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8 Tips To Help Your Drug Treatment Center Thrive In A Post-AdWords World

For many businesses, the morning of September 14th, 2017 was probably much like any other morning. Unless of course, your business happened to be in the drug addiction and rehab industry.

September 14th was the day Google chose to restrict the industry’s ability to advertise through AdWords for addiction centers – a channel vital to generating leads and revenue for many drug rehab facilities. For most advertisers, this decision would lead to many sleepless nights. For some in the addiction treatment and rehab sector, it meant closing its doors for good.

Unfortunately, on June 10th 2018, history repeated itself. Google announced it would completely stop all rehab related ads from appearing on the Search Engine Results Page.

Fortunately, this update doesn’t have to mean your business is done for if you play your cards right. We’ll get to that shortly, but first, let’s examine why Google restricted addiction ads in the first place.

Read on to learn:

  • Google no longer allows advertising of any sort for drug treatment centers as of June 11th, 2018
  • Google is not the only place treatment centers can advertise; People are self-educating and will use several sources of information to find answers
  • Opportunities to grow your business outside of AdWords includes: blogging, paid directory placement, Knowledge Panel optimization, and more

Despite high interest in drug rehabilitation searches, Google stopped showing ads for as much as 96% of related searches. Source: Wordstream

Why Did Google Choose To Restrict AdWords For Addiction Centers In The First Place?

According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 20.1 million people in the United States aged 12 and older struggled with addiction. And, according to Statista, as much as 70% of Google’s revenue comes from advertising through Google sites, which includes Google AdWords.

So why would Google choose to “turn off” ads for a service that (unfortunately) has high demand, thereby limiting its revenue potential?

The answer lies in two basic facts:

  1. Google’s domination is founded on the strength they’ve developed in connecting people to the solutions they seek
  2. There are too many unscrupulous treatment centers that are more interested in making money than actually helping people, which makes it more difficult for Google to provide valuable information to web searchers seeking treatment

In other words, if you use Google to research for addiction treatment centers, only to find out that it’s a bait and switch, you may not be as likely to trust Google with future searches. This means you are less likely to click on their ads.

How Do I Keep The Doors To My Facility Open?

Although it’s dated now, one of my favorite statistics – and one from Google itself – is that consumers as far back as 2011 looked at 10.4 sources of information before making a purchase decision.

Regardless of where that number stands today, the point is simple: as big as Google is, it’s not the only place people go for information. And because of that, your business must do everything it can to appear in as many relevant places as possible.

This is why, aside from the more obvious approach of ensuring that you run an ethical business, the next best thing you can do to keep your facility open is to focus on diversifying your marketing efforts.

Below are eight tips you can follow to help your treatment center thrive, despite the challenges Google has thrown your way!

Opportunity 1: Bing

Bing generates 5 billion monthly searches in the US alone. It also has less advertiser competition and a cost-per-click that is, on average, 33.5% less than Google. As of this writing, there are no restrictions on drug addiction treatment advertising in Bing, unlike AdWords for addiction centers. If you haven’t advertised on Bing or you are but you haven’t given it more attention, there’s no time like the present.

The cost and conversion comparison of Bing Ads and Google AdWords with a Linkmedia 360 client from the beginning of February through the end of May 2018.

Opportunity 2: Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising is an automated way of buying display ad space on other websites, apps, and even smart TVs. You can manage programmatic campaigns yourself using a tool like The Trade Desk or you can hire a third-party company such as MNI to handle it for you.

Regardless of which option you choose to manage these campaigns, programmatic advertising lets you reach people in a very targeted way. For example, you can choose to run ads on websites that talk about addiction, or you can choose to show display ads on other websites to people who previously did Google searches for terms like “alcohol addiction.” You can also show ads to people who are known, in a HIPAA compliant manner – to be more likely to struggle with substance addiction.

The benefit for your business is two-fold. One, because your ads are highly targeted, more people will click on them and visit your site. And two, as more people see and hear your ads (on services like Spotify and Pandora, for example), they will be more likely to perform searches for your brand name. Although you may not be able to advertise on AdWords for your addiction center today, your site should rank #1 organically for your brand name, and you can capture more traffic through branded searches in this manner.

Opportunity 3: Free and Paid Directories

If you’ve done any rehab-related searches, you may have seen directories such as Rehabs.com or Psychology Today show up frequently in the first page of search results.

If you aren’t already listed, or if you haven’t maintained your listing on sites like these, consider revisiting them:

  • Have you uploaded recent photos?
  • Does your listing have the proper categories?
  • Do you have a unique business description for each directory? Is your phone number correct?

Ensuring the quality of these key pieces of information can help your site appear better within the directories. Because they already rank well, they get a lot of SEO traffic. Therefore, if you rank better within these sites, it’s more likely that more people are able to see your contact information and reach out.

Rehabs.com ranks #1 in Cleveland for the query “best rehab centers”

Opportunity 4: Native Advertising

As with directories, many other types of non-competitor sites can and do rank well for relevant keywords. A great example is Quora, which generates more than 200 million monthly unique visitors through its own SEO efforts.

Recently, Quora launched a self-serve advertising platform that lets you run ads on pages that talk about drug addiction treatment. Because people who visit these pages are clearly interested in treatment, your ads will be more likely to resonate and drive qualified traffic to your site. Better yet, you only pay for clicks on your ads, and because Quora is a new advertising platform, costs-per-click are less expensive than Google’s would be.

Sites like Quora rank well for relevant keywords. Advertising on Quora can increase your reach and help get your contact information in front of more people. Source: Quora

Opportunity 5: Facebook Ads

According to a recent study by Social Media Examiner, 93% of companies that have a social advertising budget advertise on Facebook, and with more than 2 billion active monthly users, it’s not hard to see why it’s an attractive alternative to Google AdWords for addiction centers.

However, what makes Facebook even more compelling is that you can actually target people who have shown an interest in relevant behaviors, such as alcohol consumption.

Facebook’s targeting options include the ability to advertise to people who have expressed an interest in alcoholic beverages. Source: Search Engine Watch

Opportunity 6: Knowledge Panel Optimization

If you’ve ever done a search for a specific business by name, you’ve likely seen a box with information to the right-hand side of the normal search results. This is called the Knowledge Panel.

Although it will only appear for branded searches, remember that it is possible for external websites – which you ultimately have less control over – to also rank for your name. Taking control over the features in the Knowledge Panel will help you defend your brand and can keep people’s focus on your contact information instead of other sites.

For reference, features you can optimize within the Knowledge Panel include:

  • Images (of your treatment center and employees)
  • Links to appointment scheduling pages
  • Google Posts
  • Custom business descriptions
  • Virtual tours
  • Customer reviews
  • Questions and answers with Google.

Here’s a good post from Moz that covers many of these features, including how to manage them through your Google My Business account.

An example of an optimized knowledge panel.

Opportunity 7: Blogging

You can also put more into your blogging efforts.

To be clear, putting more effort in doesn’t mean just posting more content. It means getting an understanding – whether it’s direct feedback from patients and their loved ones or using a more quantitative tool such as Google Search Console – of what people are actually searching for and then focusing on providing valuable insights for those people within your content.

This does two things for your business. First, over time, your site will begin to rank for a wider variety of keywords. This can help generate more traffic. Second, because you will have focused on providing value to the people visiting your site, you will be more likely to develop trust and increase your likelihood at converting this increased SEO traffic into more admissions.

As an added bonus, you can promote your blog content in the form of Google Posts and social media updates. This activity can help properties such as your Facebook profile rank better for your branded searches, which further helps drive more website traffic.

SEO traffic trend of a client that invested in increased blog content production. Note that the dramatic increases in traffic took more than one year to take hold.

Opportunity 8: Legit Script

Last and most definitely not least, you should do everything you can to get accepted back into Google AdWords for addiction centers by way of Legit Script.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, or you have but just haven’t had the time to wrap your head around it, potential Google advertisers must submit a non-refundable, paid application to Legit Script and follow a stringent vetting process for the chance to run ads through Google AdWords again. Not all applicants will be approved, and only a small number of applicants (about 30 in the first wave) will be approved initially.

For more information, check out the Legit Script website.

Diversify Your Way to Success

Although Google’s decision to restrict AdWords for addiction centers caused plenty of stress for both Linkmedia 360 and our addiction clients, the fact that all campaigns adhered to a more diverse set of marketing disciplines like those above helped them not only keep the doors open but grow their bottom lines. And the best part is that enough time has passed for Google to, well, open the door at letting more advertisers back in. The ability to grow when an entire marketing channel has been taken away, then the opportunity to add that channel back is as clear an example as any that diversity is a key to marketing success.

If you run a drug treatment center and you are struggling with how to diversify your marketing plan, of if you just have a few more questions about these or similar tactics, you’re in the right place. Just give us a call at 1.877.843.1091. Contact us – we’re here to help!

About the Author

MattMesenger

Matt Mesenger

Senior Director of Solutions

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