank well, how to capitalize on niche markets, and the process of a proper site audit make marketing professionals a must for any medical marketing campaign.

Embracing a multi-faceted approach that combines the strengths of both PPC advertising and SEO is essential to achieving optimal online visibility and success. While PPC advertising offers immediate visibility through paid ads, 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 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 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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