Media Insights

Annual Open Enrollment Wrapped: Optimizing search to get ahead in 2024

Everyone’s favorite time of year just wrapped. No, we’re not referring to the holidays. We’re talking about Annual Open Enrollment Periods (AEP/OEP).

So, with the recent open enrollment period behind us, how can brands make an impact for 2024? Our answer: holistic search. In short, Ovative experts merge SEO and SEM strategies into a comprehensive, holistic search approach.

We’re gifting you our insights on implementing a holistic search strategy so that you can drive growth for your brand in the coming Annual Enrollment Period.

Navigating the Ever-Changing Consumer Journey 

No two AEPs or OEPs are identical, and this year was no exception. While the audience typically remains consistent, we observed a significant uptick in digital channel usage for healthcare research and plan benefit exploration. Traditional media tactics like print magazines are giving way to more digital channels. Now, consumers are starting their research predominantly through online searches.

Plus, consumers are diving into their research earlier, with a 5% YoY increase in search volume between early September and October. Initiating marketing campaigns early becomes even more crucial to intercept consumers as they actively pursue healthcare solutions. As they say, the early bird gets the worm.

However, it’s not just about bidding on popular terms like “Medicare” or “Healthcare.” Distinguishing consumer intent amid general searches can pose a real challenge. Are they seeking general information or evaluating specific brands? It can be hard to tell. From education and exploration to evaluation and enrollment, tailoring content to meet consumers’ evolving needs at each stage is paramount.

Crafting a Search Strategy for the 2024 Annual Enrollment Period 

We’ve given you the context, and now it’s time to put pen to paper. The key to a successful AEP/OEP search strategy? Planning early. Read on for our search experts’ top tips in preparing for the 2024 Annual Open Enrollment Period. 

Prioritize a Holistic Search Strategy for Customer Growth 

Key alert! SEM and SEO should not be looked at as two separate entities. Instead, view them as one cohesive strategy that creates a seamless customer experience. In serving our healthcare clients, we integrated SEM tactics to enhance our SEO practices for a holistic search approach.

For instance, we originally activated Non-brand search terms, including Broad Match phrases, within our paid campaigns to engage with new potential customers who were exploring healthcare options. By analyzing the performance of these paid search terms, we quickly identified trending topics and interests among healthcare consumers. Leveraging this insight, we optimized our SEO efforts by crafting compelling webpage content tailored to these popular search queries. The results? Enhanced organic visibility and page rankings on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Plus, across Ovative’s four clients, more than $1M in paid search savings. 

Harnessing AI and Machine Learning 

Like we said, it’s difficult to predict where a customer is on their journey to understanding and finding healthcare solutions. Successful brands leveraged AI tools like Google’s Performance Max (PMAX) to dynamically serve ad creative based on real-time customer insights. Smart Bidding was used to optimize bid strategies, ensuring investments were directed towards relevant search queries with higher conversion potential. 

Embracing a Testing Mindset with Open Enrollment Periods

With no one-size-fits-all strategy for Annual Open Enrollment Periods, agility and a testing mindset are absolutely essential. Our Ovative experts recognize the importance of agility, especially when it comes to evaluating new tactics. Incrementality testing has emerged as a valuable tool in our arsenal for accurately gauging the impact of such initiatives. 

Prior to the recent AEP/OEP cycle, Ovative conducted incrementality tests for our clients to assess the efficacy of bidding on Brand search terms. Following the completion of Brand incrementality tests, it was determined that certain brands yielded less incremental value. As a result, we adjusted our strategy on Brand traffic, enabling SEO to capture the traffic instead. Next, we shifted more of our investments into developing a Non-brand strategy to attract new customers beginning their research phase. With our Non-brand strategy in place, we achieved 20% YoY growth in applications across our client base. By reallocating the savings from Brand terms to Non-brand, we successfully tapped into a pool of net-new acquisition customers.

Hesitant to take a big step like this? It’s all about progress over perfection. As a first step, we recommend setting up a geographic-segmented test to mitigate risk while still achieving a read on incrementality. This approach can provide invaluable insights into the true impact of your investments.

What’s Next? Set Up a Holistic Search Strategy with Ovative 

We get it. Navigating Healthcare’s Annual Open Enrollment Period landscape can be complex. That’s why a proactive and adaptable approach is so necessary. Brands and agencies poised to embrace agility, leverage new technologies, and prioritize customer growth are positioned for success. As we look ahead, the pillars of testing, learning, and adapting will remain crucial for sustained growth.

Ready to craft a winning 2024 Annual Open Enrollment Period search strategy? Connect with Ovative Group’s search experts to strategize, build, and execute a successful search program tailored to your brand’s needs.

Kyle Schwietz

Director, Paid Search

About the Author

Kyle is a Director on the Paid Search team at Ovative. He has 10+ years of digital marketing experience, specializing in the retail and healthcare verticals. Kyle is passionate about driving digital growth, uniting online and offline strategies, and developing innovative customer-centric media approaches.... Read More >>

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