Health Experts Call On Google To Loosen Keyword-Buying Rules To Help Inform About COVID-19

Most any type of COVID-19-focused Google Ad running across the search engine will meet with disapproval from Google.

Chris Pace, chief digital marketing officer at Banner Health, put out a call to action to health care marketing professionals on his LinkedIn page. 
He wants to make it easier for them to update people on events related to the crisis as they change.  

“Google is preventing the purchase of any COVID-19/Coronavirus keywords through their Google Ads platform,” he wrote. “I think they should open it up to validated/verified health care providers. Not so we can market our services...our facilities are full and we've turned off advertising.”

Pace wrote that healthcare providers need to have the ability to get verified and validated information out to the communities they serve. For example, visitor restrictions at Banner Health facilities change daily and “information about #covid19 changes nearly by the hour,” he wrote. All channels need to be in sync, he wrote.

Apparently Google is working on it. Amanda Bury, senior director of channel development at Kyruus, wrote that Google released a COVID-19 schema markup and the company is also allowing some messages in Google My Business (GMB) pages.

“We are working with clients and their GMB listings on description messaging and hours, links to re-direct patients and message right care,” she wrote.

Jonathan Kagan, VP of search at Cogniscient Media, isn't in favor of monetizing COVID-19 related keywords. He said it will only lead to some less ethical advertisers trying to capitalize on it.

"At this point, from an advertiser perspective, best thing to do is cease ad campaigns, and put a banner across the site or note on social media pages that you’ve hit capacity," he said. "Alternatively, if running branded media is necessary, on keywords, note that due to the current conditions, you are taking certain steps."

Nick Cifuentes, senior director at digital engagements at Dignity Health, believes that Google may not allow it because the company is still branding the effort in competition with others using the current crisis as an enabler -- although it’s not direct advertising for services or treatments.

“I understand their approach to keep the noise focused on what is happening now, not necessarily how one system vs another is going to display how they speak about it,” he wrote in response to Pace’s post. “The subtle market play would still qualify as an advertisement, so do understand their positioning. I'd consider taking the approach where you focus on your current patients and making sure they have the information they need, using other channels (mobile, email, social); more direct avenues to ensure your community can continue to support the health system and recognize 'your' response to the crisis.”

Other tactics, according to Jeff Steblea, digital marketing communication manager and strategy expert at SilverTech, include integrating alert pop-ups on landing pages for Urgent Care, Primary Care, ER or Pediatrics SEM campaigns. He also mentioned redirecting some types of visits to telehealth or virtual care channels if an organization offers those.

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