SEM Proves a Potent Remedy for CTCA's Online Woes
Problem: Cancer Treatment Centers of America needed a cost-effective method to attract new patients.
Solution: Develop a search engine marketing strategy centered not on "popular" keywords, but on patients' search habits.
Results: Online referrals jumped more than 500 percent in just four years.
When it comes to acquiring patients, Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) is not like other hospitals. As Adam Lufton, CTCA's director of Web strategy, explains, most hospitals get about 95 percent of their patients through physician referrals; at CTCA, that number is just 5 percent. This presents the hospital with a unique marketing challenge.
Traditionally, it had relied on TV ads to make up the difference, but when the hospital was looking to expand its reach, throwing more money into television just didn't seem the best solution.
"We decided the Internet was the answer, but we didn't know how," recounts Lufton. "Our Web site was good, but it only had about 8,000 visitors a month. Not enough people were finding us."
To remedy that, CTCA hooked up with OneUpWeb, a Lake Leelanau, Mich.-based search engine marketing (SEM) consultancy. OneUpWeb's first order of business was to interview patients to understand what people type into the search engines when they are looking for information on cancer and cancer treatment. "It wasn't just a scientific analysis of what words were popular—it really was all about our patients," asserts Lufton.
CTCA's Web site then was optimized to hit on those keywords—150 of them to start. This process included revising title and meta tags, as well as the site descriptions that appear on the search engine's sites.
The results were undeniable: "Four years ago, approximately 8 percent [of patients] came through the Internet. In August 2005, it was up to 49 percent," asserts Lufton. "And we're up to nearly 200,000 unique visitors a month."