Top 20 Diseases By Paid Search Advertising Spending

To gain insight into a key aspect of online healthcare advertising, AdGooroo has produced a ranking of the top 20 diseases by paid search advertising spending:

Top 20 Diseases Paid Search 

To conduct the study, we examined U.S. Google desktop text ad spend on disease-related keywords that have generated a minimum of $2500 in ad spend over the 12-month period from August 2016 through July 2017, including terms such as ‘rheumatoid arthritis’, ‘lung cancer symptoms’, ‘copd treatment’ and ‘excessive sweating’. We then grouped the terms together according to their related disease in order to produce the ranking.

In total we found 1,880 disease-related keywords with U.S. desktop search spend of at least $2,500 during the 12-months studied, with 20,393 advertisers spending a total of $977,000 to sponsor these terms on U.S. Google desktop during the period at an average cost per click of $3.99 and an average clickthrough rate of 6.15%.

The Top 5 – #1 Mesothelioma

Although rare in the U.S. population, we were not surprised to find mesothelioma, a form of cancer, at the top of the ranking with nearly $32.7 million in paid search ad spend. Mesothelioma keywords are consistently among the most expensive terms in paid search according to AdGooroo data. The 20 mesothelioma terms included in this study, for instance, had an average cost per click of $53.27, compared to the average cost per click of $3.99 for all 1880 keywords studied.

The top three advertisers on the mesothelioma keywords, Sokolove Law, Mesothelioma Claims Center and MesoLawyersCare, give an indication why mesothelioma keywords are so expensive. Namely, the disease is at the center of many asbestos-related lawsuits where judgements and settlements often range in the tens of thousands to millions of dollars. Accordingly, advertisers in the legal profession set high bids on mesothelioma keywords because they stand to receive substantial legal fees should their client prevail in court or settle.

The Top 5 – #2 Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis or RA ranked second with nearly $29.9 million in paid search ad spend during the 12 months studied.

RA, an autoimmune disease that causes painful inflammation in the joints, is one of 100 different forms of arthritis. Keywords related to other forms of arthritis that attracted high paid search ad spending during the 12 months studied were general arthritis terms (not specifying a type), which generated $5.4 million in paid search spend, psoriatic arthritis ($3.5 million) and the most common form of arthritis osteoarthritis ($487,000).

RA sufferers account for around 1.5 million out of the approximately 40 million people with arthritis in the U.S. Although paid search ad spend for RA is disproportionately high compared to other forms of arthritis, it is a particularly expensive disease to treat; on average RA patients pay $2,700 per year in insurance copayments for the biologic drugs used to treat the disease, according to the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology. The top two advertisers on RA keywords were the prescription drug brand sites ($5.8 million) from AbbVie and (nearly $3 million) from Pfizer.

The Top 5 – #3 Alcoholism

Alcoholism, which has been classified as an illness by the American Medical Association since 1956, ranked third with nearly $23.4 million in paid search ad spend. Alcoholism is highly common according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, which reports that 17.6 million people in the U.S., or 1 in 12 adults, suffer from it. Alcoholism is also expensive to treat; in-patient treatment centers can cost several hundred dollars per day for a 30-day program.

The top three advertisers on the 7 alcoholism-related keywords in our study were lead aggregator sites and, which match patients with treatment centers, and the non-profit In the Rooms Foundation.

Drug addiction ranked 12th with $7.7 million in paid search ad spend during the period, while smoking cessation keywords produced $4.1 million in search spend. In addition to leading on alcoholism keywords, was also the top advertiser on drug addiction keywords. GSK’s Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ site ($721,000) was the top advertiser on the smoking keywords, followed by Pfizer’s ($511,000).

Altogether, alcohol, drug and smoking addiction keywords accounted for $35.2 million in paid search ad spend over the 12 months studied.

The Top 5 – #4 Psoriasis

Ranking 4th with $21.3 million in paid search ad spend is psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that primarily affects the skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 40% of the 7.5 million people in the U.S. with psoriasis have a form known as psoriatic arthritis that also causes inflammation in the joints.  As mentioned above, keywords specific to psoriatic arthritis generated an additional $3.5 million in spend.

The Top 5 – #5 Diabetes

An estimated 24-29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, which has seen a 300% increase in the U.S. population from 1980 to 2014 according to the Center for Disease Control.  General diabetes terms ranked 5th with nearly $17.4 million in paid search spend, while terms specific to type 2 diabetes ranked 7th with $13.2 million. Type 1 diabetes terms produced another $3.6 million during the period. The American Diabetes Association estimates that just 4% of people in the U.S. with diabetes have the type 1 form, also known as juvenile diabetes, which helps to explain why there is less spend for type 1 diabetes keywords than type 2. (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) was the top advertiser on both general diabetes terms, spending nearly $2.7 million over the 12-month period, and type 1 diabetes terms (spending $1.1 million). JDRF was also the second highest spending advertiser on type 2 diabetes terms ($994,000), even though its mission is exclusive to ending type 1 diabetes. The top advertiser on type 2 diabetes was the pharmaceutical manufacturer Astra Zeneca.

Keywords related to hyperglycemia or high blood sugar, which is associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, generated $4.7 million in spend during the 12 months studied.


In addition to mesothelioma, there were three other forms of cancer in the top 20 ranking, including lung cancer, ranked 6th with $15.5 million in spend, breast cancer, ranked 8th with $12 million in spend, and multiple myeloma ranked 18th with nearly $6 million in spend. The study also found paid search ad spend on keywords related to the following additional types of cancer:

  • Prostate cancer – $5.1 million
  • Melanoma – $4.5 million
  • Ovarian cancer – $3.6 million
  • Pancreatic cancer – $3.6 million
  • Colon cancer – $3.2 million
  • Lymphoma – $3. 1 million
  • Cancer (general) – $2.7 million
  • Skin cancer (general) – $2.2 million
  • Cervical cancer – $1.6 million
  • Leukemia – $1.2 million
  • Brain cancer – $1.1 million
  • Bone cancer – $906,000
  • Liver cancer – $844,000
  • Esophageal cancer – $782,000
  • Bladder cancer – $765,000
  • Throat cancer – $656,000
  • Carcinoma – $616,000
  • Thyroid cancer – $555,000
  • Stomach cancer – $555,000
  • Uterine cancer – $497,000
  • Testicular cancer – $411,000
  • Mouth cancer – $194,000
  • Sarcoma – $168,000
  • Endometrial cancer – $141,000

There are 14.7 million people in the United States who suffer from at least one of the more than 100 types of cancer.

Mental Disorders

The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 43.5 million Americans experience mental illness each year. Two mental disorders ranked in the top 20 diseases: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) ranked 9th with $11.8 million in spend, while bipolar disorder ranked 15th with close to $6.8 million in spend.

Paid search ad spend on keywords related to additional types of mental disorder include:

  • Depression – $6.4 million
  • Schizophrenia – $5.7 million
  • Autism – $4.1 million
  • Anxiety/panic attack – $3.5 million
  • Eating disorders – $2.7 million
  • Asperger’s syndrome – $1.3 million
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder – $1.1 million
  • Mental disorder (general) – $462,000

Heart Disease

The leading cause of death in United States is heart disease, according to the Center for Disease Control. Affecting nearly 86 million Americans, heart disease comprises a number of different heart/cardiovascular conditions, two of which made the top 20 ranking by paid search ad spend: Congestive Heart Failure, ranked 16th with $6.5 million in spend, while Atrial Fibrillation, ranked 19th with $5.8 million.

Paid search ad spend on keywords related to additional heart disease conditions include:

  • High cholesterol – $4.3 million
  • Heart disease (general) – $2.7 million
  • Heart attack – $2.5 million
  • Hypertension – $2.5 million
  • Stroke – $1.3 million
  • Arrhythmia – $537,000
  • Heart valve disease – $430,000
  • Mitral valve prolapse – $271,000
  • Aortic aneurysm – $250,000

OTCs, Allergies and Back Pain

Allergies and back pain are two separate medical conditions but they share a common characteristic in our study—manufacturers of over-the-counter (OTC) medications are their top advertisers in paid search.

GSK’s OTC nasal spray brand Flonase led in paid search spend on the allergy keywords with $1.6 million, followed by Bayer’s OTC brand Claritin, which spent $531,000. The third-ranked spender on the allergy keywords we studied was the home allergy test site, which spent $487,000.

In total, allergy keywords generated nearly $7.5 million during the 12 months, while keywords for asthma, which is associated with allergies, produced an additional $2.7 million.

Bayer’s OTC brand Aleve was the top spender on back pain keywords with $754,000 in spend, while Pfizer’s ThermaCare heat wraps ranked 3rd with $315,000.

At the same time, the second-ranked spender on back pain keywords was AbbVie which spent $603,000 sending searchers to its site, which provides information on ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis, and links to AbbVie’s site for its prescription drug Humira. (Separately, the keyword ‘ankylosing spondylitis’ drove $1.8 million in paid search ad spend during the period.)

In total, back pain keywords generated $6 million in paid search ad spend during the 12 months studied.

View the Full Ranking of Top 20 Diseases by Paid Search Ad Spending

Note: The results of this study are limited to U.S. Google desktop text ad activity on the 1,880 disease-related keywords from August 2016 through July 2017. Advertisers may be sponsoring additional disease-related keywords that, if measured, would alter the findings of this report.


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