Imagine for a moment that you are looking for a rehab facility. If you’re anything like the majority of people seeking treatment, you instinctively turned to a search engine like Google or Bing and entered a query such as “addiction treatment near me.”
Now, picture the search engine results page in your mind. You’re likely seeing a few paid ads near the top of the results. Do you click on them?
Research indicates that you likely do take some sort of action when you see a paid ad. Which begs the question: in the competitive world of addiction treatment marketing, is buying your way to the top the best way to stay afloat?
I sat down with Zach Binder, the senior director of marketing operations at American Addiction Centers, to tackle this very question. Zach has mastered the precarious nature of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and knows a thing or two about how to measure and optimize lead generation tactics for success.
Kelsey: Let’s start with a pro-con analysis. In your opinion, Zach, what are the benefits of PPC (pay-per-click) for lead generation
Zach: Paid media can be a terrific channel to acquire more lead volume quickly — if done right. The most obvious benefit of PPC is immediate return on your spend in the form of more visits to your website and, hopefully, more call volume.
Kelsey: Sounds too good to be true…so what are the drawbacks of PPC?
Zach: PPC is like a faucet. Once you stop spending, the lead volume instantly goes away. So always keep in mind that you’re not investing in any long-term sustainable lead generation. It should only be a part of a healthy marketing mix. Larger treatment providers may have substantial funding in place to support a large paid media campaign every month, but for smaller treatment providers without big budgets, relying on PPC to fill in the gaps may be a more cost effective approach. The addiction treatment niche is also one of the most expensive verticals in paid search, so the costs of keeping up with the competition can often accelerate faster than your business.
Kelsey: What should marketers expect in terms of the cost inflation you just mentioned for addiction-related keywords?
Zach: The addiction treatment vertical is one of the most expensive bidding environments in pay-per-click. Don’t be surprised when you pay anywhere from $15-$50 per click, depending on the keyword. By the time you have spent enough money on clicks to get an admission, don’t be shocked to see that you spent thousands of dollars from your ad spend to acquire a single admission. The cost thresholds will vary based on your treatment center location in comparison to competitors as well as the level of care and price point for treatment.
Kelsey: Let’s back up for one moment. You just said that PPC campaigns can require thousands of dollars for a single admission! With that in mind, how should marketers approach PPC to set a sensible budget for their campaigns?
Zach: PPC can be one of the most consistent environments to calculate costs. If you’re just starting out, expect to calibrate your campaign over a few months to determine your benchmarks, refine your bidding strategies and placements, and establish your threshold for each admission from your PPC campaign.
Kelsey: You mentioned calibrating the campaign to find a sweet spot for success — what benchmarks should marketers use to determine if their PPC campaigns are performing well?
Zach: If you don’t have proper tracking mechanisms in place for your PPC campaign, then you’ll have no basis to judge performance. Use event tracking on your site in addition to call tracking to identify the number of leads—and more importantly—good leads your campaign produces. Once you have a qualifier in place to measure the success of your PPC campaign, you’ll be able to effectively establish cost thresholds for each click, call, VOB, and admission. Over time, you can expect to see fluctuations based on seasonality, better training in your call center, and a refined experience on your website.
Kelsey: It sounds like there are a lot of different variables at play for success. What’s your recommended approach to managing PPC campaigns?
Zach: Having the appropriate metrics for success is everything. A proper PPC campaign needs diligent campaign management from a PPC expert; a quality user experience when the visitor reaches your site; and a call center capable of receiving the volume and quality of calls sourced to your campaign. Having a breakdown during any part of this process can collapse the experience for the visitor, lower your return, and burn your ad spend quickly. Make sure you have a qualified SEM manager behind the wheel; develop a website experience that is effective for your campaign; and prepare your call center to field calls from your PPC campaign. Consider a smaller budget to calibrate these aspects of your campaign during the first few months.
Kelsey: Great advice as always, Zach. Thank you! On a final note, for anyone who has decided to begin a PPC campaign, what do you recommend as the best platform?
Zach: Google has the biggest market share of pay-per-click real estate, however Bing can also be quite effective in certain ad groups and for certain demographics. Pay-per-click platforms serve as a marketplace with bidding structures in place for keywords and ad positions based on factors like user intent, geo-targeting, and relevance. Typically, the more expensive the ad placement, the more desirable keyword or higher quality of lead.