Getting Started With Google Ads for the Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Industry
  • December 16, 2020
  • PPC

Getting Started With Google Ads for the Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Industry

Google Ads Restrictions for Medical Device, Pharma Companies, and Health Tech users might search for something related to their health, such as a symptom, new medicine, or an ailment, etc. This¬†might lead them to a site that’s displaying your ad, and boom, you’ve got a potential click.

Enter Pharma PPC (pay per click). As a pharmaceutical advertiser, you can target certain keywords related to your medicine and treatments. These appear as ads when that potential customer tries to search for what you’re offering.¬†

Google Ads for Pharmaceutical Drugs & Medical Devices

Pharma PPC isn’t your¬†normal paid search marketing tool, because there are¬†regulations and policies you need to be aware of. Google has a pretty long list of guidelines that¬†dictate¬†what¬†kinds of¬†pharmaceutical marketing techniques¬†and¬†drug advertising is allowed. This includes different rules for different countries.

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the group that does this. You’re probably aware of its laws if you’re part of a pharmaceutical company. If you’re not, you can look at the FDA¬†website for reference.

Break the rules and there could be penalties. Google could disable your ad campaign, and even remarketing lists. If you keep on breaking the rules, your account could be suspended.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Google Ad Rules

Pharmaceutical manufactures are restricted by where in the world they can advertise, and by the type of product. You’ll need to¬†be certified by Google. Only then will they publish your ad messages.

Prescription drug¬†companies can only advertise in the US, Canada, and New Zealand.¬†And you can’t advertise opioid painkillers.

Over-the-counter drugs may be advertised in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, South Korean, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Bulk drug manufacturers and suppliers can only use Google Ads for pharmaceutical products in Canada and the United States.

Prescription Drug Sale From Online Pharmacies

If you’re an online pharmacy, Google will analyze your ad message, website, app, landing pages, etc. They look at your products and services and how they fit within their policies.

Google looks for any red flags that indicate they’re operating in a place they shouldn’t be, and if so they’ll simply suspend the account until it’s corrected.

Ads for online pharmacies are allowed in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chine, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Promotion and targeting prescription drug keywords are allowed in Australia, Austria, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Be sure to complete the certification process for wherever you want to advertise.

Restricted Drug Terms

You can only use prescription drug terms in your ad text or landing page in Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. Of course, you must first be verified by Google.

Unapproved Substances

This is important. Remember to never promote the following:

  • Products containing ephedra
  • Weight loss or control products with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) combined with anabolic steroids
  • Supplements containing any pharmaceutical ingredients or dangerous substances
  • False or misleading claims
  • Products¬†that do not have any government approval for claims such as curing or preventing a disease.
  • Products named in a way¬†which could be confusing or mistaken for another
  • Any products¬†with a governmental warning, regulatory action, or are currently¬†under investigation
  • DHEA products¬†can only be advertised¬†in the¬†US
  • Melatonin ads¬†are only allowed in Canada and the US

Google doesn’t want you to market experimental or speculative treatments or medicines, such as stem cell and non-stem cellular therapy, platelet-rich plasma, genetic engineering products, gene therapy kits, biohacking, etc.

(Not a complete list)

Recruitment For Clinical Trials

This type of advertising is only allowed in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States or Vietnam.

The ads can’t promote prescription drugs or claim that the product is safe.

HIV Home Tests

Advertising for these is allowed in France, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the United States (must be FDA approved). France, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands also have certain rules.


You can’t sponsor or advertise¬†abortion services or products in:

Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Germany, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Martinique, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Saint Barthelemy, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Kt. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Suriname, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Yemen.

If you try to advertise in these areas, your ad may be approved but limited to certain areas of the country. Also, abortion-related ads not allowed on the Google Display Network.

Birth Control

This type of ad is not allowed in Bahrain, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Territory, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. 

Developing Your PPC Ad Campaign 

There are many ways to make a great PPC ad campaign. We want you to have the best experience, have a lot of fun with this, and avoid frustrations.


Be specific and have them measurable relate to your PPC efforts. For example: getting 1,000 new leads by the end of the year. Or, generating $250,000 in ad revenue.

Goals¬†are more general and less tangible. A pharmacy’s goal may look something like, “to be seen as the number one solution to treat Diabetes.”

Follow the SMART acronym: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

Developing Your Audience Persona

You’ve set your goals and objectives. Great! The next thing you need to do is develop your audience persona. Think about who your ideal hypothetical customer is. How can you support that person with what you’re advertising?

Consider demographics, psychographics, and anything else that would support the typical customer.

Choosing An Ad Network

Google Ads¬†has many different ad networks¬†on its platform. Each of these networks has¬†a¬†set of ad formats and methods.¬†The network you choose will tell you what type of audience you’ll reach.

Google Search Network: This helps brands place paid marketing messages on the pages resulting from Google searches containing your keywords. Be sure to learn how to create a search network campaign.

Google Display Network: Millions of websites have partnered with Google, which helps you to target your potential customers while they browse their favorite sites.

Keyword Targeting For Pharma PPC Campaigns

Here are some general rules Pharma PPC marketers should follow. Don’t use a¬†drug or medicine name as a keyword,¬†include a disease name as a keyword,¬†use your competitor’s¬†brand names as keywords, or use any names of medicines that claim to treat the same¬†health issue.

Design Your PPC Landing Page

Stick to the standards of your country.¬†You don’t want to be suspended, do you?


  • You can only have the¬†drug brands or molecule names on a landing page¬†in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand
  • It should¬†be¬†visually appealing
  • Make sure it loads quickly on¬†most devices

Your landing page should contain the PPC ad keywords. It also needs to provide more details to the message from the PPC ad.

Which Ad Formats Can I Use?

Capture audience attention, but remain 100% compliant with Google’s ad standards. There are also certain ad formats that work well for¬†pharmaceutical companies only.

Text Ads:¬†These are the standard 3 headline and 2 description text ads. Since Google may not show Headline 3 or Description 2, it’s best practice not to put important information in Headline 1 and 2 and Description 1.


Rich Media Ads: These are supported by HTML 5 and offer a variety of options such as expanding banners, peel, and float, videos, games, audios, and/or animations.

Rich media ads also¬†give you a lot of actionable data about users’ ad interactions. Put these insights to work!

Ad Extensions: Ad extensions are a powerful way to boost performance. They scale the size of your ad and add value.

If you’re operating an online and also have a brick and mortar store, use¬†call and location extensions. It provides new ways for users to convert.

How To Receive Healthcare Products And Services Certification

As we mentioned before, you’ll need to prove to Google the¬†legality and authenticity¬†of your pharmacy,¬†and of¬†the products and treatments you¬†want to advertise.

The Application Process:

  • Provide your Google Ads customer ID number (at the top of your account page)

  • A copy of your pharmaceutical license

  • The URL of your website

You might be asked to give additional information. If you’re working for an ad agency, for example, you may need to¬†include¬†details of that partnership in your Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Authorization Letter.

Double-check the country and drug restrictions to avoid any potential roadblocks.

Use Google’s online¬†application form. It will ask you to¬†share some¬†basic information such as your type of pharmaceutical organization, the country in which your pharmacy is licensed, your contact info, and website URL.

What to do if You’re Not Approved

After Googe reviews your information, you’ll receive either an approval or feedback letter.¬†¬†Even if you’re certified,¬†a feedback letter will tell you the reason why an ad or campaign has been flagged.

What does all that feedback mean? Here is a simple table to use.

Google Ads for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers

Start with keyword research before creating a PPC campaign. This will bring you more clicks and conversions.

1. Brainstorm 4 Types of Keywords:

  • Brand¬†(Drug Name)

  • Generic¬†(Drug Generic Name)

  • Disease¬†(Indication, what does it treat?)

  • Competitor¬†keywords¬†(brand names of competitors)

  • HCP vs DTC keywords (what words would a healthcare professional use versus a patient?

  • Add variations and synonyms¬†such as misspelled words

  • Use Google’s¬†Keyword Planner¬†and Keyword Tool, which are based on actual search data¬†and show¬†monthly search volume and competition level

  • Add negative keywords¬†(words you don’t want to lead to your page, like “jobs”)

  • Organize keywords¬†into¬†ad groups¬†so it’s easier to tweak your list later on

  • Sample keywords to consider:

    • (Drug Name) side effects
    • (Drug Name) prescribing information
    • (Drug Name) efficacy
    • (Drug Name) safety
    • (Drug Name) dosage and administration
    • (Drug Name) MOA
    • (Drug Name) reimbursement
    • (Drug Name) billing code
    • (Drug Name) clinical trials
    • (Indication) treatment
    • (Indication) medicine

Customize your organization process so that it suits you. These are just general steps to help you get started.

2. Ad Extensions

Use Google AdWords and choose from dozens of ad extensions. These can add more information and can include location info, call buttons, additional text, etc. Use them to increase click-through rates and to teach people about your medical equipment company.

3. Optimize

Continually monitor your PPC campaigns to get the most out of your investment. Easily set up conversion tracking to keep track of how well your ads correspond to customer activity. Use Google Analytics to see how many new leads and conversions are coming from paid channels.

Pharma PPC Tips

  • Do not mention the drug name and the indication in the same ad.
    • This includes having the drug name in the display URL
  • Set the right Display URL Option if you want to have ads that promote the indication (without mentioning the Drug Name)

  • If you want your ads to display a description of your website, choose one of the following options:

    • Prescription treatment website
    • Prescription device website
    • Medical device website
    • Preventative treatment website
    • Prescription contraception website
    • Prescription vaccine website
    • Sitio de tratamientos con receta
    • Sitio de dispositivos con receta
    • Sitio de dispositivos m√©dicos
    • Sitio de tratamientos preventivos
    • Sitio de anticonceptivos con receta
    • Sitio de vacunas con receta

  • ¬†Microsoft Ads still allows you to have a different display URL which gets redirected to the actually website. You will need to have a Pharma certified account in order to have this option
  • Turn off auto-suggest ads and keywords. Most likely, your ads will need to be approved by med-legal –
  • Track form submissions, PDF downloads, doctor finder, doctor discussion guides to measure performance
  • Increase bid modifiers for known instillation sites/locations
  • Exclude irrelevant terms like logo, log in, careers, stock symbol, etc
  • Review ad copy that includes Now Approved, Now Available since they are time-sensitive and can only be mentioned during a specific time frame
  • For Branded Ads that mention the Drug Name, make sure you apply for OPDP 2253 approval for your campaigns

Go Get Those Clicks

Pharma PPC advertising through Google Ads¬†is one of the best marketing techniques on the internet.¬†Just¬†remember¬†those rules and regulations we’ve talked about.

If you’re a legitimate, certified pharmacy or medical equipment company and you want to attract more traffic,¬†generate new clients, and make that money, then Pharma PPC is for you. You can¬†contact us¬†with any questions you may have.

Now you’re prepared to tackle Google Ads for pharmaceutical and medical equipment ad campaigns, so go get certified with Google Ads, and best of luck.¬†

Sign up today.¬†We’d love to help you edit your ads so you can¬†reach more customers and earn more revenue.

Read more articles about advertising for healthcare and pharmaceutical clients

Share this post? Twitter Facebook Google+
by albert somlith
About author
Albert Somlith

Co-Founder of PPC Ad Editor. I am a leader in digital marketing, specializing in strategic planning, implementation, and optimization.