Medical and Healthcare Retargeting Explained

What is Retargeting (Also Called Remarketing)


From a consumer perspective, we’ve all experience retargeting. For instance, you decided to shop for a new gadget (boat, phone, bathtub, purse, jeans, shoes, bed, you name it). You may have even put it in the shopping cart but then didn’t buy it. Then for the next week, you saw ads for that same gadget EVERYWHERE, you could not even check your Facebook page without seeing an ad for the exact same gadget. Well…. That’s Retargeting.   


Why is Retargeting Problematic for Healthcare?


Let’s take a similar (but health-related) example. You’ve had symptoms like frequent trips to the bathroom, night sweats, low energy, etc. You start searching, and your online research leads you to believe you may have a prostate issue. As a result, you go online to look for a physician near you; maybe you decide you need to schedule a colonoscopy, or something similar.  


In this case, do you want ads for prostate cancer popping up on your Facebook? Even worse, do you want ads popping up on your home computer so your family members can see you’ve been researching prostate cancer? 


Of course not. This example is just one way that a patient’s personal health information gets used for marketing; this is not allowed by HIPPA. Because there are many ways to use remarketing, there are also healthcare options for retargeting. However, if you’re in the healthcare field, you need to understand that you’re working in the gray area. The big advertisers understand this, and for medical facilities, they strictly enforce compliance.


Google AdWords is a great example of this. When you create a new Google campaign, these advertisers visit your website to verify and enforce compliance. If you are a healthcare facility of any kind, they will send you a note that says that your account has been disabled for retargeting. As a result, you cannot setup custom audiences without getting your account suspended.  


Let’s take a look at how Retargeting works so we can understand the process.


How Does Retargeting Work?


In the simplest form of retargeting, we install a little bit of JavaScript code on your website. The code “cookies” users once they arrive on your website. The coding allows us to create “lists” or “audiences.” It then organizes the visitors to your website in a particular group based on the page a user did or did not visit. Afterward, ads “follow” these users on various websites within available ad networks and show them image ads and text ads to bring them back to your website. (Simple, huh?)


Why is Retargeting Effective?


The average conversion rate for first-time visitors across all industries is 3%. What does this mean? On average, 97% of visitors do not complete the desired action during their first interaction with your brand. Why is this? Perhaps, because users didn’t find the information they were looking for or they were just researching. It could also be that they are comparing you towards your competitors. The reasons could be endless; however, retargeting allows you to turn users into new patients.


Getting Started with Retargeting


The majority of people getting started with Retargeting use Google. Obviously, this is because Google is a 900 lb gorilla in advertising and retargeting. However, you will quickly learn that Google does not allow medical retargeting. They will suspend your account if they find you doing it. 


You must be careful if you want to use retargeting for hospitals, health systems, clinics, or treatment centers. In fact, if you’re trying to use retargeting through Google AdWords you’re wasting your time. Even worse, may get your main PPC campaign suspended.


Google AdWords does not explicitly say “healthcare cannot use retargeting,” but it might as well. If your website has any mention of conditions or treatments (even in just the navigation), then you cannot use retargeting for your facility. Google is obviously concerned with violating HIPAA rules and regulations, but they may even be too strict.


So, what happens when you try to use Google AdWords retargeting for your hospital or treatment center? Most likely your lists will be entirely disabled, and we’ve also seen people get their accounts suspended for Policy violations.


You can find more information from Google here.


Retargeting on Facebook


Facebook also allows retargeting using their “Facebook Pixel,” which is the JavaScript code described above. Facebook is even more difficult to deal with for healthcare professionals than Google. First, Facebook won’t ever let you post any ads that talk about health conditions.  So you can’t say, “Come check out this new treatment for Diabetes?” or “Do you have Type 2 Diabetes?” or “Are you tired of taking insulin?” These will be disapproved, and may even send you to Facebook jail. Instead, you have to ask something like “Do you want to learn more about Diabetes?” In fact, if you use the word “you” or “your” in an ad, it’s almost guaranteed to be disapproved.


The way that Facebook does remarketing is via their “Custom Audiences,” that they create in many ways. For instance, when people visit your website and establish a “cookie,” they create a custom audience. You can also upload an email list of your clients, and Facebook will match them with their users. Great marketing, but BOTH of these are violations of HIPPA. Even marketing to your followers on Facebook and their friends, this is considered a violation. Most followers or fans of your page are patients. 


The biggest challenge with Facebook is that you never know where you stand or when you’re going to get disabled. It’s normally best to play it safe. Instead of using “Retargeting” on Facebook, it’s normally best to use “Targeting” for healthcare on Facebook. Facebook knows a lot about their audiences, and you can target by region, age, and income. You can also be very specific and target people who have an interest in conditions like diabetes, weight loss, or even target fans of Jenny Craig.  Since this type of targeting does not have anything to do with YOUR patients, you’re not in trouble with HIPPA for using this technique.


What if I really want to do Retargeting?


Just because you’re not supposed to do something, does not mean that you cannot do it. If you really want to do Retargeting, we would encourage you to do it in a way that would not put your reputation at risk. You also don't want to risk putting your Google or Facebook ad account in jeopardy. One of the best ways is to use a dedicated retargeting service like AdRoll.


Healthcare Retargeting & AdRoll


Here’s a workaround for you to use. Do not use Google for your healthcare retargeting efforts. Use a company like AdRoll. The platform is easy to use, customer service is great, and most importantly, they tell you exactly what you can and cannot do from a healthcare marketing perspective. Another feature I like, is that AdRoll will let you use the same display ads that you designed for your Google campaigns.


The Bottom Line on Healthcare Retargeting or Remarketing


Forget using Google for Healthcare Retargeting. Likewise, use Facebook at your own risk. However, be very careful with the ads you run. Instead, consider a third-party retargeting company rather than Google or Facebook. If you have any further questions as it relates to healthcare retargeting or would like Niche’s assistance, call 800-432-3002.