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Episode 011 – Advertising Your Practice Online

On this episode of The Practice Marketing Podcast, hosts Garrett Smith and Don Lee discuss how you can advertise your practice online. Starting with a discussion about why your practice should be advertising online, Garrett and Don tell you how you can use pay-per-click advertising on search engines and social networks to generate awareness and increase new patient appointments for your practice. For more information about this episode, and the complete show notes, please continue reading below.

Show Notes

What You Will Learn

On this episode of the practice marketing podcast you will learn:

  1. Why your practice should be advertising online
  2. How you can use pay per click advertising on search engines and social networks
  3. What you need to do to be successful with on online advertising

Segment #1 – Why your practice should be advertising online

  • Search and social drive the most patient traffic, and appointments, online. Unfortunately for those who want traffic and appointments NOW, search engine optimization takes time, as does building a large social network.
  • This is why new practices, and those who are just starting their efforts should look to online advertising. With online advertising, you can get traffic and appointments now, rather than in a few months.
  • In addition, search engines and social networks provide you and your practice with the ability to run very targeted advertising campaigns that can be very successful in reaching the right kinds of patients.
  • Even if your search and social efforts are successful, you can use the advertising options to drive even more traffic and patient appointments.
  • There are many different types of online ads. They include things such as banner ads, pay per click ads, video ads, and even traditional sponsorships.
  • When you buy PPC online advertisements, you pay a small fee each time a patient clicks on your ad. There are other paid advertising models are usually CPM, or cost-per-mille (thousand) advertising, where you pay based on the number of times your ad appears – this is how newspaper, radio, and TV advertisements

Pro-Tip #1

If you need traffic to your website and patient appointments right now, advertising on search engines and social networks are the best options to get immediate results.

Segment #2 – How you can use pay per click advertising on search and social

  • There are three different ways practices typically use pay per click advertising on search and social. These strategies can be used separately, or together, based on your goals.
  • The first strategy is to use pay per click begin generating new patient appointments when you’re just launching your practice, or online marketing efforts. As we stated previously, pay per click ads are a great way to jump start your efforts while you wait for organic search and social to build up.
  • The second strategy, which is popular with many practices, is to use pay per click ads to target specific patients in order to boost appointments for particular services or to help a specific location that’s underperforming. This includes targeting specific searches for conditions and treatments, or targeting a particular demographic on social networks.
  • The last strategy, that is often used by more established practices, is use pay per click ads to reinforce your existing organic search and social campaigns by targeting the same terms and demographics. Remember, the more “real estate” you have on a page, the more likely a patient is to click on you.

Pro-Tip #2

The are multiple strategies you can use with search and social pay per click ads, so make sure you’re using the right one for your current stage and goals.

Segment #3 – What you need to do to be successful with online advertising

  1. First, you need to establish goals for your campaigns. Otherwise, you’re advertising out of vanity, which can get expensive!
  2. Second, you should establish a budget that you are comfortable losing. That’s right, it’s best to think of it this way, especially when you start, because it does take a little time to maximize return on investment.
  3. We recommend starting with $1,000 per month.
  4. Once you have an established budget, you need to determine how you will execute. Do you have someone in-house who can do it? Will you do it? Or do you want to find an agency, or consultant to manage it for you.
  5. With this is all out of the way, your next step will be to determine which strategy is appropriate for you and your practice.
  6. Do you simply need appointments now? Are you looking to grow a particular service? Or maybe you’re already getting solid results, but want to further increase visibility and awareness for you and the practice.
  7. Lastly, before you start, make sure that you have the proper tracking in place on your site, so that you can understand which campaigns are driving which actions, as well as calculate your return on investment.

Pro-Tip #3

Before getting started with online advertising, its best to establish goals, a budget, choose who is responsible for the campaigns, and then implement the right strategy for your goals. Oh, and don’t forget to setup tracking!

Full Show Transcript

Garrett Smith:                     00:00                       Hey everyone. Garrett here. For more information about advertising your practice online, check out chapter 10 in Book Now, Internet Marketing for Healthcare Practices, available at

Don Lee:                                  00:10                       Hey Garrett. You’ve given me a great roadmap so far, but it seems like a lot of this stuff’s gonna take some time. What do I do if I need new patients now?

Garrett Smith:                     00:18                       On this episode of the Practice Marketing Podcast, you will learn why your practice should be advertising online, how you can use pay-per-click advertising on search engines and social networks, and what you need to do to be successful with online advertising, before you even start.

Speaker 3:                              00:34                       Are you looking to take your practice to the next level? Well, you’re in the right place. Welcome to, The Practice Marketing Podcast, with your host, Garrett Smith, and Don Lee.

Garrett Smith:                     00:46                       Hey there, welcome back to, The Practice Marketing Podcast, episode number 11, advertising your practice online. With you as always, I’m your host, Garrett Smith, here with my co-host, Don Lee, and today we’re gonna be talking a little, bit about online advertising.

Speaker 3:                              01:01                       All right Garrett, so yeah, opening question. Just gonna reiterate here is, all of these things that we talked about, it’s gonna take some work, it’s gonna take some planning, and it’s then, it’s gonna take some time for it to do its work, once we put that marketing out into the world. If I’m running my practice right now and I’ve got some gaps to fill, what can I do to accelerate this whole process?

Garrett Smith:                     01:20                       This is a great point to start with is that, obviously we’ve talked a lot about how search engines and social media are the primary drivers of patient traffic to your website, and new appointments into your practice. You know, unfortunately those efforts do, take time, and as a result, if you’re a brand new practice, or you’re an existing practice, that’s perhaps struggling to generate patient appointments, you need an answer now. The unfortunate part of that is that the most, clearest answer is to pay for it, and is to use online advertising, to instantly insert your name, your practice brand, and your services and treatment in front of patients who are already looking for these things.

Garrett Smith:                     01:59                       You know, when you take a look at, like a typical SEO campaign, often times that’s gonna take six to 12 months, maybe even longer, depending on your specialty and your market in order to take hold and really start uh, driving a- a high positive ROI. Same thing with social media. If you’re not blessed with a large offline audience to begin with, trying to grow and develop that audience by just posting on Facebook or Instagram, uh, is going to take you forever, and you may not ever achieve any goals.

Garrett Smith:                     02:27                       And so, one of the things that you can do, if you’re in those scen- scenarios is you can start to take a look at the paid advertising opportunities that are available on search engines and social media. Now, more than just kind of trying to, aide new practices, getting started, or existing practices, that, or service areas that are lagging, you can actually use search and social advertising campaigns to target specific patient demographics, whether those are kind of age, eth- ethnicity, could also be, you know, male versus female.

Garrett Smith:                     02:58                       Also, too, on search, you can then kind of specifically dial into the exact search phrases that they’re using to find a practice like you, or the service and treatments. And you can use that, to amplify your efforts. So, you don’t necessarily have to use online advertising just because you’re getting started, or you’re not doing well, you can actually use it to amplify or target specific things that you wanna grow in your practice. Now, one of the things to remember about online advertising is, there’s a lot of different opportunities out there. There are banner ads, there are video ads, there are traditional sponsorships you can do.

Garrett Smith:                     03:31                       You can also do what’s referred to as pay-per-click ads. We’re gonna spend the rest of this episode talking a lot more about pay-per-click ads. And the reason we’re gonna talk about those, is with, online pay-per-click advertisement, usually, only s- pay, when someone clicks on your ad. And, the rest of the models really are based on the number of people, who “see your ad.”

Garrett Smith:                     03:49                       Uh, we don’t know if they really see ’em and they’re sold kind of just like your newspaper, your print, or your TV advertisements are, sort of your traditional advertising vehicles. And so, we’re gonna stay away from that, for this episode. We’re really gonna talk about the pay-per-click, because it’s more of a direct response medium. Uh, it’s something that you can control a little, bit quicker, and you can also get into the game, at a lot lower price, than uh, some of these, impression based opportunities that exist.

Don Lee:                                  04:14                       Got it, so it’s not just about accelerating me, when I’m just getting started here. That is one of the potential benefits, but I’m- I’m glad ya, pulled me back and- and pointed out that there’s other, areas too, as we continue to develop our marketing strategies, where this continues to have a place, can amplify, it can help you test things out, et cetera.

Garrett Smith:                     04:31                       That’s 100% correct and in the next segment on, we’re gonna take a look at uh, three different strategies that practices can use in order to effectively leverage online pay-per-click advertising. Pro tip number one. If you need traffic to your website, and patient appointments right now, advertising on search engines and social networks are the best options to get immediate results.

Don Lee:                                  04:58                       All right Garrett, so why don’t you tell me, how can I start to use pay-per-click advertising on search and social media?

Garrett Smith:                     05:05                       Yeah, there’s three different ways that practices typically use pay-per-click advertising on search engines, and social networks. I think it’s important to know that these strategies can be used separately, or together, based on the goals of your practice. Goal setting is very important. We’ll talk about that, even in the step, is that you … Before you start any sort of online advertising, you wanna make sure that, you know, you understand your goals and that they’re very clear.

Garrett Smith:                     05:27                       So, when you get into this, the first strategy, that I see a lot of practices using, one that we recommend, is just to start generating new patient appointments, when you’re just launching your practice, or your online marketing efforts. As we talked about before, pay-per-click ads are a great way to just jump in, and start your efforts, while you wait for organic search and social media efforts to build up.

Garrett Smith:                     05:48                       The second strategy, which is popular with many practices, is to use pay-per-click ads to just target specific patient appointments, in order to boost the number of patients that are coming in for that particular service or treatment, or to help grow a specific location that may be underperforming if the practice has multiple locations. Note that a lot of times when they’re running these, kind of ads, practice are trying to target specific searches for conditions and treatments that they offer, or they’re targeting a particular demographic on a social network, that they know comes in often, to get this service or treatment.

Garrett Smith:                     06:23                       The last strategy, which is most often used by more established practices, is really to use pay-per-click ads to reinforce your existing efforts, so your existing organic search, your existing social campaigns, and essentially you can target the same terms and the same demographics that your organic, with your paid efforts. The reason this is a great strategy is that, uh, or- or the thing that I like to tell practices the most, is remember, that the more real estate you have on a page, the more likely a patient is to click on you, so if you’ve got an organic listing, a local listing, and an ad words listing, that’s three out of let’s say 10 to 14 available spaces, on the page where a patient’s gonna, see you.

Garrett Smith:                     07:04                       Same thing with social media. If they are going through and they’re scrolling through their Facebook feed, or they’re scrolling through their Instagram feed and they- and they’re seeing your ad, every single day, over a period of time, that’s going to be effective in driving awareness and- and visibility for your practice.

Don Lee:                                  07:20                       Yeah, that reminds me of something I heard. I don’t recall exactly where, but it said, “You don’t have to be everywhere, but you can be everywhere that your target customers are looking.” So, to them you can appear like you’re all over the place, and- and it sounds like this pay-per-click advertising is another way to help ensure that, that’s happening, that the- the right people are seeing you in a whole, bunch of different places.

Garrett Smith:                     07:42                       Yeah. I mean, I guess the best way to look at it using, that example is, if you advertise in the back of a newspaper, you’re, you know, your local city or town’s newspaper, sure, you have the potential to get seen by 250,000 people let’s say. But the reality is, is are all 250,000 of those people interested in what you have to offer?

Garrett Smith:                     08:01                       With online pay-per-click advertising on search engines and social networks, you can very specifically target those who, you think want this message, and as a result of being very specific with that targeting, you’re often gonna save a ton of money, because there’s not all of that, those wasted eyeballs, or wasted targeting, because you’re trying to sort of send a blanket message, to this fixed readership. Uh, with this again, the targeting is great, and really allows you to be cost effective, and also to be able to change quickly, if things aren’t working.

Don Lee:                                  08:33                       Got it. And, when you’re doing this type of advertising, so if I do it on Google, I know that the ad appears a little, bit differently than the search results. It’s prominent, it’s up at top and it’s- it’s there, but it’s- it’s clearly, it’s different, and certainly on most of the social platforms, they’ll be something like promoted, et cetera. So is there anything that I should be doing differently with the way that I’m presenting my message, organic versus paid? Do people respond differently to it because it has that advertisement label or appearance to it?

Garrett Smith:                     09:04                       Yeah, I mean there are some patients, who would tell you, “Hey. I don’t click on ads,” but I truly believe that advertising works, and I think just seeing your name, and your likeness associated with a good tagline, a strong call to action, or even just associated with what you do, as a provider and as a practice, has an effect, because more often than not, a patient isn’t just going to make one search or ask for one recommendation, they are going to go through our process.

Garrett Smith:                     09:30                       They’re gonna do many searches, and so if they continue to see your name, and likeness highly, whether that’s via ads, whether that’s via organic, uh, whether that’s in both cases, over time, that’s gonna have an effect of them saying, “Wow. Everywhere I look for this person, I see them. There must be something great going on, that they are so visible, and showing up everywhere that I’m looking. Let’s give them a chance.” And I think that’s the desired effect that we’re looking for, regardless of what stage your practice is in, and what your specific goal is for your online advertising.

Garrett Smith:                     10:02                       You really wanna try too, with online advertising, and your organic, internet marketing campaigns, just be wherever your patient is looking. Pro tip number two. There are multiple strategies you can use with search and social pay-per-click ads, so make sure you’re using the right one for your current stage and goals.

Don Lee:                                  10:25                       Awesome Garrett. What else can you tell me? What other tips can you give me, getting started here, and, or even if I’ve been at it for a while. What do I really need to be doing, to be successful, at this online advertising?

Garrett Smith:                     10:35                       Yeah. Don, there’s a handful of steps that I think you need to go through, and these steps often times mimic, you know, what you’d wanna do from a formal kind of planning process with any sort of marketing activity, and so when it comes to online advertising, and pay-per-click advertising, I think the first thing you need to do is establish a goal for your campaign. Otherwise, you’re really advertising out of vanity, which can get really expensive very quick.

Garrett Smith:                     10:58                       Once you have a goal, I think the next thing you have to do is that, you should establish a budget and I often recommend that practices, especially new practices, establish a budget that they’re comfortable losing, right? I know it sounds weird coming from somebody like me, to say, “Hey. Online advertising is great. Now, pick a budget that you’re comfortable losing.” I’ve never actually seen somebody lose all of their money.

Garrett Smith:                     11:18                       However, I think it’s important that you go into this knowing that you may not necessarily get anything out, only because it takes a lot of the “pressure off” of the situation. If you’re putting in thousand dollars, and you need that thousand dollars for something else, you’re gonna be a lot more heightened and you’re gonna be a lot more prone to jerk the wheel, and you may not actually get the outcomes that you’re looking for, because you pull out too quickly.

Garrett Smith:                     11:43                       So, when I look at this, you know, when it comes to establishing a budget, make sure your- it’s something that com- comfortable losing, and I recommend that any practice regardless of size, when they’re running their first search or social campaign, that they start with a- a monthly budget of at least a thousand dollars. That’s usually enough to get enough data to come in, to see what’s working and what’s not. And then, from there, you can kind of tweak it and then eventually increase your budget based on the return that you’re seeing.

Garrett Smith:                     12:08                       Now, once you’ve established a budget, you really need to figure out how you’re going to execute on the campaign, and this is an area where I really think that you’re probably gonna wanna look for somebody out of house. So, a freelancer, a consultant, or an agency to manage this for you. I haven’t found too many providers, or practitioners, that are proficient with Google ads words, or the- the Facebook ad network. And so, this is an area, this is something that you really probably wanna look to outsource. Also, too, this can be tedious, and time consuming and your time is probably better spent working with patients, or- or on other areas of the business, than worrying about your pay-per-click campaigns.

Garrett Smith:                     12:44                       Now, uh, once you’ve figure out, you know, who’s going to execute, I think the next step is to just determine what’s the appropriate strategy. You know, do you simply need appointments now? Are you looking to grow a particular service, or a location, or maybe you just want to amplify the existing results you’re getting out your organic and social campaigns. Figuring that out will really determine often times, what channels you pick, what keywords, what demographics, or even what locations that you’re advertising in.

Garrett Smith:                     13:12                       And then, lastly, before you start, one of the things that some people forget, and it’s a- it’s really is a tragedy is that, they start their advertising campaigns without the proper tracking in place, on their site, and on their URLs, in order to understand what the campaigns are doing. I think that if you don’t take advantage of the analytics and the tracking that online advertising provides, you’re missing a huge benefit of participating and using them to grow your practice.

Garrett Smith:                     13:37                       And so, uh, if you wanna calculate your ROI, if you wanna make tweaks, if you wanna consistently improve, make sure before you start your campaigns, that you’ve got analytics and tracking set up, so that uh, as the campaigns are running, you can view reports and make decisions on what to do next uh, based off the data that you get.

Don Lee:                                  13:54                       Got it. Now, it seems like … I mean, obviously if you’re doing advertising, you’re trying to get somebody to take an action, and ultimately we’re trying to get new patients, drive new business to the practice. But, if sounds like, listening to your description here through the section, it sounds like there’s a lot more potential return from doing this advertisement, than just that kind of hard, “I’ve got a new patient. You know, I ran this ad and I got this many new patients from it.”

Don Lee:                                  14:18                       This is … It sounds like a great discovery tool, where I can put out. Maybe I can use this as a vehicle to test like, what does my market care about, or what are they gonna respond to, or what are they gonna click on? And then, that’s gonna help me tighten up my organic stuff that I’m putting out, and everything else. So, even if uh, you know, maybe I don’t necessarily get a customer from this particular campaign, if I learn that people like this and they don’t like that and I can kind of tune everything else around it, then that seems like it would be part of my return, probably hard to quantify right? But, it just … That’s what I’m hearing is, it sounds like there’s a lot more to this, a lot more potential value than what would be obvious.

Garrett Smith:                     14:55                       Yeah. It’s everybody that advertising’s rarely a direct line, so don’t expect everyone who clicks on your ad to go ahead and uh, schedule an appointment to come in and see you. But, I do think that a lot of practices and providers miss out on the opportunity to test things. For example, when we’re working with a new practice, we’ll run pay-per-click ads, and we’ll use that data to inform our SEO strategy, because often times, certain keywords or search phrases convert at a higher percentage, than other ones.

Garrett Smith:                     15:20                       And so … And they’re not always the ones that you expect and they do vary based on the market, the services, kind of greatly, even inside of a specially, you know, somebody in Boston, versus someone in New York City, may find that there’s different demand and there’s different conversion rates for certain services and treatments that they’re advertising. And so, once we do that, we’re able to kind of customize our SEO strategy, based on the data that we’ve got, and that way we’re- we’re kind of conserving budget and we’re conserving our efforts, and we’re only working on promoting pages with terms that we know are gonna convert, versus perhaps just trying to rank number one for, let’s say the word, doctor, or dermatologist, or orthopedic surgeon, okay?

Garrett Smith:                     16:00                       And so, I think that, that’s something that you can really do. Also too, you can, as you eluded, to test services that you don’t even offer yet. There’s no reason why you can’t create a landing page on your website, talk about the service, run some ad, get some feedback, and see if it’s even worth making an investment in bringing on that service or treatment to the practice.

Don Lee:                                  16:18                       Yeah. I love that last point, and that might even be, I’m thinking about opening up a new location or, you know, whatever it is. Anything you’re thinking about doing, it’s a- a safe way or relatively inexpensive way to start testing that out and see if there’s something there. I love that.

Garrett Smith:                     16:31                       Absolutely. You know, if you’re thinking of opening a new location, or even a new practice, there are no rules on the internet of when you can start promoting it. And so, 90 days before you open, you can start running advertisements on search and social, that goes to a basic one page website, where you can capture email addresses, so in the final 30 day run up, to launching your practice, or your new location, you’ve got a great email marketing list, to push out, to push our, your messages, your offers, your deals, and that way on day one, you’ve got new patients coming in the door, versus you know, day 30 or day 45, like other people who started marketing once they launched.

Don Lee:                                  17:06                       That’s great. What also I’m thinking, while I’m sitting here listening to all this too, is how this is like, one more component, that goes into this overall system that we’re building, right? And it’s not just like, “Oh, well we’ve done all these other things and now we’ll do advertise and that’ll accomplish some other goal.” It’s like … It is one more piece that’s feeding back into this ongoing thing that you’re walking us through a building here, so I- I just love how these parts keep coming together and keep melding together if you will to, propel each other for it.

Garrett Smith:                     17:34                       Totally Don. That’s why academia and all the gurus uh, refer to this as integrated marketing, because uh, while it can all work as a standalone, it typically works best when uh, it’s working in concert uh, with one another.

Garrett Smith:                     17:50                       Pro tip number three. Before getting started with online advertising, it is best to establish goals, a budget, choose who’s responsible for the campaigns, and then implement the right strategy for your goals. Oh, and don’t forget to set up tracking.

Don Lee:                                  18:08                       All right Garrett. This has been great. Why don’t you tell the audience where we’re heading next.

Garrett Smith:                     18:12                       On the next episode of, The Practice Marketing Podcast, we will discuss how you can refine your process and marketing campaigns through online analytics. See you next time.

Speaker 3:                              18:23                       Thanks so much for listening to this episode of, The Practice Marketing Podcast, with Garrett Smith and Don Lee. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please leave a review and subscribe. And for more great content and to stay up-to-date, visit We’ll catch you next time.

Garrett Smith:                     18:40                       Hey everyone. Garrett here. For more information about advertising your practice online, check out chapter 10 in Book Now, Internet Marketing for Healthcare Practices, available at


Garrett Smith

Garrett is the Founder, and Chief Marketer at InboundMD. Garrett has been successfully leading internet marketing campaigns for health care practices across the US for almost a decade. He's a frequent speaker at events, and author of "Book Now! Internet Marketing for Healthcare Practices", and the host of The Practice Marketing Podcast that details how successful practices are winning online.

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