I would like to start this article off with a statement.
I want everyone to know that I have no intention of being confrontational, argumentative or create this article for the sake of sensationalism. I believe this is very important and as professionals in the addiction / mental health / marketing space, this is something that affects us all.
I am very concerned with a trend I have seen on Google. I’m sure many of you have seen it. The purpose of this article is to start the conversation among the great professionals of our industry and hopefully come to a resolution so that Google fixes the problem.
About a week ago, we noticed our search rankings falling in every site that we manage. It didn’t take long for us to discover the reasoning. Somehow, the website DrugAbuse.Com had ownership of the top organic spot on Google for every single drug rehab and addiction treatment related search phrase imaginable.
Take a look for yourself. Go to Google and type in anything related to drug rehab. For the sake of this article, we will pick a random search query. We will search “drug rehab centers in Houston Texas. This is what we see.
You guessed it. Drugabuse.com.
Let’s think of another phrase. Something much more specific. Let’s do a branded search phrase. Meaning a phrase that someone would only search if they were looking for a specific treatment center. Let’s go to Google and search “Ohio Addiction Recovery Center.”
Let’s try one more. Let’s try “American Addiction Centers.”
First, as you can see by the example above, this website is ranking for branded search terms. Which means that is essentially stealing traffic from businesses who have worked hard to build a digital brand around their own business name. In the same way that people know the brand Nike or Apple, people do know treatment facilities by name.
When users go to Google and search directly for a brand, the brand needs to be the first search result because we know that these users are looking for the exact brand that they are searching for.
How is this acceptable in any way?
Second, DrugAbuse.com is a for-profit website that is owned by a national chain of treatment centers. So drugabuse.com is seemingly converting web traffic into revenue by taking traffic that was meant for branded facility search. To point out another obvious factor, Drugabuse.com is not a stand-alone treatment facility so for them to also rank for location-based search queries seems counterproductive to the user who is clearly searching for a facility within that location.
I am simply pointing out how unreasonable and misleading it is that Google has put treatment professionals in the position in which they can not even be the recipient of the search traffic that they have earned and have worked for.
The best thing you can do is contact your Google rep. If you don’t know your Google rep. Google doesn’t make it easy for you to get in touch with them, but you can follow the instructions here.
Then I advocate that you express your concern.
The reality is that Google just spearheaded a multi-million dollar operation to clean up the digital marketing tactics used by many discredited treatment centers. Hundreds (if not thousands) of facilities have paid tens of thousands of dollars to become LegitScript certified. For this to happen at the tail end of such a large vetting process is a dis service to all of the legitimate treatment operations who have paid their dues, put in the hard work and have claimed ownership over their brand.
Ironically, Drugabuse.com isn’t even certified.
I have been struggling on whether to send this email out for days. I’ve spent years building our agency and in doing so, have worked with dozens of treatment centers to help them build their digital presence.
In my eyes, building a digital brand through search marketing is the single best tactic for a treatment center to use. You are providing resources and giving people who need help the information they need. People go to Google to solve problems and addiction is one of the biggest problems we face as a nation.
To see this happen in the space in which we have worked so hard in and in which we have witnessed amazing people build amazing businesses around helping people and serving people is very disheartening.
What we are hoping is that Google made a mistake where they put drugabuse.com when they meant to put drugabuse.gov. I think there is a clear distinction between providing a free government resource for people as opposed to a for-profit web asset.
Even so, should a government-owned resource be outranking branded search traffic?
Either way, I advocate that you contact Google and advocate for the hard work you have done and the brand you have built.
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