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It’s trackable. It’s targeted. It’s PPC! Pay-per-click is one of the most popular forms of online advertising today, which means if you haven’t given PPC a chance yet, now’s the time. Wondering how to get started? Here’s a quick primer on the basic dos and don’ts of running a PPC campaign.

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The Dos of Running a PPC Campaign

Do Try PPC Advertising

Putting real money at risk to advertise on search engines—without any guarantee of results—might seem like a gamble to you, and you’re not wrong. It is similar to gambling, but with one major caveat: you can tilt the odds in your favor. With careful setup, the odds of success can be far better than betting it all on black.

Do Track Conversions

A conversion is when a user clicks your ad, lands on your website, and takes your desired action. As a PT, you want the user (i.e., a potential patient) to call the number listed on your website and make an appointment. That is your conversion. The key to an effective PPC campaign is knowing what it costs, in advertising dollars, to drive that conversion. Use a call-tracking system like CallRail or CallTrackingMetrics to set up a special phone number that only displays to visitors who click a PPC ad.

Bonus: A call-tracking system will allow you to record phone calls, so you can listen in on how your front office staff are handling patient calls. There’s always room for improvement in this process.

Do Use a Landing Page

A landing page is a special page on your website that you only use for a segment of your web visitors—in this case, any visitors who click a PPC ad. As you design your landing pages, your goal should be simplicity—so remove all elements that distract from the main purpose of the page. That means getting rid of navigation bars, sidebars full of links, and anything that could possibly distract the visitor from picking up the phone and calling you. Simpler is almost always better. Unbounce has done a great job of making it easy to get a landing page running by using one of its proven templates.

Do Use Geo-Targeting

Geo-targeting allows you to limit the display of your ads so they only appear for users in your geographic area. All the major search engines—including Google, Bing, and Yahoo—make setting up geo-targeting a painless process, so definitely take advantage of this feature. There’s no reason to waste money letting users in Miami click on your ad for physical therapy in Seattle.

Do A/B Test Ads

A/B testing is the process of running two or more ads at the same time to see which gets a higher click-through rate. Search engines will typically reward ads that get higher click-through rates with lower costs per click, which is the amount you pay each time a user clicks one of your ads. This can lead to more visitors and a lower cost per conversion.

Do Use Keywords in Ads

One of the easiest ways to increase your click-through rate is to use keywords in your ads. In this case, to capture users searching for “physical therapy in Seattle,” you’ll want to incorporate the words “physical therapy” somewhere within your ad. This will most likely increase your click-through rate, because search engines will embolden that keyword. Bolded keywords draw attention to your ad.

Bonus: Use the keyword “physical therapy” once in your headline and once in the body text.

Do Set Up Remarketing

Remarketing (also called retargeting) is the practice of showing ads to your website visitors after they leave your site. If a user clicks on your ad, lands on your site, and leaves your site without calling you, that’s okay. With remarketing tactics in place, you can continue to show them ads as they browse the Internet. A user who has already been to your site once is more likely than a brand new visitor to convert when he or she lands on your site again. And because you’ve already paid to get that user to your site once, you might as well recycle some of those ad dollars and bring him or her back for a second chance. Google offers remarketing as part of its AdWords platform. AdRoll and ReTargeter also are good choices.

The Don’ts of Running a PPC Campaign

Don’t Run Search Network and Display Network Together

Not every search engine has both search and display networks, but for those that do, never mix the two in a single campaign.

Search network is the search engine itself. A user searches for something and lands on the search engine’s results page. In this situation, we’ve got a lot of context about this user; we know exactly what the user was looking for and can offer him or her a tailored experience.

Display network is essentially the rest of the Internet, including any website where you see banner ads or text ads. Those website owners have added the search engine’s display network ads to their websites in exchange for a cut of what the advertiser pays when an ad is clicked. In this situation, we have far less context for the user, and our ads will probably be less relevant at that moment in time. For this reason, click-through rates, conversion rates, and costs-per-click on a display network are significantly lower than those associated with a search network. This doesn’t make the display network good or bad; it’s just much different than search, which means you’ll want to run ads for these networks as separate campaigns. That way you can track them independently of each other.

Don’t Broad-Match Keywords

When choosing the keywords on which you want to advertise, keep the keywords as relevant and targeted as possible, especially when you're first starting out. It’s easy to go overboard and blow through money quickly with no positive result.

There are different ways search engines will interpret the keywords you choose. These are match types: broad, phrase, and exact. For the keyword phrase “physical therapy,” you might see the match types expressed as:

  • physical therapy: broad match
  • “physical therapy”: phrase match
  • [physical therapy]: exact match

I do not recommend the broad match, because this option gives the search engine a ton of leeway to show your ad whenever a user searches for something they deem close to your keyword. For example, if you use a broad-matched “physical therapy” keyword, your ad may appear for any type of therapy—think mental health, addiction rehab, and couples counseling—rather than specifically physical therapy.

Stick with exact match keywords when you first start out. The amount of traffic will be significantly lower, but at least you’ll know you’re only paying for the most relevant visitors and using your budget in the most targeted way possible.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Google

Google is practically synonymous with PPC, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give Bing, Yahoo, or any of the major social networks a shot. Sure, Bing and Yahoo receive far less traffic than Google, but that only means their costs are lower. Furthermore, their conversion rates are often higher.

Don’t Think You Have to be the Top Result

PPC works like an auction system. To oversimplify a bit, whoever is willing to pay the most per click will get the highest spot on the page. But sometimes the economics of being in the top position simply don’t work. You may get the most clicks, but you’ll pay more than your competitors who are in lower positions. I’ve dealt with campaigns where the costs only make sense in position four or lower, and that’s perfectly fine. Many organizations have scaled their PPC efforts to a successful level based on that strategy.

Don’t Quit Too Early

One mistake that people often make is assuming that because they've spent $50 on PPC and didn’t generate any new patients, it didn’t work. But my response to that is to have patience. As long as the rest of the pieces—strong landing pages, good ad copy, laser-focused keyword selection, and geo-targeting—are in place, then it’s worth it to stick it out. My general rule of thumb is to spend three times the value of a conversion before calling it quits. So, if a new patient is worth $200 in profit to your practice, be prepared to spend $600 testing your PPC campaign. PPC works on averages, so it’s impossible to know whether it's going to work well after only a few dozen clicks and one or two conversions. It can be tough to spend that money, but hang in there—and remember, you’re not merely gambling that money away. With these dos and don’ts, you’ve tilted the odds in your favor; it just takes time to reap the rewards.


Have you dabbled in PPC? I’d love for you to share your experience below. Have a question? Ask away! I’m ready to tackle all things digital marketing.

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