Telemedicine advertising plays a special role for tech startups with a race against time in their quest for growth at all costs, as we can pay to instantly reach more targeted people than we can handle. The benefit is often bigger than with other types of businesses.
When launching telemedicine, advertising is one of the best ways to spread the word quickly but the question is where in the customer journey we intend for telemedicine to fit in. Most often, I’ve noticed it being either the business’ main product or a secondary service in the product portfolio with the purpose of building trust with new patients and acquiring loyal customers that will be excited about the other services.
In this article, we’ll look at a list of platforms where we can buy telemedicine advertising, which channels makes the most sense along with some tricks for making social media ads more effective as it’s challenging to make them work well when telemedicine is demand-based and customers only care when they are sick.
Telemedicine advertising platforms
There are a huge number of websites where we can buy telemedicine advertising. Some of them are private and we have to reach out to each of them individually, while others act as networks or auctions and we can buy ads from a large portfolio of websites based on our preferences.
Both have their benefits and if you are a tech startup focused on growth at all costs, the platforms below are typically the ones with enough scale in most markets to make a difference.
6 popular platforms for telemedicine advertising online
- Social media ads (e.g. Facebook/Instagram, Pinterest ads, Snap, Tiktok, etc.)
- Google search ads
- Retargeting platforms like Criteo
- Display ads and Youtube (incl. e.g. WebMD)
- Quora and Q&A/discussion sites
The biggest trap is doing the hard work building a high-performing campaign that both follows the strict government regulations and terms of service of each ad platform, and wanting to scale but not being able to buy more advertising inventory.
In some situations, we can copy-paste the campaign to another advertising platform to scale but these days, each of the top platforms has their own unique advantage which makes that challenging. For example, scaling a well-performing Google search ads campaign to Facebook is difficult because users don’t go there for the same reason, and each one has vastly different targeting and creative options.
With Google search ads, the user is looking to find something they are searching for whereas on Facebook they are scrolling the newsfeed, likely bored and looking at what their friends are up to.
In fact, why don’t we look at each of the overarching online telemedicine advertising channels?
1. Social media ads (e.g. Facebook/Instagram, Pinterest ads, Snap, Tiktok, etc.)
Facebook and Instagram ads are quite similar as they are managed from the same dashboard (Facebook ads manager) and owned by the same company.
Social media ads are generally challenging to squeeze good performance out of when it comes to healthcare products, as the products tend to be based on patient demand and telemedicine is no exception. It’s not a natural fit with the platform as we can only reach people based on their general interest and behavior from the past, not what they are looking for at the time they see the ad.
Pinterest, Snap, and Tiktok are in the same ballpark although the Pinterest brand tends to be more focused on crafty stuff like Etsy. Snap and Tiktok are “younger” platforms in the healthcare industry and I haven’t seen any good, relevant case studies with them yet.
2. Google search ads
Search ads tend to be great for telemedicine advertising as patients often search for the service when they are ready to book a time with a doctor. The downside is that they can be more expensive than other platforms because many businesses are aware of its performance.
3. Retargeting platforms like Criteo
Retargeting (also called remarketing) means showing an ad to someone who is already familiar with your business, often because they’ve visited the website or fanpages. It is often among the best types of campaigns because the leads are not cold.
Retargeting ads are not limited to any specific platform and can be bought on almost any platform where you’d normally buy ads as the difference is in the targeting configuration, not in the ad itself as the name might suggest. There are certain platforms like Criteo whose only service is to help us buy retargeting ads but instead of setting up retargeting campaigns manually across each ad platform, they help do it across the board.
4. Display ads and Youtube (incl. e.g. WebMD)
Display ads are the most well-known and traditional ads. They are basically just a normal banner ad with image and text whether on Facebook, WebMD, or Aske’sBlog.com. The reason I gave social media ads their own category is that those platforms are large enough that there usually is enough inventory to only focus your energy there if they are a good fit for your business.
With smaller sites, it might not be possible to buy as much inventory as you’d like once your campaigns are performing well.
LinkedIn is more B2B focused than many of the other platforms and you might find that it makes sense to advertise to HR staff and persuade them to promote telemedicine internally to their colleagues as part of their company benefits.
6. Quora and Q&A/discussion sites
I haven’t found that Quora works well even for telemedicine advertising even though it has a lot of traffic. The quality of it or perhaps the timing of when the ad is shown to the visitor hasn’t been as good as it seems on paper. They have awesome targeting options so it might be that things have changed since I last tested it.
There are other similar sites out there with Q&A specifically for health-related questions that could be performing better but I’ve found that they are often country-dependent, so I’m not going to highlight any here.
The best telemedicine advertising channel online
Private and exclusive partnerships can be great but since they are not available for everyone and are highly subjective to your local area, I’m not going to cover those here.
The perhaps best platform I’ve found to get direct telemedicine patient bookings is Google search ads. If you have no existing patients to test your telemedicine services on, that’s where I’d start. This guide can help you get set up with the practical stuff and run your first campaign step by step in an hour.
The thing that will make or break your search ad is targeting the right keywords. As preparation for this article, I took the liberty of finding a couple of keywords specifically for telemedicine advertising to get you started but if you want to find your own, have a look at this article on healthcare keywords.
Telemedicine advertising keyword examples (Google ads)
I didn’t want to leave you empty-handed, so I took the liberty of preparing a list of keywords related to telemedicine to give you an idea of what they could look like.
|Keyword||Avg. Monthly Search Volume|
|mental health telemedicine||550|
|united healthcare telehealth||1800|
|planned parenthood telehealth||740|
|telemedicine urgent care||1800|
|telehealth urgent care||3100|
|telehealth doctor appointment||350|
|blue cross blue shield telehealth||1900|
|urgent care telemedicine near me||450|
|telehealth near me||780|
|patient first telehealth||630|
Once we have those ads running, we benefit from setting up retargeting ads on other platforms to capture people’s interest when they visit other sites.
We can persuade them to join our email newsletter, for example by offering them a guide to something that interests them in exchange for their email address. That way, we can build a long-term relationship with them so they become loyal once they need our services – which is usually the most profitable decision.
Scaling with social media ads when it’s all about search
Where search ads help us capitalize on direct demand right now, social media ads play a different role. They are often more affordable and fit better with a message that can be shown all-year-around without depending on if the user is sick right now.
One way to approach social media ads is in a combo of both search ads and social media ads, where we retarget people on e.g. Facebook after they’ve searched for something on Google. That way, we can capitalize on the fact that they are searching for something now (e.g. flu symptoms) but we can still reach them when they ask their friends for recommendations on Facebook.
We can for example group our search keywords into different stages:
- What causes a headache (here they might be looking for information)
- What cures a headache (here they might be looking for a solution and learn that a consultation is relevant)
- Best pediatric clinic in seattle (now they are looking for a specific clinic to visit)
- Dr. Chan’s pediatric clinic seattle book consultation (now they are looking to book with that specific clinic)
Since we can’t target each stage with Facebook ads, we could instead run several ads targeting people who’ve already clicked to visit our website from those search ads but grouped into smaller segments depending on which of the four stages they are in and the topic they are searching for.
If we know they’ve looked at a page on our site that talks about how to cure a headache, we could retarget them suggesting to book a telemedicine consultation to talk about the flu for the coming seven days, since we know that they might be looking for that and that a patient often shows symptoms within a week or so.
Another option with social media ads is to target the ads based on hospital or clinic addresses. It doesn’t work that well in the city where the buildings are close but if you are able to target addresses that are secluded it can work.
One of the most common challenges I see when healthcare businesses begin advertising is underestimating the loading speed of the website users see when they click on the ad. Studies have found that there is a direct correlation between how fast the page loads and the profitability of the ad campaign. For example, if a website loads in one second instead of three, it just about doubles the conversion rate.
I like to use tools.pingdom.com or Google’s page speed insights to check how fast it loads. Keep in mind that Google’s tester is never happy and often you don’t need to optimize it beyond a score of 80 or so. Don’t let this be a never-ending project and make the same mistake as I did, just make sure it’s not holding you back.
These are tricks that can work specifically for on-demand telemedicine services. Another approach is to build a service that better fits Facebook and other social media platforms since we know that there is a good ability to scale if we can make the advertising campaigns perform well.
Instead of selling on-demand services individually, we might sell a subscription product similar to how software is often sold these days (SAAS) – something that the patient needs even if they aren’t sick. That way, there’s a reason to advertise it any day of the year without getting stuck trying to cater to seasonal demand.
- Search ads are probably the best type of telemedicine advertising these days although they are competitive and can be expensive
- Social media ads aren’t the obvious choice but there are some opportunity to use it if you are creative in your approach
- Make sure that your landing page loading speed isn’t holding back your ad campaigns from performing well