Prescription healthcare advertising on AdWords can be a challenging task for campaign managers: fair balance, legal restrictions, and pages designed to convey information alone leave little wiggle room for pay-per-click marketers. If you are new to advertising pharmaceutical products on AdWords then this article will show you where to go to get approval. Then, once you’re approved, you can use the other tips like using final URLs for generic terms and reporting with the average time on page over bounce rate to not only squeeze the most value out of your budget but also demonstrate how well a client’s message is being received.

Get Certified to Advertise for Restricted Medical Terms 

Google restricts advertising for pharmaceutical products and the health conditions that they treat. Before you can effectively advertise your product on AdWords, Google needs to be 100% sure that the website you are directing traffic to can be trusted by consumers & healthcare professionals.

If you are advertising a prescription medication or if your website contains copy regarding the treatment of certain conditions then you will want to visit this page and make sure you are in compliance, which depends on the country you are advertising in. There is also a form that your client will have to sign in order to obtain the certification, but following submission to Google the process usually only takes a few days.

Find Out What You Are Approved to Claim & List the Benefit of That Claim First In Your Description

Clients are very limited by what they can and can’t say by the FDA – it’s the reality of the industry. Whereas an e-commerce marketer can say – “fall asleep faster with this pillow,” a pharmaceutical marketer might not even be able to claim that their drug is without side effects if even one person had a rash during clinical trials that may or may not have been caused by the medication.

Clients who have been slapped on the wrist by the FDA – or who simply don’t want to take a change – might insist that the AdWords copy be approved by a committee before it is used or changed, which can seriously restrict the usage of best practices like keyword phrases in headlines. Remember, though, that descriptions can still have a large impact on click-through rates, and – provided your client has done market research – you can leverage whatever they are approved to say that sets them apart in the descriptions section.

Inevitably, there will be something that your client’s drug offers that others don’t. Trust their market research regarding the product’s advantages. If the pill is half the size of the competition’s pill but has to be taken twice as often – and your client believes that patients will take the drug more reliably because of that – then put that benefit in your descriptions section before discussing features. Something like: “Ensure Adherence With Once-Daily Dosing” (remember to capitalize every word in the description!).

Adherence to prescribed regimens is a constant challenge that doctors try to navigate; medications are only effective if they are taken as ordered, and a surprisingly high number of people simply don’t take their them as prescribed. If your product can get a patient to follow their regimen and you can advertise that fact in a few words at the beginning of your description then do it. “Ensure Adherence With Once-Daily Dosing” is a features-before-benefits description that leaves you with 41 more characters to expand on the product’s superiority or unique aspects.

Target Physicians With Generic Final Terms URLs

A common practice for pharmaceutical websites is to address the different knowledge level and informational needs of patients and physicians by splitting up the website into a patient side and a physician side. This is usually accomplished by a drop-down menu for each audience. The physician’s site will often feature more information about competitive head-to-head studies and have more erudite language, while the patient site will be thinner and exist to make sure patients take their medication correctly and for the right conditions.

But how should you direct the right audience to the right page when two different audiences must use the same words to get to your site? How are you supposed to know where to send someone who searches for the brand name alone?

There is no foolproof answer, but the method that I would recommend is to put all of the keywords containing branded and generic terms within one ad group and then to use final URLs to point users in the direction you think they should go. For example, send clicks on keywords that feature generic terms paired with dosing in milligrams (“Penicillin 200 milligrams”) to the healthcare professional site; physicians are more likely to have generic terms as part of their working vocabulary and those who are searching Google using such terms are probably looking for a quick answer to a general question from a site that they can trust.

To direct these users to the right page, use final URL’s on a keyword-by-keyword basis to address this. Under your keywords tab for the campaign in question, click on “Modify Columns > Final URL” for your keywords to bring up which page each keyword sends its traffic to. These generic and molecule keywords can be directed to the physician site no matter which semantically-related (but often used by patients) terms they are paired next to. Put in the physician site URL so that whenever someone searches for advanced terms they will be directed to the appropriate site.

High Bounce Rate? Use Average Time on Page Instead

Pharmaceutical websites are designed to generate leads – they provide physicians with a place to go for 100% correct, verifiable information about treatment regimens, look up relevant studies, and to discover industry newcomers that offer better treatment options. Convincing one physician to use your product can produce many prescriptions from that one office as long as your product is the go-to solution for a condition, so having doctors gather information on your site can be extremely valuable. However, since bounce rates are the most well-known way to explain to your client if their site is reaching the right audiences, you may have some trouble reconciling the unbelievably high bounce rates you see in your AdWords & Analytics data (this article will clear up a lot).

Bounce rates are calculated via timestamps, so if someone comes to your site and views one page before leaving then their session duration would be counted as 0:00 and the session would be considered a “bounce.” This is particularly frustrating for pharmaceutical advertisers whose audiences are sure to be coming to the site to find a piece of information. A well-managed campaign will get the right person to the page that has their answer on the best landing page; they will find it, read up on what the manufacturer’s original materials claim, and then probably leave.

This often leaves pharmaceutical AdWords campaigns with bounce rates of well over 75%, and to the untrained eye that is hard to defend from a traditional conversion rate standpoint.

The solution is simple – use average time on page instead. In Analytics, navigate to the view of the property where you are directing traffic and go to Behavior>Site Content>All Pages and then filter by the AdWords campaign you are using

You Can Still Optimize for Conversions

If you are directing audiences to pages with mostly face-value information like cure rates, dosing information, or disease state information, you can still create a benchmark for success. Smart goals are one option, but as this Lunametrics article states, they’re not always the best option. Often smart goals will consider any session that doesn’t bounce for such page as worthy of being a smart goal because that is seen as a smaller subset of more quality traffic that is desirable. They don’t take into account how long a user spent on your page and whether or not they actually read the information and took time to understand it.

Depending on how important the message on the page is, you might want to consider making a time-spent-on-page conversion with Tag Manager. This way you can optimize for conversions for consideration-influencing campaigns.