A screenshot of Google's homepage.NIDA Notes logo - The latest in drug abuse researchAdwords AdsComparison of NIDA Notes Site Traffic in 2014 and 2015

Google AdWords and Pay-per-Click Advertising

For 25 years, NIDA Notes has been one of the premier vehicles of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for disseminating research news and trends to the greater drug abuse and addiction science community. After moving to an online-only format in 2012, NIDA Notes struggled with re-establishing its brand value in a Web-based format. To combat this problem, NIDA tasked IQ Solutions with developing and implementing an effective and cost-efficient marketing plan.


Audience analysis informed the Institute that the information-seeking behavior of NIDA Notes’ target audience relied on search engines such as Google, PubMed, and Google Scholar and that this audience relied on the Internet to reference existing research and to engage in professional social communities. Based on our institutional expertise regarding working clinicians and substance abuse researchers, IQ Solutions determined that pay-per-click advertising (an Internet marketing model in which advertisers pay publishers for each click generated from a Web advertisement) would be an effective tactic to increase traffic to NIDA Notes content. Instead of paying for the ad to be displayed or for each impression, NIDA would be charged only for users actually clicking through to the NIDA Notes website. This strategy would allow the Institute to convert more Web searchers into NIDA Notes readers, while increasing the visibility of the NIDA Notes brand to users searching for drug abuse and addiction research news.

To determine which pay-per-click platform was the best match for NIDA, IQ Solutions first analyzed the behavior of users who entered NIDA Notes pages from different social and search engine channels. This high-level overview confirmed that a majority of NIDA Notes readers accessed the site through Web search and, more specifically, that a majority of Web search entrances came from Google Search. This observation made Google AdWords, a pay-per-click platform that pairs with Google Search, ideal for NIDA Notes. Google AdWords pairs each advertisement with a publisher’s defined keywords, ensuring that ads are displayed only to users who have a relevant interest in the publisher’s content. Combined with a high volume of searches on terms related to NIDA Notes, the information-seeking behavior of the NIDA Notes audience made AdWords a powerful match.

IQ Solutions began constructing the Google AdWords campaign by choosing three NIDA Notes articles based on their current popularity in terms of site traffic and overall topic popularity in search engine results (e.g., marijuana). The resulting variety of articles provided ads that linked to the breadth of NIDA Notes offerings while also expanding the number of keywords matched to NIDA Notes content. We subsequently built keyword lists based on article content as well as synonyms and related keywords discovered using search engine optimization and social listening research tools. Since the campaign launch, we continuously have refined these keywords and ad copy based on user behavior and return on investment in Google AdWords.


The behavior of users who accessed NIDA Notes via search also led to an interesting observation about the NIDA Notes homepage. Although it provided an easy-to-use and well-organized catalog of NIDA Notes articles, the homepage lacked descriptions of the content style, NIDA Notes in the context of the larger drugabuse.gov domain, and different email, podcast, and RSS subscription offerings. To remedy this, IQ Solutions developed a new “About NIDA Notes” page before introducing the Google AdWords campaign. This page quickly became an effective marketing tool and was launched as the fourth Google AdWords site, a complement to three scientific articles and a landing page for consumers searching for drug abuse and addiction news and not specific research topics.

Launched in January 2015, our Google AdWords campaign has resulted in more than 2.6 million impressions of NIDA Notes ads in only 6 months, immediately working to increase the brand’s recognition among users seeking information on drug abuse and addiction science. Perhaps more important, the Google AdWords campaign has resulted in more than 80,000 additional site visits in the same 6-month span. This translates to approximately 37 percent of all NIDA Notes site traffic between January and June and has helped the e-newsletter quickly establish record traffic highs. In total, site visits to date in 2015 have increased by more than 85 percent compared with the same period last year.