Addiction Treatment Marketing Takes New, Safer Approach on Google
Back in mid-September, Google, to prevent scams, took the extreme measure of slowly eliminating specific rehab keywords from Adword sales. Shaddy and underhand treatment centers will now be unable to pay for their ads to appear first in certain Google queries. However, the measure equally affects legitimate rehab clinics and will significantly harm their outreach capacity. George Fischer, marketing director for Recovery Village network of rehab, predicts they have lost upwards of 40% of their ad space, amounting to millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Marketers will shell out enormous amounts of money in pay-per-click ads for Google, often relying on them as their main source of acquiring new patients. In today’s world, people don’t have time and money to physically travel to treatment center hundreds of miles away for an orientation and tour of the facilities. Instead, they turn to Google as their primary source of information, searching terms like “rehabs near me”, “rehab for alcohol”, or “rehab for women”.
Google has taken a radical step in ensuring the public safety and legitimacy of their services. Hopefully, this ban will prove temporary as the search engine continues to develop better screening of ads. Some marketing experts have even suggested Google could develop an advertising certification program for certain fields.
We should consider: will a flat ban be enough to stop scammers? Without paid searches appearing, people will now be more drawn to Google Maps displaying business listings or rich featured snippets. Crooks and hackers use so-called “black hat” SEO tactics to manipulate these organic search results to either steal the identity of addicts or direct them to corrupt rehabs. On top of that, most rehab keywords organic searches just result in rehab listings sites that are themselves shams for not providing honest reviews on the treatment centers (unlike Wherehab).
Google has faced legal challenges with their Adwords program for years now and only just recently decided to take action in the medical field. Many have accused Google of being complacent of the corruption and turning a blind eye. Google’s sudden policy change did not sit well with many people. This so-called AdWords purge took place suddenly and without warning. Overnight, Google stopped selling and shut down all current ads related to rehab search terms. Rehab clinics won’t see any refunds for campaigns. Many have complained Google acted unprofessionally. By paying millions in ads, most people would expect better customer service.
Nevertheless, the rehab related Adwords ban is a step forward that will hopefully clear out the web of scam artists.
Search Result Scams: How Do They Work?
At the top of your search results for most any keyword, you’ll often see a few at the top with the word “ad” in a small box next to the URL. Marketers have paid for those links to appear first through a risky bid process for the targeted keywords. To have a successful business online, you could either pay for this kind of Adwords campaign or use search engine optimization strategies to rank your website organically (naturally through the efficient use of keywords, link building, and web design). Anyone could use both of these tactics to target web traffic and manipulate substance abusers for the sake of profit.
Pay-Per-Click Advertising Scams
Before, anyone could bid in the Adwords market, no matter their intentions. This scenario created a severe ethical problem when scammers pay for links to disseminate false information about medical treatment. Someone immediately seeking help for an overdose could potentially land on those sites and make a fatal mistake. Why would someone fool people with dangerously wrong information? Often they embed tracking cookies to steal your information or flood their pages with invasive spam.
Referral Call Centers
Another problem is these various “referral” service websites, posing as legitimate “facilities”, but in reality are just shady marketers being paid a commission for leads. These websites will have a number to the “facility” that actually go to a 3rd party sales call center. Then, they’ll take some basic information and sell that private information to the highest bidder among interested rehabs. Whoever picks up the phone in that call center is not a medical professional and has no interest in any rehab credentials. Attractive ads have fooled many people with trending keywords, such as “non-12 step drug rehab” or “holistic drug rehab”. Many of those illegitimate rehab facilities don’t offer any of the advertised services and instead just want a way to bill the insurance companies.
If you searched “rehabs near me” or include a city-specific keyword phrase, the Google Maps would likely appear as a snippet above the results. Digital marketing companies spend a lot of time and money to get their clients listed on Google Map. Unfortunately, scumbag hijackers also use Google Maps to feature fake or illegitimate businesses using the “suggest an edit”. Whether the listed business is “real” or has the correct address information may not affect Google rankings immediately. This means they can add made up 1-800 number and company pictures to fool people. Many rehab scams use this ploy for the sole purpose of increasing call volume. You should always double check Google Maps and try to trace them to honest reviews. If the number listed on Google Maps is different than any posted on the official website, you should proceed with caution. As a legitimate rehab center owner, you should check your business details on Google Maps almost daily to prevent hijacking.
Wherehab: Fighting to End Rehab Corruption
Finding a reliable and quality rehabilitation facility must be a process that is safe and trustworthy. Google has taken a one step in the right direction by placing safety above profits. The scam artist will continue to flood with internet with schemes to steal our information or sell at our expense. Sadly, these tricks often work against emotionally distraught and desperate addicts and their loved ones. And, too many rehabs are more consumed with filling their pockets than actually treating their patients.
Wherehab is changing the future of seeking addiction treatment. Our reviews are honest and forthcoming based on thorough inspections by our staff. In the rehab world, we help sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’ve been in your shoes and have a passion for the full recovery of all patients.
Let us help you find the right rehab for you!
- Ferguson, C. (2017, September 14). Exclusive: Google is cracking down on sketchy rehab ads. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/14/16309752/google-rehabs-near-me-search-adwords-crackdown