Google Adwords Crackdown On Rehab Centers
Update – 11/01/2018
A new rehab scam has unfolded. The Sunday Times expose Daniel Gerrard from London in the UK as a ‘Parasite’ referral agent.
Original Adwords Scam Article
Google has made extremely aggressive changes to Google Adwords that will impact the entire Addiction Treatment industry, which is aimed at providing the right treatment options for addicts and families.
What I gather is rehabs were using illicit/unethical techniques to manipulate Google paid ads, such as; clickbait tactics and brand infringement tactics.
US Prosecutors and health advocates have warned that many online searches are leading addicts to click on paid Adwords ads for rehab centres that are unfit to help them, or, in some cases, endangering their lives.
Google spokeswoman Elisa Greene had the following to say:
We found a number of misleading experiences among rehabilitation treatment centers that led to our decision
Adwords queries such as ‘rehab near me’ no longer appear in the USA. But as per date (16-09-2017), the restriction of rehab ads has not yet affected South Africa. Other rehab related search terms removed by Adwords, included ‘alcohol treatment’, ‘drug rehab’ and ‘alcohol treatment centres’.
The result below is an excellent example of ‘rehab hogging’. The query used was ‘rehab near me’, Adwords display 3 rehabs, two from Cape Town and one from Pretoria. None of which are near me! The 3 pack business listings do however display rehabs near me. (Congratulations Google; the 3-pack results are spot on to my location, but Adwords is up to crap!!)
Unethical rehabs have been hijacking queries such as ‘rehab near me’, while referral services use traps then offer treatment in a different city/countries. The referral service then collects a fee, if the addict signed up.
Front page ads for addiction treatment are lucrative, and some treatment centres, in some cases, have been willing to pay $70 per ad click.
As-is; Google has not yet made an official statement, except for the shallow comment on NYT. Google is renown for making blunt comments. They then sit back and monitor the industries comments and governments reactions. Only then do they make a formal statement.
Google AdWords Vs Google Business Listings
Clamping down on rehab related AdWords might shut doors on certain rehab scams and filter out unreliable rehabs. But as ads disappeared, business listings will move to the top of the organic search, which will direct more people to Google Business/Maps listings, which is a big positive for rehab centres that rank in Google Business listing.
But Google Business listings have serious problems. Many rehab business listings are just pure spam, existing only as lead generators, some of which have dozens of accounts pointing to the same contact number and website.
Business listings are also plagued by hijackers, who use the ‘suggest an edit’ feature to add there own telephone numbers. In essence, Google Business listings are full of bugs.
Google is well aware of what’s happening and in the last few months have also started making major changes to Google Business listings so as to combat listing theft and spam. So we can well expect a major shuffle around in Google business listings.
I suspect treatment centres will now be forced to show they are licensed and accredited and have certification before selling them ads or listing them on Google Business. And I suspect Google will permanently remove ads for queries such as ‘rehab near me’ due to foreign countries and local towns targeting the query that are nowhere near the user.
Reality is; ‘Where there’s high economic motivation, people figure out how to scam Google’ and in the process scammers suppress ethical rehabs and throw away the entire industries name.
Google AdWords Vs Organic Search And SEO
Google’s extremely aggressive changes to Google Adwords directly increases the importance of authentic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which will enable you to position your Treatment Center in organic search results to best educate families and your potential patients.
That’s why I keep singing the same tune; Optimize, Advertise and Socialize ‘White Hat’ style, which is long term. ‘Black Hat’ techniques are short term and will at some stage be caught-out by Google and authorities.
Cyber SEO Services optimizes ‘White Hat’ style and have many years experience in the rehab industry and in the last year have worked with 5 ethical addiction treatment centres from around South Africa and the UK.
Please feel free to visit our prices page for Rehab SEO Prices and Packages. Or submit your addiction treatment website for a Free Basic Technical SEO Audit of your rehab website.
And don’t forget to read our On-Site SEO contract.