Pharmaceutical advertising on Google Ads 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 pharmaceuticals on Google Ads 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 pharmaceuticals on Google Ads, 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

Benefits in speech bubble

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 phrasing of pharmaceutical Google Ads copy must be approved by a committee before it is used or changed. This 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.

Promoting Doctor Directories on Google Ads to Drive Treatment Discussions

Advertising the patient side of your pharma brand’s website on Google is becoming more and more likely to drive prescriptions. A recent survey by found that over half of all consumers consider pharma brand websites to be an important resource in their research of a prescription. The survey, however, found that “finding the right doctor” is the primary barrier to accessing treatment.

Pharmaceutical Google Ads campaigns excel at getting your brand in front of patients. But, if you want to drive prescriptions, you’re have to give the digital journey a concrete end point.’s findings show that the key to getting this done is incorporating a doctor directory on your website. And, as patients become more and more involved in the treatment process, the inclusion and promotion of this a doctor directory is a viable tactic for driving prescriptions.

While it’s still wise to direct users to URLs with product information as the first touchpoint, the doctor directory is a perfect endpoint for sessions acquired via Google Ads. This can be achieved by specifying the directory search results URL as the end of a goal funnel in Google Analytics. The final URLs to which you drive traffic can serve as steps in the funnel in order to specify a customer journey that should be optimized for. Importing these journeys as conversions inside your Google Ads account will allow your pharma Google Ads campaign to drive conversions and conversations.

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?

Google Ads Phone on Desk

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? Don’t Fret, and Work In This Analytics Hack

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. The goal to advertising pharmaceuticals on Google Ads is to get physicians to learn the advantages of your product and consider making a habit of prescribing it.

Ideally, the most important information they need to know about the benefits of your drug is on the landing page. If they visit the page, are convinced (or convinced enough to consult a scholarly source) then they may very well leave.

Additionally, if they click a pop-up ISI resource or prescribing information PDF and then leave, this will also be counted as a bounce. PDF tracking is not automatically activated through Google Analytics. To track Analytics information on your PDF, add a URL parameter to any links on your site that point to that PDF.

To do this, go to the back end of our site and find any links to your PDF.

Add a parameter to the end of the PDF’s URL. For example, change a URL that looks like:


To look like:


Now, when you are conducting your reporting at the end of the month, you can see how many users who clicked on your pharmaceutical Google Ads campaign clicked through to your prescribing information by going into Google Analytics and navigating to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages and searching for ‘PDF’ in the search bar next to ‘Advanced’ in order to see page views of that PDF. Filter for Acquisition > Source/Medium to see how many users came from your pharmaceutical Google Ads campaign.

Your pharmaceutical Google Ads campaign is still likely to have a relatively high bounce rate, but insight from implementations like these can allow you to optimize your campaign and see its true value.

ROI with woman pointing

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.