Translation and Language Industry Observations

As a recruiting manager for a clinical trial, you probably have experience with search engine and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Your objective is to attract the highest numbers of potential participants and move them through the recruiting funnel successfully. Using PPC to recruit clinical trial participants is not only effective, it can be done with relatively low budgets. Because unlike digital advertising in a competitive field which can cost a great deal of money, the keywords you will target in clinical trial enrollment will typically have low KD (Keyword Difficulty). This post covers the basics of using Google Ads for clinical trial recruitment.

Choose Strong Keywords

Your first mission with Google Ads is to select the keywords that will drive that traffic to your landing pages. Google’s Keyword Planner is an good tool for this.  It allows you to research the keywords and phrases people are using most.  It shows you a range of possible keywords, the competition for each term and cost-per-click.  For clinical recruiting, targeted terms might include:

  • Clinical trials in [city]
  • [Condition] research in city
  • Clinical studies for [condition]

It’s vital to know when Google Ads is working well, and when to change tact.  So start by finding a baseline of your website traffic before launching any keyword campaign.  Then monitor your traffic closely.

You must be aware of:

  • Key phrases searched
  • Search engines used
  • Landing pages
  • Bouncing traffic
  • Exit pages

Bounced Traffic Signals a Problem

In clinical trial recruiting, too much bounced traffic means you’re reaching an audience that is busy researching a condition or a treatment but isn’t planning to participate in a study.

How much bounced traffic is too much?  That depends.  The occasional bounce is expected.  But if you notice a keyword is leading to a high percentage of bounced traffic, it’s time to drop that phrase.

Which search Engines provide the best results for clinical trial recruiting?

In the US, Europe and South America Google Ads (formerly AdWords) is the dominant search engine.  Search Engine Journal says Google handles 86% of all searches worldwide. However, that remaining 14% represents billions of queries every day.  So consider adding a few other search engines to your marketing mix.

Other Search Engines to consider:

  • Microsoft Bing — a natural choice for many Microsoft users
  • Yahoo Search — now powered by Microsoft Bing, Yahoo is a classic SE with a dedicated following
  • And Duck Duck Go — a new player in the field, Duck Duck Go provides an anonymous browsing experience. This could be key for patients hoping to learn about sensitive conditions or diseases that may have a stigma attached to them, like HIV / AIDS.
  • Foreign language search engines like Baidu (China), Yandex (Russia).

Write Effective Ad Copy for Search Ads

Once you’ve gotten targeted traffic to your trial’s website, it’s time to engage them with great ad copy. You need to include your keywords and a clear call to action (CTA) to encourage recruits to enroll in the study.  Thoughtful, custom content will keep prospective recruits engaged and moving forward in the funnel by addressing their specific pain points. Great ad copy solves the searcher’s problem.

Going Live

Finally, it’s time to go live.  With Google, your pay-per-click ads show up within a few hours.  Keep an eye on your traffic reports so you can make changes as insights become available. If your search ads are not converting into phone calls and emails, or if you need to make changes to a campaign, you can pause the program.

Targeting International Audiences

Some sponsors run multicenter trials which are conducted in different countries. If this is the case, contact a translation agency to help you translate the keywords, the Google Ads and the landing pages into other languages. Make sure that you have informed consent translated in the languages spoken by the clinical trial participants. Use Google’s Keyword Planner and Google Analytics to target and track the traffic in each country and language.


In sum, a great search ads campaign will help you reach new, targeted patient enrollees.  When well-executed, Google Ads can significantly increase web traffic and boost attendance.

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