Ever since the almighty Google changed its policy on how addiction services are handled in search tools, the treatment industry has wrestled with mixed feelings. The search engine giant began by eliminating paid AdWords for certain addiction treatment terms—thousands of them—because many of the terms were known to be linked to fraudulent and unethical operations.
The list of taboo words isn’t being made public for obvious reasons, but you can bet that “addiction treatment in Florida” is on that menu. No one can pay for preferential rankings related to that search term anymore.
But where does this new environment leave the ethical providers?
Most of the good guys are pleased by Google’s policy and see it as a reasonable way to reduce the ability of the bad guys to lure vulnerable folks into their clutches with $90-per-click AdWords. However, smaller treatment centers are worried that the increased reliance on organic search will still leave them at the bottom of the rankings.
For example, a search for “addiction treatment in Florida” will yield many unpaid results, but there is still an algorithm driving certain links to the top. The centers that tend to have the advantage are those that know how to make digital search work in their favor and have invested time and money—a lot of money—into ensuring that result.
Smaller organizations with frugal marketing budgets often believe that they can’t keep up. They’re challenged to find the resources to maintain multiple sites, refresh the content daily and drive authentic, positive reviews from patients, especially when there’s so much clinical work to be done.
Some good news
Google has pledged to continue to consult with trustworthy industry leaders on improving the governance of search results. I know that the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) and Facing Addiction have meetings scheduled with Google to discuss further refinement of the policy.
Smaller treatment centers have some opportunity to weigh in proactively through this collaborative process by speaking up about changes they might like to see, whether through NAATP or another resource. It certainly seems as if Google is making an earnest effort to get it right.
Algorithms driving search results are never going to be perfect, but it’s encouraging that leaders are looking for better ways to connect consumers with all the best quality providers rather than just those who pour a lot of cash into their websites.