The Ultimate Guide to AI for Healthcare Marketers + Do’s and Don’ts Cheatsheet What You Need to Know
The Ultimate Guide to AI for Healthcare Marketers + Do’s and Don’ts Cheatsheet What You Need to Know

Are your marketing efforts working? Is your content resonating with the right audience? Does your messaging need to be reworked? There’s only one way to answer these questions: Look at the data.

As marketers, we measure website performance by tracking the analytics.

But this just became more complicated in healthcare due to guidance released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about using online tracking technologies.

What does this guidance mean for your team, and which website analytics tools are safe to use in healthcare marketing? Here’s what you need to know.

Considerations for Healthcare Marketers: HHS, HIPAA and Protecting PHI

In December 2022, HHS released guidance for HIPAA-covered entities that impacts how we track and use information collected by our websites. Here’s the key takeaway:

“Regulated entities are not permitted to use tracking technologies in a manner that would result in impermissible disclosures of PHI to tracking technology vendors or any other violations of the HIPAA Rules.”

In other words, using tracking technology with data pertaining to users’ private health information (PHI) violates HIPAA Rules.

However, there are blurred lines regarding what kinds of online information constitutes PHI:

  • Does a Google search of symptoms imply a person is experiencing them?
  • Does making an appointment with a cancer center suggest a diagnosis?
  • Does visiting a diabetes webpage indicate that someone has the condition?

Here’s what we do know: All website visitors are presumed to be patients, either past, present or future. This poses a problem for hospital websites … if all users are patients, what kind of information can we collect, and how can we use web analytics tools safely?

As you consider these issues for your hospital web analytics, let’s review and compare the most widely used website analytics tools.

Comparing Hospital Web Analytics Tools

Which web analytics tools are best for your hospital website? It depends on how you want to use them. Below, we compare Google Analytics, Google Search Console and third-party tools like Semrush.

See how these hospital web analytics tools compare at a glance:

Table comparing Google Analytics, Google Search Console and 3rd party analytics tools like Semrush

Google Analytics

Google Analytics gives you information about where users come from and what happens once they land on your website. It collects data directly from Google and your website, making it more accurate than third-party tools.

The platform is free to use and fairly easy to set up. However, Google is notoriously hard to contact when you have issues, so troubleshooting is on you.

Use GA4 to track information about:

  • User demographics, including country, city and gender
  • Traffic acquisition, including direct, organic search and social
  • User engagement, including conversion data
  • User retention and lifetime value

Is Google Analytics HIPAA compliant? Read Google’s statement about HIPAA and Google Analytics. Spoiler alert: There are no guarantees from Google that GA4 is compliant.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console provides information about your website’s SERP (search engine results page) performance. GSC uses data straight from Google, so you get relatively accurate traffic estimates, excluding traffic from users that block tracking.

GSC is also free, but options for help are limited if you run into any issues.

Use GSC to track information about:

  • Your top queries and webpages
  • Clicks and impressions from queries
  • Ranking positions on SERPs
  • Page indexing issues

Third-party web analytics tools: Semrush vs. Ahrefs vs. Moz

Using third-party website analytics tools has advantages and drawbacks. Most tools can offer more insights than GA or GSC alone, but take those insights with a grain of salt.

Third-party sites like Semrush and Ahrefs use a combination of Google’s data, their own estimates and other sources. These sources aren’t always accurate. Traffic and keyword data from third-party tools is an educated guess, at best.

This is why your hospital website’s data will likely vary between Google’s platforms and tools like Semrush or Ahrefs. Here’s what we mean:


If the data is so inaccurate, why do so many marketers use these paid website analytics tools? Because many of them offer information about both your website’s search performance and on-site engagement and include other features like:

  • Keyword data
  • Competitive analysis
  • Backlink insights

See how some of the best web analytics tools stack up:


Semrush is a fan favorite in terms of SEO tools. Its keyword database is huge, it offers helpful competitive insights, and you can use it to track or audit your website’s performance.

But this description barely scratches the surface of Semrush’s functionality. It’s the most “all in one” SEO platform available. Our team considers it a must-have.


Ahrefs is a close alternative to Semrush. Some of its best features are Site Explorer (for competitor analysis), Site Audit and Keywords Explorer. It’s also considered the best tool for backlink analysis.


Moz is another tool for website auditing, keyword research and competitive analysis. Its Keyword Explorer is considered better than competitors’ tools and can be useful for ideation. However, it doesn’t offer as many features as Semrush or Ahrefs.

What Tool(s) Should You Use?

Wondering which hospital web analytics tools are safe to use in light of the most recent HHS guidance? HHS doesn’t specify which tools (if any) have the “green light,” so there are no clear-cut answers. Hear from our Content Strategy Team Lead, Ann Key:

If you have concerns about the data you’re tracking, look into tools like Freshpaint and Heap. Healthcare organizations have started using platforms like these to anonymize their data to stay HIPAA compliant.

Quote from Ann Key, Content Strategy Team Lead at Aha Media Group" “Ultimately, we recommend staying up to date on the latest iteration of the HHS guidance and deferring to your legal team. Have conversations with leadership and with legal and compliance about how you use analytics on your website.”

Stay Up to Date on Healthcare Marketing Topics

Need to stay on top of issues like HIPAA compliance and the best web analytics tools to use for your hospital? Invite us into your inbox, and we’ll keep you updated.

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