Addiction treatment providers nationwide received their notifications this week confirming that they had achieved a new online marketing certification. Providers in this inaugural class now have the go-ahead to purchase the industry’s most sought-after AdWords on Google after a months-long hiatus was instituted by the search engine giant itself.
The effort is part of a cooperative strategy between the industry and Google to create provider accountability and protect consumers from predatory patient brokers.
More than 100 treatment facilities have been approved so far, according to David Khalaf, communications specialist for LegitScript, Google’s independent partner overseeing the certifications. However, this initial phase is still somewhat dynamic as the providers offer feedback to refine the 15-point application and approval process.
For example, online drop boxes and compressed file capabilities were added recently to accommodate the substantial number of documents required to support a treatment organization’s application. Volume and bulk prices were also created for multisite enterprises.
“As we began vetting applicants with many closely related facilities that shared a website, we developed ways in which we could streamline the process to make it more efficient,” Khalaf tells Behavioral Healthcare Executive.
Good guys have the advantage
Completing the LegitScript application was a rigorous task, according to Doug Tieman, president and CEO of Caron Treatment Centers. Caron has facilities in six states and is one of the newly certified organizations now cleared to bid on premium Google AdWords. Although earning the certification takes time and effort, Tieman says the benefit for the industry is that such vetting will help eliminate black-hat marketers from even participating in the more robust Google paid search options. Only the documented good guys will have the privilege.
“Unethical marketing practices in the addiction treatment industry have become common,” Tieman says. “Yet prohibiting all treatment facilities from advertising is not a viable option for anyone—Google, treatment centers or consumers.”
In the future, Tieman says he would like to see Google undertake a similar process for organic search results.
Seabrook, with multiple centers in New Jersey, has also secured its certification. Matt Wolf, vice president of business operations for the 40-year-old organization, tells Behavioral Healthcare Executive that the process wasn’t difficult, but it was thorough, calling for documentation of policies, procedures, staff rosters, licenses and more.
Wolf says the certification has an immediate benefit.
“It legitimizes Seabrook and our industry for the average consumer seeking help,” Wolf says. “Our website now has a certification seal logo that links directly to LegitScript’s site, so anybody can check the name of any facility. Our call center will now be able to make referrals to family members with more confidence in the programs we are suggesting.”
Seabrook refers out more potential clients than it admits, he says, aiming to match those in need in with the most appropriate providers.
Organic search remains in place
It’s important to keep in mind that the certification is still ramping up and that it only applies to AdWords advertising. Organic search engine optimization and Google Maps will remain in place. For the newly certified organizations, LegitScript will also continue to monitor their activity.
“The pre-launch process gave us insight into how we might approach certification for international addiction treatment providers or for recovery residences in the future,” LegitScript’s Khalaf says. “Although we have no immediate plans to expand the program, we'll continue to evaluate this option.”