The approach to Google ad campaigns for senior living communities is different from any other industry. Making the choice to move into senior living can be a nerve-wracking process for your future resident and their adult children alike, and the need for empathy is more pronounced than in almost any other line of work. There are plenty of individuals that would thrive in your community, so it’s crucial to make sure they know about it. So what do you need to know to run a successful Google ad campaign for a senior living community?
In this article, we’ll break down the most important parts of a high-performing ad campaign for senior living, including:
- The basics of Google Ads
- Doing the right research
- Crafting the right tone for your audience
- Planning your keywords
- Budgeting your ads
- And how to monitor and improve your ads
An introduction to Google Ads
Google Ads is among the most frequently used ad platforms used to promote senior living facilities. Google offers several types of ads. The ad types that Google offers are:
- Search (text ads that display in a person’s Google search results)
- Display (image-based ads that display on other websites)
- Video (video ads that display as commercials on Youtube)
- Shopping (features products on Google Shopping)
- App (an ad that promotes an app)
In this article, we will focus on search ads.
One of the biggest advantages of Google search ads is their ability to target specific locations. Since most residents of senior communities want to be close to their families, location targeting helps you find those most likely to move in. Seeking out these people in lieu of casting a wide net makes your spending more efficient. It also saves your team the time they’d spend sorting through unqualified leads.
Another benefit of Google ads is the ability to closely target the search terms you do (and don’t) want. You can add terms that would direct the most qualified searchers to your website, like “assisted living in Denver, Colorado.” Their negative keyword lists allow you to exclude search terms for your competitors, which can quickly eat through your budget. You can also exclude search terms that aren’t relevant to your ad, like services that you don’t provide within your community.
Here is an example of Google search ads being displayed for the search phrase “assisted living in Denver Colorado”
One drawback of Google ads is that it’s hard to target people by interests and demographics. In contrast, social media platforms allow you to select age ranges, family situations, and interests. But that is a whole separate topic, so we will save that for another article and focus here just on Google search ads.
An important thing to keep in mind is how easy it is to exhaust your budget if you don’t keep an eye on your campaign. It’s imperative to keep track of the search terms that your ad is appearing for and your negative and positive keyword lists. Highly competitive areas and keyword topics might drive up the cost of your campaigns. You need to do ample keyword research before turning on your ads to ensure the spending is efficient.
Starting Your Research
Knowing your audience ensures that your ad is getting displayed to the right people. Consider this: If you were running an assisted living facility in Denver, Colorado, would it be more cost-effective to set the target area to Colorado or the entire United States? Family ties are important to most seniors, so they'll want to be within driving distance of them. Since family is nearby, it would be much more for residents from within the state than outside of it to move in. Think about it like this: how far would you drive to see your parents?
Of course, there is some nuance to the rule. Some exceptions include luxury destinations like Florida, where seniors go for the landscape and activities more than the proximity to what’s familiar. You might also want to change your approach if you have a senior living community where you’re close to a big city with ample competition. In this case, your ad budget might be better allocated targeting your ads to surrounding areas rather than trying to outcompete every facility in the city.
Location isn't the only thing that most of your prospective residents will have in common. The first and most obvious additional commonality is age. Their level of ability will vary based on the type of care your community provides. Don’t forget less obvious details, too. For example, the level of technology literacy of your target audience will vary depending on your particular surroundings and who lives there. Are they open to new things, or do they need a little more thought and counseling before they make a decision? All of these factors will help you decide the wording and tone of your ads.
Crafting Your Tone
Senior living communities’ target audiences are often the prospective resident themself or the adult children of that resident. Depending on which levels of care your ads are promoting, you'll want to tailor your messaging to one of these personas.
For example, independent living is an all-inclusive option for seniors that want fewer household chores. Since the residents are usually active and able to make their own decisions, you’ll be talking primarily to the prospective residents instead of their children. However, in the case of assisted living, skilled nursing homes, or memory care, you will primarily be speaking with the adult children or other decision-makers involved in your future resident’s care.
Remember that with the exception of independent living, most aren’t making the choice to move into your community under light circumstances. This is a stressful time for your prospective resident and their adult children, too. Be warm and empathetic in your messaging, and don’t expect that everyone will be able to make the decision to move in yet.
Try offering information instead of jumping right into a call with sales. Prompts that nudge readers to make a sale, or “bottom of the funnel” calls-to-action, should be targeted to individuals who are already in the last few stages of your sales process. These calls to action might make a prospect who is earlier on in the sales process uneasy, which can affect how likely they are to choose your community.
Here are some helpful pointers to remember when crafting your tone:
- Speak as if these are your own parents or grandparents
- Build the reader’s trust
- Give the reader enough info to feel safe clicking your link
- Educate, but don’t overwhelm your readers
- Deliver on everything you promise you make in the ad
Planning your keywords
Your understanding of your ad campaign’s target keywords determines its overall success. These keywords are the words that a user types into Google in order to find businesses like yours. So, if someone were to type “assisted living in Denver, Colorado,” and you wanted to appear in that search, you would use “assisted living Denver” as a target keyword.
“Assisted living,” “skilled nursing,” and “nursing home” are all examples of keywords that a senior living community might target. These are “short tail” keywords, which are phrases with typically 1-3 words. There are also “long tail keywords,” which have more than three words and are much more specific. While fewer people search for long-tail keywords, this can benefit your ads. They’re highly specific and less competitive, so if you target them well, you’re more likely to land in front of a person who is looking for exactly what you provide. Here are some examples of long-tail and short-tail phrases that someone might search:
Short tail keyword searches:
- Independent living
- Assisted living
- Skilled nursing
- Memory care
Long tail keyword searches:
- Pet-friendly independent living communities in Denver, Colorado
- Low-income nursing home in Austin, TX
- Assisted living facilities that accept Medicaid
Budgeting for your ads
After you know what you want to promote with your ad and the best keywords to target, it's time to choose your budget. Your budget will determine how competitive your ads are.
The first important term to understand is the cost per click, or CPC. Cost per click is the amount of money that you will pay for someone to click on your ad. If a group of different senior living homes targets the same keyword, Google treats their maximum cost per click as bids and the decision process like an auction.
Google also offers you the option to select "maximize clicks" if you don't want to spend time setting specific maximum cost per click bids. In this case, you would set a daily budget for how much you like to spend on your ads. Google will automatically show your ad in a way that effectively uses your budget and maximizes clicks. We recommend selecting maximize clicks if you're new to running Google ad campaigns.
If you go with this option, it’s easiest to start by determining your desired monthly budget and work backward, dividing it by 30 to find your daily budget. Your daily budget should be no lower than $10-$15, as it’s unlikely that a lower budget will return leads. This means that the lowest monthly budget you need to begin a Google ads campaign is between $300 and $500 per campaign.
Your budget will also depend on how competitive your keywords are. The competitiveness of your keywords is known as keyword difficulty. Keyword difficulty is oftentimes represented as a number from 1-100 that indicates how challenging it will be for your ad to appear in the search results. 1 is the easiest possible, and 100 is the most difficult. While you can use a paid SEO tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush to see the keyword difficulty of certain terms, you can also use free software like the programs in this list to check. We recommend aiming for keywords with a keyword difficulty of 30-70, as they have a good monthly search volume and aren't overly difficult. However, don't be afraid of targeting keywords with lower keyword difficulty scores. Though there are fewer searches for these terms, you'll be most likely to appear in those searches and capture a qualified lead.
Monitoring and improving your Google Ads
Over time, your ads will collect data that allows you to fine-tune your campaigns. Each month, you'll want to review the leads generated through your Google ads and evaluate their quality. The biggest sign that your ads need an adjustment is when you're getting a lot of responses from people who are unlikely to move into your facilities. You would need to refine your ads so unqualified individuals are less likely to click them.
One way that you can refine your ads is with a negative keyword list. Just like you have your target keywords, negative keywords indicate the kind of search terms your community should NOT appear for. It's always a good practice to put your competitors' names on your negative keywords list. Why? If someone is googling another community by name, it's unlikely that they will be willing to talk to you. You could try to spend the time to talk them out of going with the other community and choosing yours instead, but oftentimes you’re better off just putting your budget and time into people who are not yet googling your competitors by name.
Another way to refine your ad campaigns is to adjust your budget. Sometimes, though your ad appears under the right search terms and your negative keywords list is up-to-date, your budget is still too low for your ads to appear. Though it seems counterintuitive, if your bids are too low, you’ll hardly spend anything.
Think of it like this: If you go into the store with ten dollars, but the shirt you want costs fifteen, you’ll still go home with no shirt. No matter how many times you go in with those ten dollars, that shirt will still cost more than you have. So if you’re bidding $2 on an ad space that won’t go for less than $3, you won’t spend any money, but you won’t get any leads. Adjusting your budget will help your ads be more competitive. However, without making sure your ad only appears in the relevant searches, you risk excess spending.
Above all else, ask yourself this: If I was in my future resident’s shoes, would this ad make sense?
This is where your empathy comes back into play. Look at your ad campaign from top to bottom with a fresh pair of eyes. Think about these questions when looking at it:
- Does your text clearly state what they’ll gain from clicking on your ad?
- Will your prospective resident understand why they should click it?
- Does the page they’re brought to upon clicking the ad make sense?
Is the call to action, or what you’re asking them to do, appropriate for this person’s stage in their sales journey?
For example, imagine that you’re targeting the keyword phrase “Assisted living in Denver, Colorado.” Who would most likely be searching for this, and what do they need? We know that because they’re looking for assisted living that this is likely the adult child of the prospective resident. Because they’re searching for assisted living, you can assume they already know what kind of care their loved one needs. A search term asking for a clarification or a comparison of what assisted care is and isn’t would indicate that they’re still trying to find information on the different levels of care. In this case, though, they’re looking specifically for assisted living.
It wouldn’t make much sense for you to appear in this ad if you’re outside of the Denver area. In this case, if your ad was not in that zone, you know the first thing to fix. If your ad is for a different level of care, you also know that this person would not likely click on it.
Now, let’s look at your landing page. When they click on your ad, where do they go? Every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay for that traffic. If you don’t get the person to take the desired action, like filling out a form on your website, then you’ve paid money without getting any qualified leads. In this example, which page would be most appropriate?
- A form asking them to consult with a sales representative
- A page inviting them to download a brochure about your assisted living facility
- A quiz inviting them to discover the level of care they need for themself or a loved one
Let’s break these down one by one.
In the first example where they’re sent to a page asking them to consult with a sales representative, the call to action might not be appropriate for their stage in the buying process. A search asking for a price or availability of units would indicate that they’re ready to talk with sales. However, since this search doesn’t indicate that they’re ready to start the last phase of the sales process, we’ll want to step it back a bit.
In the third example, this call to action might be appropriate for someone who still needs to find out what level of care their loved one needs. However, because the person specified “assisted living,” we can tell that they already know the level of care needed. So, in this case, we’ll want to give them a more appropriate call to action.
The second example might in many cases be the best option. We know that they’re looking for information on assisted living in Denver, Colorado. By offering them a brochure, you can give them the information they need about your community. By asking them to fill out a form, you can collect their name and email address to follow up with helpful resources. After making sure they have the information they need, you can invite them to talk with someone from your sales team and ask whatever remaining questions they have.
Like in this example, you’ll find that thinking from the perspective of a prospective resident or their loved one will give you ample insight into the quality of your ads.
As you learn more about Google ads and the specifics of your campaigns, you will find new ways to improve their performance and help you find new residents. Remember, being empathetic, transparent, and understanding the technical aspects of Google ads are the keys to your campaign’s success. Start with good planning and improve your campaign as you go. No campaign will be perfect on the first go, so keep learning, keep improving it, and keep your focus on the goal of your campaign. Remember, taking the correct approach to your marketing is critical in this line of work. Senior living is a unique industry, and your understanding of it is an invaluable tool for your Google ads.