Google raised SEM prices and didn't tell you

Google raised SEM prices and didn't tell you

It turns out Google’s executives are under the same pressure to perform that everyone else is.

Healthcare marketers put a lot of money and effort into advertising on Google because it delivers those delicious point-of-choice search consumers that we can drop directly into our patient acquisition funnel.

In addition to money and effort, we also put a lot of trust into Google search advertising:

  • Trust that the auction is fair
  • Trust that we’re not going to have an unacceptable number of bot clicks
  • Trust that the pricing is stable and based on advertiser demand.

As part of the Department of Justice’s ongoing antitrust trial, a Google ad exec revealed that Google sometimes arbitrarily raises auction prices by as much as 10%.

Bloomberg’s Leah Nylen reported on the situation and said:

“In one May 2019 email, Dischler and his team discussed how they were ‘shaking the cushions’ to find potential changes to the ad auctions that would ensure Google met the revenue targets that Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat had conveyed to Wall Street for the quarter,”

Jerry Dischler, vice president for Google’s advertising products, said:

“Google doesn’t typically tell advertisers about pricing changes…”

For most healthcare marketers this change would have been invisible. A faster burn through monthly ad spend. Fewer clicks and calls that your agency might blame on bot traffic or seasonal shifts in interest.

But that quiet increase in spend resulted in decreased efficiency for advertisers. It resulted in a higher cost per acquisition (CPA). And that higher cost per acquisition has more significant consequences now – with marketing budgets under more scrutiny and performance expectations being higher than they ever have before.

The only way to really understand what is happening in the shadows around your marketing effectiveness is to have full visibility into all areas of your funnel. This can be simplified when you have a single roll-up metric like CPA that shines a light into every step of the process:

  • Cost per click
  • Landing page performance
  • Conversion mechanisms (forms, assessments, click-to-call buttons, etc…)
  • Call center agent performance
  • CRM-based patient nurturing journeys

Getting a true and clear picture of your CPA can be difficult to do without direct and real-time access to downstream conversion data. Preferably directly from the source: your hospital’s electronic medical record or financial systems.

Even healthcare marketers who have climbed that (very steep) hill to access admissions and reimbursement data sometimes face skepticism from executive stakeholders. A common issue arises when conversion metrics from various marketing platforms don't align. Discrepancies between CDN data, call center data, and your new HIPAA-compliant web analytics can erode confidence in the marketing ROI calculations used to justify next year's budget.

Sparkle provides a unified patient acquisition platform with direct EMR integration, ensuring marketers can rely on secure patient admission and reimbursement data. This unified approach lets you access conversion data from any point in the patient journey for optimization opportunities.

Having a clear view of ALL of the data allows healthcare marketers to not only demonstrate real ROI but also to uncover opportunities to improve the patient user experience.

  • Why are patient dropping off at this specific point in the appointment booking process?
  • How did a change in user experience impact conversion success?
  • Which call center agents are conversion outliers?
  • Where are your potential future best practices hiding?

Having the right data and reporting tools makes that easy to find out.

The right set of tools will show you when ad platforms like Google are quietly raising prices and ruining your CPA.

Google's behavior in the advertising space is putting them at a higher risk of antitrust penalties but today's tightening healthcare marketing budgets can't wait for congressional action to save them.

Get in touch with us today to find out more about how Sparkle can help to support your goals.

Get in touch with us to learn more about Sparkle