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Google Resumes Ads for Certified Drug & Alcohol Rehab Facilities

May 4, 2018

As substance addiction and abuse became unfortunately more mainstream in 2017, the addiction rehab industry grew as well. Now a $35 billion-dollar industry in the United States, new rehab facilities are sprouting up all over the country.

Most of these 14,000 rehab facilities provide quality care for those struggling to overcome their addiction, but not all these facilities provide the same treatment. Some bad players in the industry were making the most of the increase in addiction and the lack of rehab regulation to turn a profit by providing substandard and ineffective care to patients.

The potential profit from each patient outweighed the costs of care by so much that marketing and acquiring new patients took priority over patient care for many of these facilities.

In response to this concerning trend, Google severely restricted the number of rehab related search ads it served in September 2017.

google drastically restricts ads on rehab related searches

In the months that followed, all rehab facilities saw a shocking 96% decline in the reach of their search ads. All facilities were similarly penalized, regardless of the quality of their care. The shift in policy came as a shock to many and left quality providers with no options to resume their ads on the Google SERP.

Introducing LegitScript

Recently, however, Google announced a path for qualified addiction treatment professionals to resume their advertising while keeping risky players off their network. Now, qualified advertisers can apply for certification through LegitScript to advertise on Google. LegitScript’s certification ensures that all addition treatment options that appear on the SERP are staffed with trained, licensed professionals, compliant with local laws and best practices, and are transparent on the services they offer their patients.

LegitScript’s addiction treatment certification is available to several types of businesses providing addiction treatment and support, including:

  • In-Person Clinical Treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, including inpatient, residential, and outpatient programs.
  • Mutual Support Forums for non-clinical support networks among those recovering from addiction.
  • Crisis Hotlines for those who provide remote support, assistance, or information for those in or seeking recovery from their addiction.

Qualified advertisers can begin their certification application today here. LegitScript charges a $995 application fee and an annual fee of $1,995 to maintain your certification.

Not all addiction treatments will be able to resume ads on Google, however. In addition to preventing shady, unqualified treatment providers from getting access to the SERP, LegitScript also does not certify several types of businesses including:

  • Sober Living environments such as “sober houses” or similar residences without dedicated clinical support.
  • Lead generators or affiliate agencies that advertise with the intent of providing patients to a partner or local facility.
  • Addiction treatment outside of the US. LegitScript’s certification is for US advertisers only. Google still restricts rehab-related ads internationally and has not yet announced a plan to resume rehab related ads outside of the United States.

How Will This Change Your Campaigns?

A combined $2,990 charge to keep your business in Google’s good graces may sound costly. However, in this industry, that may be a small price to pay.

The cost per click of drug and alcohol treatment providers has historically been one of the most expensive in the industry, nearly 3 times the average CPC on the SERP and twice as expensive as others in the healthcare industry.

google adwords rehab industry performance search vs gdn

In that perspective, $3,000 for the year is the effectively the same as the cost of about 500 clicks, or the extra cost of one and a half clicks per day. The annual cost of certification is certainly a barrier to enter the market, but it should be affordable for those mature facilities that Google wants to include on the SERP.

Certified advertisers may even benefit from the high cost and additional restrictions on Google’s search ads. The explosive growth of the addiction recovery industry has made the market increasingly more competitive. With only a maximum of 7 ads appearing for each search result, that growing competition can easily drive up the costs each advertiser pays per click in the AdWords auction.

Restricting lead generators and other advertisers with disproportionately high budgets from entering the AdWords auction will ultimately lower the competition for these expensive keywords and ultimately lower their cost per click as well. That's good news.

Mark Irvine

Mark Irvine

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream, focused on research and training for the everchanging world of PPC. He was named the 5th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2017 by PPC Hero.