Digital Marketing for Healthcare: A Road Map for Success

min read
Digital Marketing for Healthcare: A Road Map for Success

Digital marketing for healthcare has a trend line that is going one way — up. Consider that healthcare providers dedicated more than half of their total ad spend to mobile devices in 2023. That is likely to increase in 2024, and it’s easy to see why. Backed by a successful digital strategy, healthcare organisations can reach highly targeted audiences and enhance patient engagement — and do so faster and more cost-effectively than through traditional channels, like print or TV.

As online and mobile audiences continue to grow, more patients can be reached efficiently and effectively with strong healthcare digital marketing strategies. In this post, we consider some of the tactics and strategies that healthcare providers and their marketing teams should consider as they build a cohesive digital strategy. We also explore the role of existing and emerging technologies used by marketing in healthcare organisations — and how these technologies can provide valuable data insights along the entire patient journey. 

There are, of course, privacy issues related to the collection of patient data. So, we also discuss how marketing teams can successfully navigate those issues while staying compliant with relevant rules and regulations. But first, we cover what digital marketing in healthcare is and why it’s important.

What Is Digital Marketing in Healthcare?

Digital marketing in healthcare is the use of digital channels, like paid search and social media, by healthcare organisations to reach target audiences. Digital marketing has expanded and matured greatly in recent years, giving marketers access to an array of tactics and strategies, including paid search ads, digital display ads, email campaigns, pay-per-click ads, search engine optimisation (SEO), and influencer marketing, to engage with audiences online and through mobile.

Healthcare organisations should be stepping up their digital marketing if they haven’t already. According to Statista, adults in the U.S. will spend an average of over 8.5 hours per day on digital channels in 2024. That means digital is among the highest impact channels for reaching consumers. Other widely used channels include:

  • Paid, like advertorials and product placements
  • Free, such as word-of-mouth referrals from friends and colleagues
  • Traditional direct marketing, such as print display ads, billboards, TV, and radio

One of the top advantages of digital marketing is that it can be more cost-effective to use than paid and traditional marketing channels. A digital marketing strategy can also carry more impact and reach a wider target audience than free marketing techniques. 

Why Is Healthcare Digital Marketing Necessary?

Healthcare is a highly competitive industry, with more than 900,000 organisations fighting for their piece of a $4.5 trillion pie. Digital marketing is a must for elevating healthcare brand awareness and enhancing a provider’s ability to stand out from the crowd.

Healthcare also has a customer perception issue. A 2022 survey by Salesforce found that 47% of consumers believe that healthcare providers are more focused on their own needs (growth, profitability) than patient needs (care). An effective healthcare digital strategy can help change that perception. Here are three reasons:

  1. A large portion of the target audience is digitally engaged.
  2. The pandemic normalised digital interaction in healthcare.
  3. Ongoing advances in technology can make it far easier for healthcare providers to meet customer expectations for personalisation and deliver an exceptional patient experience. 

Patients, after all, are consumers, and modern marketing is all about the consumer experience. Luckily for the healthcare industry, there is plenty of opportunity to use technology for patient-first experiences in healthcare marketing. We’ll talk more about that after we delve into a few digital marketing strategies.

4 Strategies in Digital Marketing for Healthcare

Here are four healthcare digital marketing tactics that you should consider using to execute your digital marketing strategy:

1. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for Healthcare Professionals

Google processes almost 100,000 search queries every second, or 8.5 billion queries per day. That’s a lot of eyeballs. SEO ranks websites so those eyeballs get to the websites most relevant to their inquiry. So, for instance, if you handle marketing for a hospital specialising in ophthalmology, you’ll want to make sure your website shows up prominently in searches related to “eye surgery” or “eye conditions.” SEO can help you achieve that. 

When creating content for your website, blog posts, or even patient testimonials, or captions for videos and images, keep the following SEO practices in mind. We’ll continue with our ophthalmology example here:

  • Use a keyword research tool to surface the ophthalmology-related terms that people are searching on. Examples include eye surgery, eye disease, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and astigmatism. Then, create content pieces focused around each of those keywords, so they appear in relevant search queries.
  • Create informative meta descriptions for your pages. Meta descriptions are those snippets you see in page searches that describe what’s on the relevant page. The more compelling the meta description, the more likely a searcher is to click on the link.
  • Lure searchers in with compelling title tags. These are the bits of HTML code that show up in search results and in the browser tab when you search. (They also appear in social media posts, but a little differently.) Compelling titles generate clicks. Here’s one that our hypothetical ophthalmology services provider might use: Your Best Guide to Eye Surgery Clinics in 2024. 
  • Another tip for success: Keep in mind that any healthcare content you create to attract target audiences must be accurate. More than that, they need to be compliant with Google’s expertise-authority-trustworthiness (E-A-T) guidelines in order to rank in search results. Learn more about these search quality guidelines here.

2. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising in Healthcare

Another healthcare digital marketing strategy you’ll want to investigate is PPC advertising. These are paid advertisements that are highly targeted and can run on Google and other search engines and social media channels like Facebook and X as well as other digital platforms. 

The beauty of PPC ads is that they can be very cost-efficient. As the name suggests, you only pay for the ad when someone clicks on it. Unlike traditional ads where you pay a significant sum to place the ad in front of a large audience without knowing if it will result in leads, your ad spend in PPC only increases when you get leads. This has the added benefit of putting your message directly in front of what is essentially a prequalified lead — someone who has expressed interest in your healthcare offering because they clicked on the ad. This results in maximised ROI and helps spread your precious marketing dollars further.

To make sure your PPC campaign is effective, you’ll want to use all the tools at your disposal to get the message right. Chances are that your digital marketing team has its arms around online conversion data to inform automated bidding strategies so that you know you aren’t paying too much for Google Ads.

You can optimise bidding further by feeding data from offline conversions into the mix as well. How? If you use a conversation intelligence platform like Invoca, you will already have captured data about which search keywords are driving phone call conversions. All you need to do is stream that data into Google Ads to help create a more precise bidding strategy. You can use Invoca data to inform Google’s Smart Bidding algorithm, and the AI will automatically optimise its bids to drive more phone call conversions at a lower cost. 

3. Content Marketing to Empower Patients

The secret sauce to successful marketing is good content. Healthcare marketers need a solid content strategy to drive healthcare digital marketing forward. To do this, marketers must fully understand the needs of the target audience and deliver relevant content on healthcare topics that resonate with that audience. They must also make sure that the content is of high quality. (That includes being accurate and trustworthy, according to Google’s E-A-T guidelines mentioned in strategy #1.)

Well-crafted and informative content can engage patients. Take the example of a blog strategy. By providing educational and engaging content in relevant blog posts, a healthcare provider can boost its website traffic. Over time, that could lead to more referrals, scheduled appointments, and phone calls requesting information about services.

Healthcare marketers today must also think about upping their game when it comes to creating content, whether it be for a website or social media channel. Rich, interactive content such as video and graphics, made possible by higher broadband and data capabilities on PCs and smartphones, are driving greater conversions.

Your content strategy should also emphasise personalisation. Healthcare is intensely personal, so why wouldn’t your content strategy reflect that? No two patients are the same. One patient may have an immediate need for surgery or treatment while another might be looking for advice on how to live a better, healthy life. Highly personalised campaigns avoid the cookie-cutter approach to digital marketing in healthcare that can fail to engage target audiences — and might even alienate them.

You can easily gather the intelligence needed to personalise campaigns by using the full array of conversion data from online and offline interactions with patients. If you are using a conversation intelligence platform like Invoca, then you already have raw data from phone conversations to help inform your content strategy. 

Maybe you discover that a high proportion of callers have inquired about COVID-19 booster shots, and you’ve also detected an increase in social media posts on the topic. You’ll want to tailor your upcoming digital marketing content to appeal to audiences seeking information about the booster. So, you might decide to create a short online video about what the new booster protects against and how, where, and when people can get the shot.

4. Email Marketing for Patient Engagement

Another component of an effective healthcare digital strategy is email. It’s a low-cost form of patient outreach that allows for personalisation (yet another way to use that conversion data from phone and online interactions.)

Emails in the form of newsletters can feature engaging content to keep patients informed of new treatments, clinical drug trials, and even personnel changes as well as offer advice on wellness and healthy living.

There are plenty of email platforms out there, like Envoke and MailChimp, to help healthcare marketers develop enticing and engaging email communications at scale. These platforms typically offer drag-and-drop editing functions to help you build the email content, and tools that let you preview and test content.  

Mobile Marketing in the Healthcare Industry

In 2021, Google made a much-anticipated switch to indexing the mobile versions of websites before the traditional web versions. This meant that if websites weren’t optimised for mobile user traffic, they were likely to fall down the search rankings. The change came from a sharp increase in mobile device use for online searching. By 2020, two-thirds of all site visits were from mobile devices and one-third were from computers.

The numbers are even more compelling for healthcare providers. More than eight in 10 patients use smartphones to contact their healthcare provider, and six in 10 mobile users downloaded an app or used their device to research a medical condition. So, if you aren’t optimising your content and site for mobile, you’re potentially losing the opportunity to attract and engage with a large audience of current and future patients. 

There are quick and easy ways to optimise for mobile. First, use responsive design when building your site so that text and page layouts automatically adapt to smartphone and other mobile device screens. You can also consider building a dedicated mobile-only site or app. Whatever you do, make sure that visitors to your mobile site can easily access content. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to click two or three times to reach the content you seek.

The Role of Analytics in Healthcare Digital Marketing

Marketers have access to a host of data from digital interactions. And so long as they comply with the data collection policies set forth by HIPAA and other data privacy regulations, they can use that data for marketing purposes. With the right tools, data can be mined, analysed, and converted at scale into actionable intelligence that can be used to shape digital marketing for healthcare organisations.

It’s not just online data, either. Conversation intelligence software like Invoca records and transcribes phone conversations and then uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyse that data at scale to identify key trends and insights. It’s incredibly valuable data informed by the true voice of the customer, and it’s 100% HIPAA compliant.

Marketers can also use information from customer relationship management (CRM) systems and other customer data platforms to build profiles of the healthcare consumers they want to target. These profiles can help them craft relevant messaging and select the best digital marketing channels for delivering it.

Legal and Ethical Considerations in Digital Marketing for Healthcare

As noted earlier in this post, all things in healthcare marketing, including digital marketing, are governed by legal and ethical standards. In the United States, HIPAA looms large in this regard.

Of course, patient privacy should be a key part of any healthcare organisation’s mantra of establishing and maintaining a relationship of trust with all patients. HIPAA provides concrete guideposts for healthcare providers operating in a digital age where sensitive data like patient information is abundant and vulnerable, and must be handled with the utmost care.

Keeping on the right side of regulations and preserving patient privacy extends to your healthcare organisation’s technology vendors, too. Make sure that they are HIPAA compliant. If you pick the right vendor, you will be able to gain marketing insights while complying with HIPAA regulations.  

The Future of Digital Marketing for Healthcare

Digital technology advances rapidly. As it does, it creates hurdles and opportunities for healthcare organisations and their marketing teams. It was just two years ago that Google made the switch to mobile-first indexing for search. Does that mean PCs are dead? Not yet. But sea changes in the availability and use of emerging technologies mean that businesses in the healthcare industry must be smart and agile as they position for the future.

Right now, healthcare professionals are coming to grips with an emerging technology that can help them work faster and more efficiently: AI. Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform all areas of healthcare, from administration and research to operations and patient care. And, in some areas, like data collection and analysis, AI is already creating change and enhancing productivity.

AI’s ability to collect, collate, and consider data at scale from online and offline interactions is revolutionising the way healthcare marketers build their digital marketing campaigns, personalise their outreach, and segment their customers. 

How to Use Invoca in Your Digital Marketing Healthcare Strategy

You can use the data that Invoca gathers from phone calls to enhance healthcare marketing efforts throughout the patient journey, from click to call. You can also take strategic steps to improve that journey. For example, conversation intelligence data can help you identify pages driving digital abandonment so that your team can quickly correct bad links or poor information, creating a more fulfilling experience for patients using the website. 

Invoca directs callers to the right respondent at the first request, rather than bouncing callers around departments. Data captured through Invoca’s platform also provides advance information to call recipients, so they know who is calling and why. Perhaps a caller clicked on a hospital webpage relating to surgical devices and the page generated a dynamic number they used to call in. The person receiving that call has that information and more at their fingertips, which means the caller doesn’t have to explain why they’re reaching out.

You can also use Invoca’s artificial intelligence (AI)-powered features to sift through digital data from phone conversations at scale to pinpoint recurring patient issues — for example, by identifying keywords like “problem” or “complaint.” Even if you don’t know which keywords to use, the AI in Invoca’s Signal Discovery can detect macro and micro trends in phone conversations and flag them for you. 

In addition, Invoca allows healthcare providers to personalise the patient journey, from intelligent call routing to targeted and personalised marketing content. All of this makes for a much more seamless patient journey and enhances the overall patient experience — which also helps to drive revenue for healthcare organisations.

Key Takeaways for Successful Digital Marketing in Healthcare

Healthcare digital marketing has tremendous ongoing value for healthcare organisations and their patients. Successfully deployed, it enhances patient engagement, smooths the patient journey, and leads to improvements in healthcare services. For healthcare organisations, it helps amplify the brand, boost business growth, and increase the bottom line. 

Digital marketing is already here, but it’s also the future for healthcare marketers. Spending on digital ads by the healthcare industry was over $14 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach $17.79 billion in 2024. More and more healthcare organisations are committing significant resources to digital marketing strategies. 

These strategies must be optimised to be successful. Using online and offline data to inform your digital strategy is a smart move in today’s ultra-competitive healthcare market. But you need the right technology to make it happen.

Invoca is one HIPAA-compliant tool that is proven to deliver real value to teams handling digital marketing for healthcare organisations. To learn more about how Invoca can help you become more effective at healthcare digital marketing, watch the video below and set up a personalised demo with us today.

Additional Reading

Want to learn more about how Invoca can help you optimise your healthcare digital marketing strategy? Check out these resources:

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