5 Challenges for Advertising Healthcare on Google

13th Dec, 2021
Author image
Tara Wesson
Content Strategist

Did you know that there are 3.5 billion daily searches on Google? As a healthcare brand, you must have some form of representation amongst the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

There are several ways to get noticed on Google; increasing your search visibility generally takes time and effort. To rank well for organic search results, you need a solid SEO strategy. This will involve building quality backlinks through high-quality content marketing.

Another option, a shortcut of sorts, is paid advertising with the Google Ads platform. With the right PPC strategy, you can get your brand exposure, website traffic, but most importantly leads and sales.

Although it’s a faster method to reaping the benefits of Google, it’s also riskier. The wrong ad campaign can waste your advertising budget, yielding no return on investment. You need to know what you’re doing.

As a healthcare brand, there are also unique challenges that you must consider. Google understands the potentially sensitive and dangerous nature of healthcare and medical-related content.

Below, we’ve outlined 5 challenges for healthcare advertisers who promote products and services on the Google Ads platform:

1. Certain Products and Services Are Prohibited From Being Advertised

The most obvious challenge that you’ll face advertising on Google is that certain products and services are prohibited. When it comes to healthcare-related content, Google is very clear on what it allows and what it doesn’t; everything is outlined in its advertising policy.

For example, ephedra-based products are deemed an “unapproved substance” and cannot be advertised on Google. This is its stance, even in countries and regions where its use and sale is legal.

There are quite a lot of different products that Google prohibits. Outside of ephedra-based products, anabolic steroids, and some fat loss supplements are also banned. You can view some examples of what’s restricted on these two pages:

There are also region-specific restrictions regarding what products and services you can advertise on Google. For instance, addiction services can only be advertised in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United States.

You might also need a special Google certification to advertise certain products or services. Addiction services, health insurance providers, online pharmacies, and abortion clinics, for example, require one. These certifications will check to see if you meet local laws/regulations.

In some rare circumstances, instead of a product or service being banned outright, it’ll simply be restricted. The audience these Google ads will reach will be significantly limited, making them unprofitable and therefore unsuitable.

2. You’re Prohibited From Using Certain Phrases

As a healthcare advertiser, Google also prohibits the use of certain phrases within your Google Ads copy/text. This includes both the ad that appears on Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), as well as your post-click landing page.

All the challenges listed in this article apply for both; Google assesses the actual ads, as well as where they lead.

A good example of phrasing that’s prohibited is the use of prescription drug terms. Only certain types of businesses, like online pharmacies or drug manufacturers, can use them. When it comes to healthcare and medicine, it’s not just what you’re selling, but who you are.

There are also region-specific restrictions; only Canada, New Zealand, and the United States can use prescription drug terms.

There are also phrasing restrictions for non-prescription drug products. If you market a product to be “as effective” as a prescription drug, you won’t be able to advertise it. Likewise, if you suggest your non-government approved product can treat, prevent, or cure an illness.

Lastly, using a product name that’s deceptively similar to an unapproved substance will likely get your ad rejected or removed.

Those are healthcare-specific phrasing restrictions; there are still many general ones as well. For example, your product or service might be deemed “inappropriate content” or “adult content.” You can read all of Google’s advertising policies here.

3. You’re Required to Use Some Phrases

As a healthcare advertiser, not only are you prohibited from using certain phrases, you’re expected to use other ones.

For instance, you cannot guarantee a specific outcome or result from using your product or service. Your testimonials, case studies, success stories, and before-and-afters might suggest this to those viewing your landing page. A disclaimer is required, stating that “results may vary.”

When it comes to healthcare and medical-related content, you must avoid making any unsubstantiated claims. Misrepresentation is something that Google actively looks out for when screening advertisers and ads. It wants users to trust the information on its search engine.

Your Google ad copy should also align with the ad copy used on your landing page. If you use certain phrases in your ad, you should use them on your landing page. If your ad promotes a specific product, the landing page should be about that product.

4. You Cannot Use Any Retargeting

As a healthcare advertiser, Google doesn’t allow you to use retargeting in your ad campaigns. Retargeting is an advertising strategy where you can identify those who’ve clicked on your ad. This allows you to send follow-up ads to further engage them, leading to greater conversions.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, you can’t use it. Retargeting uses online user data, which brings up some privacy and ethical concerns, especially when it comes to health.

Now, you can’t use retargeting via your ads, but you can still indirectly use it by capturing leads. Your landing page can be designed to get email addresses by using opt-in forms and lead magnets. Your post-click landing pages should always be created with conversion in mind.

Once you’ve got them to hand over their email, you can send them more personalized ads and content.

5. There’s Significant Competition

As more years pass, the competition for advertising healthcare on Google becomes stiffer and stiffer. Things were significantly less competitive a decade ago; digital marketing wasn’t as household as it is now for healthcare brands.

The sooner your brand dips its toes into advertising on Google, the better. Google Ads is a process that requires time to get better. You must learn how to bid, and how to optimize your ads and landing pages.


As a healthcare advertiser on Google, you must adhere to stricter standards than other industries and niches. These issues provide challenges that can potentially make PPC advertising on the platform difficult.

We hope the information outlined in this guide helped you avoid these problems.

Is your healthcare brand looking for help with its Google Ads strategy? Please contact our PPC advertising team today to learn how Vine Digital can help you get more from your advertising spend.



Retargeting is an advertising strategy that allows you to identify and send ads to individuals who’ve already engaged with previous ads of yours. When they initially click on your ad, a cookie is added to their website browser; this allows them to be identified.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

A search engine results page (SERP) is any results page shown on search engines like Google and Bing. When you type something into Google, the first page of results is a SERP, as is the second.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

Pay-per-click is an advertising model which states that an advertiser pays a publisher each time its ad is clicked. Google is one of the most popular PPC platforms; advertisers pay Google to feature ads on its search engine.

Post-Click Landing Page

A post-click landing page is a landing page that appears after an individual has clicked an ad. They’re typically a stand-alone page on a website, specifically designed and purposed with a singular conversion goal in mind.

Ad Copy

Ad copy is the text that’s featured on an ad; it’s called copy because the words are intended to persuade you into action. The term comes from the practice of copywriting, which deals with writing sales content.

Advertising Spend

Advertising spend is a term for how much money you’re spending on advertising campaigns.

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