Digital Advertising for Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment, Part 4

Henning Semat, Head of Online Marketing


Without question, the targeting abilities and agility of digital media outperforms traditional media. One area that most of us can use a refresher course on the best metrics for campaign performance management, especially ones specifically created for clinical trial patient recruitment. The amount of available metrics for tracking can overwhelm seasoned digital marketers. We recommend staying focused on your end goals and selecting metrics that matter. Easy enough?

Awareness, engagement and conversion are common metrics for digital advertising. Awareness metrics that are relevant to a typical patient recruitment campaign include web traffic volume, followers, search specifics and referral traffic from external promotion efforts.

Measuring engagement is more complex, because measurement tools need to be channel-specific and goal-specific. Beyond page views and bounce rates, optimizing content to boost engagement is a discipline that involves set-up, testing, and close-up inspections of specific actions and behavior from web visitors, followed by content modifications based on those actions and behavior.

Engagement metrics look at web visitors’ depth of interactions. They range from time spent on your site, repeat visits, bounce rate, email click-throughs, to social sharing and recommendations. Conversion metrics focus on completed goals such as asset downloads, form fill-outs or completed study registrations.

Google Analytics provides free and specific tools for measurement. Campaigns can be managed through campaign tracking abilities of Analytics (and Adwords accounts can be linked to Analytics for simple management).

At the outset, it is important to set up your campaign so that is tagged and mapped appropriately. (This assumes you know tagging basics) Creating goals and evaluating metrics in Google Analytics gives you specific data to continually improve performance. Consider source, referrals, behavior and events to better measure engagement and conversion and enhance clinical trial patient recruitment advertising performance.

  • Identifying the traffic source by tracking code will determine the top performing traffic or campaign source (e.g. search engine, social network or email promotion). If you have traffic spikes or troughs, you can narrow your date range down to when the traffic spike or trough happened and then look at traffic sources to find out where the traffic came from.
  • Referrals identify the origin of the web traffic. Analytics automatically recognizes where traffic was immediately before arriving on your site, and displays the domain names of these sites as the referral traffic sources in your reports
  • Events are user activities on your website such as downloads, signups or video plays. It is important to set up and track events so they will appear in the behavior flow report. This way, you can determine the level of influence of your events in the path to goal conversion.
  • Use the behavior flow report to follow the path that users take through your site. This can help you see what content is most engaging, or more importantly, where users stop engaging and exit the site. Use the behavior flow to see what path users take through conversions.

It is important to set up these metrics before you do anything else.

Additional Sources:

Setting up utm codes and tagging:

Analyzing traffic sources:

Time on site

Automated event tracking

Campaign tracking