Home » Blog Articles » Healthcare Marketing » The Challenges of Online Advertising for Addiction Treatment Centers

Community behavioral health centers, as well as addiction treatment centers in general, sometimes have a challenging time trying to advertise online. Like any other healthcare specialty, they need to display medical information and treatment options for prospective patients. Yet, their practices can easily run afoul of internet advertising policies.

Expanding a medical practice’s online presence is essential for rehabilitation center’s survival and growth. Whether they are operating programs that are based on an office-based opioid treatment (OBOT), opioid treatment program (OTP) or a medication assisted treatment model, they will need some form of advertising. Accurately using CPT and HCPCS codes as well as delivering the ASAM level of care is one skill. Navigating the complexities of digital advertising regulations and options are an entirely different skill set.

The Influence of Google & LegitScript:

Most people understand the tech giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook have a tremendous impact on the behavior of the internet. This is particularly true for search engine rankings and online advertising. Concepts like SEO (search engine optimization) have an influence on how well a topic or website shows up during an internet search.

Yet, good SEO takes time to grow a practice’s presence on the internet. This is where online paid advertising is extremely helpful. Paid internet advertising can quickly help to jump start a medical practice’s patient volume. SEO strategies take many months to make a noticeable impact, but paid or pay-per-click ads can change internet traffic patterns in only a few days.

Due to this concern, back in September 2017, Google announced that it was suspending all online pay-per-click (PPC) advertising for drug addiction treatment services. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, made this decision due to advertising abuse on the internet. The growth of unlicensed addiction treatment providers, sometimes called pill mills, was a growing concern among behavioral health professionals.

However, by April 2018 the technology company stated that it would lift the advertising ban on addiction treatment center services. Google stated in May 2018 that it would update the healthcare policy that prevents PPC ads targeting substance abuse recovery-oriented services for drug addiction. Some examples of addiction treatment services that are specifically mentioned by Google include:

  • Behavioral health providers who administer drug & alcohol addiction treatment programs.
  • Drug and alcohol addiction crisis hotlines.
  • Substance abuse recovery support services.

LegitScript Certification:

By August 2018, some addiction recovery centers were once again advertising their services on Google. But in order to display paid advertising on Google, as well as on other digital platforms; addiction treatment providers need to earn a LegitScript certification. After 2018, if addiction recovery providers wished to advertise on Google (as well as Facebook and Bing) they would have to go through LegitScript’s certification process and pay an annual subscription fee.

One of LegitScript’s goals is to make sure that addiction treatment centers that advertise online, are actually providing professional and ethical medical services. The goal is to eliminate the more questionable behavioral health providers from advertising on the various internet tech company’s advertising platforms. Addiction treatment certification is an important service the drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers must obtain, if they wish to fully advertise their services online. Once treatment centers are vetted by LegitScript, paid online advertising will usually run far more efficiently and not suffer from interruptions.

Otherwise, according to Google’s documentation, without LegitScript’s certification as well as following policy guidelines, Google will not allow ads that promote prescription opioid painkillers.

PPC Ads for Addiction Treatment:

In general, the use of pay-per-click ads are a good strategy for promoting a behavioral health practice. When ads are properly implemented, modern search engine algorithms will place online ads prominently on most search engine result pages (SERP). Google’s search engine is the most well-known and captures the majority of internet traffic, so their PPC advertising ecosystem is one of the best options.

Google’s PPC Ads also allow healthcare providers the option to promote their practice outside of the search engine. Google will display PPC ads on other partner websites that are part of the Google Display Network (GDN). This expanded network is a cluster of over two million apps, videos and websites.

When Google’s online advertising platform started in 2000, the internet was a much different place. Since this time, the internet has become more complex and has grown to become an essential part of everyday life. Modern algorithms and machine learning allow PPC ads to specifically target their advertising. When this is combined with the fact that Google is one of the dominant companies on the internet, it just makes sense to use their PPC advertising platform.

This makes Google Ads a highly cost-effective advertising solution for healthcare providers. The dominance of Google’s search engine is what makes their PPC ads one of the more optimized and cost-effective online advertising platforms.

Google ads platform allows medical practices and healthcare agencies to quickly show up on the first page of a Google search result. One reason that Google’s PPC Ads are so effective is because the advertising technology focuses on the intent of the internet user’s search query. The focus on user intent and the ability to capture an individual’s interest while answering questions that are being searched is essential.

Internet users will see the PPC ad in the right kind of mindset. What this means is that when they are asking a question on Google, the ads will appear at the top of the page. The PPC advertisements are geo-targeted and relevant to the internet viewer’s search query.

There are many different versions of PPC advertising available to healthcare agencies and medical centers. From Snapchat and LinkedIn to Twitter and TikTok. But overall, Google’s ad platform is the most dominant, with Facebook being the second most dominant.

About the author:

Advanced Billing & Consulting Services (ABCS) delivers experienced billing, credentialing and online marketing solutions. They also deliver account management services and workforce management tools for Ohio Provider agencies that deliver supportive services for the Ohio I-DD community.

To learn more about this topic or for general questions, email or call ABCS at 614-890-9822.

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