A Problem with Google Ads
As with most modern businesses, these fraudulent addiction treatment centers utilize Google Ads extensively to connect with potential clients. Addicts were often directed to the websites of unlicensed or criminal treatment centers and middlemen. In response to pressure from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), Google placed a widespread ban on all addiction-related keywords for their Google Ads service in late 2017.
The ban was designed to be temporary while Google worked to find a way to protect its users from exploitation. This was a notable move for Google to take. Top-trending keywords in the addiction recovery space were fetching as much as $100 per click. Nearly two years after the ban came into effect, Google is slowly opening ad keywords back up to recovery providers. At the time of the ban, they explicitly stated that they would not allow addiction treatment centers to advertise on their platform until they found a solution that worked. It appears that they believe they have found that solution in LegitScript.
What is LegitScript?
Based in Portland, LegitScript is an independent company that has provided online certification and monitoring for industries operating in complex regulatory environments since 2007. Google decided to partner with them to tackle the addiction treatment advertising issue because of their experience in the pharmaceutical space. LegitScript began as a way for online pharmacies to identify themselves as legitimate. Their goal was to protect consumers from websites selling fake drugs or dangerous substances without a prescription.
“Recovery centers can apply for certification directly from LegitScript”
Google and LegitScript worked together to create a checklist that allows them to properly authenticate legitimate treatment centers. This certification, in turn, provides Google with an easy way to identify treatment providers they can trust to recommend to users. Recovery centers can apply for certification directly from LegitScript. They then investigate the business thoroughly to ensure that they are operating in compliance with any relevant laws and are not misleading customers with promotional materials. Certified sites receive a badge to display and join the LegitScript database. Sites in the database are allowed to advertise their addiction recovery services on Google.
Addiction Recovery and LegitScript
Since the launch of LegitScript’s addiction treatment certification program, Google has slowly begun to roll out keyword options for treatment centers again. Select keywords are now only available to sites carrying the badge of authenticity from LegitScript. The hope is that this will allow Google Ads to make only legitimate treatment centers visible to customers. The process is ongoing, however. They are releasing keywords in phases to ensure that the system works properly. This means that, for the foreseeable future, addicts looking for help may still have trouble finding a wide range of treatment options through Google. This will largely depend on the keywords they use in their search.
Still Not a Perfect System
While Google’s ban on addiction keywords did produce a 96% drop in the number of ads served to addiction-related searches, some unsavory advertisers did find ways around the ban. Fully identifying and locking down all of the search terms that might be associated with addicts looking for recovery treatment is an ongoing process. Google’s goal is to eventually have a system that is 100% secure and only serves the ads of centers that can really help addicts. Until they achieve that goal, users should still take the treatment and recovery centers recommended by Google Ads with a pinch of salt. Thankfully, LegitScript offers a way to quickly and easily search their database for certified sites. By typing in the address of the site, users can find out their LegitScript certification is, in fact, real.
“Until they achieve that goal, users should still take the treatment and recovery centers recommended by Google Ads with a pinch of salt.”
When you or a loved one is about to enter treatment, the last thing you should have to worry about is the authenticity of the program you have chosen. That is why we have gone through the LegitScript certification process. You can see our badge of authenticity on Gratitude Lodge and find us in the LegitScript database. We also carry the Joint Commission International certification, considered the gold standard in global healthcare. We value our patients and want them to feel safe and secure as they enter into treatment with us. So remember, don’t just trust a site that looks and sounds legitimate. Your recovery is hugely important. Take the time to ensure that the treatment center you choose is properly certified.