Paid, In Full by Casey Bull

Categories: Marketing;
Paid, In Full 

Decoding the 3 main pillars of paid digital advertising—and which to focus on, when

by Casey Bull

Paid digital advertising is the best way to get new patient leads quickly. It’s no longer a question if digital marketing works for orthodontic practices; the results are undeniable. That being said, it can be hard to decide what’s best for your practice, considering the never-ending changes of the digital landscape. Ultimately, there are three main forms of paid digital marketing: paid search, paid social and display advertising.

1. Paid search

With paid search, advertisers pay search engines such as Google and Bing to place ads on their platforms. Google is the major player here, but you also should consider testing out ads on Bing, especially you’re in an area with a concentration of government employees. (Most government employees are issued a computer where Bing is the default search engine, so running ads on Bing would be a great way to get in front of those individuals. Outside of this scenario, Google is definitely where your advertising dollars should go.)

Click volume for orthodontic-related search terms has increased across the board year over year as more consumers rely less on professional referrals and leverage the power of Google search. Over the past 12 months, there has been growing emphasis on paid search for orthodontic specialists, so costs for running Google ads at a national level are steadily increasing. Gone are the days where you could try it out on your own with a few hundred dollars; to see true success, you must have a large enough budget and a digital marketing professional to manage your campaigns. But rest assured that if your budget is right and the digital marketing pro is doing their part, you’ll see results in month one!

Recommended budgets and benchmarks for performance will vary based on factors such as local search volume and competition, but as a general rule of thumb you should launch a paid search campaign with no less than $1,000 for your first month and expect cost per leads to be less than $100.

If you want to grow your practice and are ready to invest in digital marketing, paid search should be one of the channels—if not the only one—you focus on to drive new patient leads.

2. Paid social

Social media is another channel where paid advertising is a great way to not only increase brand awareness but also generate new leads. Meta (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) has a combined 259 million monthly active users in the United States and Canada. More than 81% of people use Instagram to help research products and services! This means that no matter whether you choose to participate in social media activity organically or via paid placements, patients and prospective patients are looking up your practice on social media. So before diving into a complex paid social campaign, be sure your profile is updated to be an accurate representation of your practice—one that you would be proud of. Similar to paid search, it’s important to engage a professional to manage your paid social ads. If the practice wants to boost a post or two to increase engagement, it can be a fun and low-cost way to gain a bit of brand awareness. But if your goal is to increase leads and get serious about local brand awareness, make sure to hire a pro. There are many different ways to run campaigns on social media, including:

  • Image ads.
  • Carousel ads.
  • Interactive ads (Messenger ads and Stories ads).
  • Lead form ads.
  • Video ads.
The best way to figure out what type of ad will work best for your area and patient groups you are targeting is to test.

Social media advertising is considered “low intent” because users aren’t actively searching for an orthodontic provider, like they would be if they were on Google; instead, social media ads are interrupting users’ entertainment feed scrolling. Ad placement can still be very effective, but it’s important to run multiple versions of ads simultaneously and change up the creative quarterly. If the creative is changed too frequently, then the campaigns aren’t given enough runway to optimize and see results.

As with paid search, it’s important to have a large enough paid social budget so your ads are running long enough and can gather enough data to properly optimize. A budget of $30–$35 per day is a great place to start.

3. Display advertising

Display advertising is another solid channel that should be considered when building a practice’s comprehensive digital marketing strategy. A few platforms are typically used to manage content, and each digital marketing agency or professional will have its own relationship with a display advertising provider.

Begin your display advertising campaign targeting only your “retargeting” audience—that is, everyone who visits your website but doesn’t click to call or fill in a form. This type of campaign serves them display ads on other sites they visit for a set window of time. For example, one display ad may be used for users who visited your website within seven days, and another type of ad would run for those who visited your site between eight and 28 days ago.

You also can run prospecting ads to find new prospective patients who haven’t previously visited your website. But before you test out prospecting through display networks, be sure to have found success on paid search and paid social first, because those are considered the “low-hanging fruit.”

Final thoughts

While it’s a fact that digital marketing can help orthodontic practices grow, it’s important to consider these three take-home messages:

  1. Use an expert you trust. Just like we recommend that orthodontic treatment be done by an orthodontic specialist, digital marketing should be handled by digital marketing professionals. When done right, you’ll be investing a decent amount of money, and the only way to ensure you’re getting the best results is to have an expert running the campaigns.

  2. Know your goals. Before launching a new marketing campaign of any kind, know what your goals are—and not in an ambiguous way. If you invest $X amount, how many new patient leads do you need to say for certain that it was successful? Or is your goal measured by additional starts within that same month? Or is it measured by impressions, because you’re focused on brand awareness? Whatever it is, be honest with yourself and your provider to set a specific target or goal that you can use to benchmark the success of your campaign.

  3. Always optimize. When hiring a professional, it’s their job to optimize the campaigns they’re running for you. This should include not just advertising campaigns but also your website and landing pages. Both ad placement and website conversion rate optimization play critical roles in successful campaigns. Even when times are good, always optimize. If your practice is reactive and plays with marketing like it’s a water faucet—turning it on when you need to and turning it off when you “don’t”— you’re setting yourself up for wasted dollars and the incorrect belief that marketing doesn’t work. Marketing just doesn’t work that way.
Use an expert, define your goals and optimize your campaigns, and you’ll achieve the growth that you’re looking for.

Learn how to increase your patient referrals!

Author Casey Bull covered the top three ways a practice can increase patient referrals in an article that ran in the November 2021 issue of Orthotown. If you missed it, click here.

Author Bio
Casey Bull Casey Bull, the global director of content and community at The Invisible Orthodontist (TIO), drives TIO’s efforts to provide member practices with marketing and business management expertise. Bull began her career in the orthodontic industry in 2014 working for Dr. Alexander Waldman in Beverly Hills, where she developed a range of practice management processes encompassing tracking and reporting, management systems and templates, treatment plans, marketing programs and more.
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