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Online veterinary advertising best practice

Written by Rob Johnson | May 18, 2017 3:20:59 AM

(This article is a 10-minute read)


1. Why your veterinary advertising doesn’t work.

2. What SEO and SEM are, and how they work together

3. How to get measurable results from your advertising

Veterinary advertising online seems complex. People use buzzwords and acronyms that sometimes seem to refer to the same thing. There are also different types of results you can get from search engines. Some are free, some seem to cost the earth. Some work. Some don’t.


This article will explain some of the acronyms and what they mean. It will also explain some simple changes you can make to get those ads working for your practice.

What stops your veterinary advertising working

The biggest complaint about online advertising is it just doesn’t work. I’m as guilty of that as anyone. I’ve run pay-per-click campaigns on Google and got zero results. I’ve looked at the Analytics dashboard and grumbled about wasting my money. And I had wasted my money—but not because of Google.

I had wasted it because my ad was crap, my keyword targetting was wrong, and I had stuffed up my goal setting.

The importance of concrete goals

My goal for that particular campaign had been so vague it was stupid. The goal was to ‘get more leads’. That’s not really a goal. It’s just a nice outcome. My other goal was to improve my search engine rankings. But I didn’t have a keyword in mind that I wanted to improve. And anyway, none of my most important keywords were even in the ad.


So that was stupid.


Finally, I set a tiny, limited budget for it. I justified that by telling myself I was testing the waters. But you can’t judge the temperature of the ocean by sticking your finger in it. So that was also self-defeating.


By the way, does any of this sound familiar?

Focus on outcomes

If you want veterinary marketing, or any marketing, to work, you need a goal that is concrete, definable and achievable. The goal should have been to drive visitors to a particular landing page on my website, with a single goal. That goal may be to book an appointment, or download an ebook. If I was a vet, it may be to book in for a particular service.


An outcome that can be measured by a click is the ideal. Your ad may have other outcomes that can’t be measured by someone clicking on a button or filling out a form. But you can’t measure them, so they don’t matter.

The difference between SEO and SEM

Here comes to acronym part. You’ve probably heard of SEO (search engine optimisation). You may also have heard on SEM (search engine marketing). The difference between the two is neatly illustrated in this picture:

The ad results at the top of the page are SEM. They have bid on particular keywords, and paid to be there.


The non-paid results start further down the page. Back in the old days, fewer people used to click on the ads, because they were less relevant to what people were searching for. But nowadays, Google’s targetting is pretty tight, and both paid and free results get a lot of attention.

The bigger picture—improving SEO

Of course, we all want to appear higher in search engine results. Because we all see that as free advertising. You achieve this goal through a combination of paid ads and website content. It doesn’t happen immediately.


To dominate search engine results, you need to have a lot of different content. That’s why we keep encouraging people to write their own blogs, or get us to do it. Some of that content should be particular pages on your site that are just about a single product or service. Each of those particular pages—called landing pages—should target a single keyword or phrase that you think will drive people into your clinic. Each should also contain a link back to your homepage.


The way to get that page noticed is to have lots of other pages linking to the landing page. The easiest way to do that is to have your own blog. Whenever one of those blog posts mention a particular service that you have a landing page for, that service should link back to the landing page.

A note on the cost of online ads

When you buy pay-per-click ads (PPC), those ads should be for the service on a particular landing page. They should drive traffic back to that landing page.


Then set a daily spending limit for those ads—say, $10 or so—and let them run for a year. If no-one clicks on the ad, you don’t pay. When you’ve gotten your $10 worth of clicks for the day, your ad will disappear until tomorrow.


If the cost for a single click is more than $10, I wouldn’t bother going for it—it’s too competitive. Better to find a niche to advertise, where you’ll get more bang for your buck.

That’s just the beginning

While your ads are running, they are driving some traffic to your website. Not heaps, but some. Google’s computers register this. The more visitors you get, the better search engine rankings you are going to get.


But you also need to make sure the search engine is getting data from other places. That means doing a few things outside of your website—out in the real world—to encourage traffic.


A simple one is just to ensure you have registered your business with Google. That way, when someone does a search for something general like “veterinary practice” and a suburb name, you’re more likely to appear in the top corner of the page, like in the picture below.

Did you notice that business is not the first organic search result. But it is the one registered as a business with Google that matches my query.


In the meantime, you need to look at other ways to increase the traffic to your site. We recently published a guide with 11 Veterinary Marketing ideas and why they work, and I’d strongly recommend you try all of them.

On-page SEO

Search engines use over 200 different factors to determine the results they give. No-one knows the precise weighting of each factor. And as computers get smarter, it’s less likely anyone ever will.


So make sure you have structured and tagged your content appropriately, so search engines can understand what it is. That just means having a subject, some target keywords, and ensuring they are in the appropriate spot in page titles, headings, meta descriptions and alt-tags. And of course, in the text of the page itself.


You can afford to be a little sloppy with on-page SEO nowadays, because Google is getting smart enough to work out what an article is about. But it’s still not perfect. Computers aren’t as smart as people. They need help working stuff out.

In conclusion

If your veterinary advertising isn’t working, the most likely cause is that your ad is rubbish. The delivery mechanism—whether it’s Google, or Facebook, or some offline source—is rarely, if ever, the problem.


To get really worthwhile results, you first have to identify a concrete example of what those results should be. That first involves identifying a problem that your service solves. Then you need to find a way to let people know you solve that problem.


You do that by creating ads and content on landing pages and blog posts that points people towards your solution. Then let technology do the rest.

And measure it. You can’t know if it’s working if you don’t look at measureable results.