Ad Extensions and How to Leverage Them for Pharma

Background

As one of the largest drivers of site traffic, paid search is a key component of any multichannel marketing strategy.  With an increasing number of brands taking advantage of this opportunity, crowding search results, and with limited space to convey key messages advertisers are constantly looking for ways to differentiate from competition. One of the best ways to do this is with ad extensions. Extensions are extra snippets of relevant information that are eligible to appear alongside text or display ads on Google, Yahoo, and Bing based on the position and relevance of the ad to a search query.

In a recent announcement, Bing has extended ad scheduling capabilities from the ads themselves down to individual ad extensions. For the first time, this gives marketers the chance to schedule extensions to be in market for certain times of day to align with promotions or business hours, or simply test hourly performance.

Extension Functionality

Extensions across both engines span a wide array of business information such as phone number, location, or user reviews and serve to further increase an ad’s relevance and prompt action from users. A click on an extension costs the same as a standard click on the ad, providing these added benefits without any cost increase. Even more so, the increased relevance provided by extensions can improve cost efficiencies and CTR by taking up more search engine real estate.

From a pharma perspective, extensions can be used to display patient or HCP hotlines, further links to relevant site content, or even brand or disease state focused apps. Below is a list of the available extensions across Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Available Extensions

Implications

While this update is most useful for e-commerce or shopping campaigns, there are some benefits for pharma paid search. Prior to the release of ad extension scheduling, the ways to optimize campaigns toward extension performance was very limited. Advertisers have the ability choose which devices certain extensions are eligible to appear for across Google properties, and can assign a priority to site links on all engines.  By ordering site links, advertisers allow priority links to appear higher and more often in the site link list. Ultimately, the majority of power still lies with engine algorithms deciding which extensions will appear and when.

The introduction of ad scheduling for search and display extensions gives marketers the capability to run strategic extensions and segment data for more advanced optimizations. For pharma companies with an HCP or DTC hotline, advertisers can now make sure to drive call volume only when phone lines are properly staffed. Organizations with an on-site chat feature can take a similar approach with site links. Advertisers with HCP and consumer content on a shared domain can use day parting of site links, callouts, and app extensions to provide the most relevant information when the different target audiences are more likely to be searching. Campaigns can also now be bettered served to promote time sensitive materials such as a conference or specific offerings like a co-pay card. Perhaps above all, this addition provides advertisers with another outlet to test campaigns and improve overall performance.

Challenges

Currently, the ability to schedule ad extensions is only available on Bing campaigns, which can present problems as many advertisers prefer to implement similar strategies across all engines for consistency. Those who schedule extensions on Bing may want to for Google as well, especially since Google is still responsible for the majority of search volume. Appearance of specific extensions is also still controlled by the engines, so they are not always guaranteed to show. Scheduling an extension for a set time period will ensure it will only appear during that time frame, but doesn’t guarantee it will show across every search during that time.

Recommendation

The benefits of ad extensions are numerous:

With engines controlling when and which ad extensions are shown, CMI recommends approving all relevant extensions to maximize the chance of displaying additional content. As Google, Bing, ands Yahoo continue to expand the scope of extension settings in addition to the types of ad extensions, they give more power to agencies and pharma marketers to think strategically and improve campaign performance.