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Google is one of the best places to advertise a business. In fact, every second, Google processes over 40,000 search queries — that’s pretty impressive.

Businesses in any industry can create Google Ads to encourage customers to visit their websites and purchase products and services. However, in September 2017, Google began to limit the number of ads that appeared in search results pages for drug and alcohol treatment centers.

The first keyword searches to stop returning ads included “drug detox,” “drug treatment program,” and “drug rehabilitation.” That means when users searched these terms in Google, no ads were available. Organic search results remained unchanged.

But why the discrepancy? Read on to find out.

If you’d like to learn more about LegitScript for Google Ads, feel free to give us a call at 888-601-5359!

Why did Google restrict rehab center ads?

It’s no secret that the opioid crisis in the United States is only getting worse. With over 49,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States in 2017, the word “crisis” certainly fits the situation well.


With families being torn apart by opioid abuse, it only makes sense that there has been a huge influx in the demand for treatment and rehab programs. Not only do the addicted search for these queries, but their family members as well. Because of the increase in searches, there is also an increase in competition, and some rehab centers are willing to pay anything just to fill a spot at their center.

When these centers care more about “filling a bed” than they do about the actual care of their clients, it becomes an issue. With this issue, there is a giant opportunity for data abuse.

With the uptick in the need for drug treatment, the ads become more about bringing in money to care facilities than the actual client care. This is obviously a huge concern, and Google had no choice but to intervene and remove all rehab center ads.

Not only did Google remove ads for certain rehab facilities, but they removed ads for certain search queries all together. This ensured that no rehab center that provides less-than-savory services appears in search results.

This was Google’s first step in ensuring the safety and satisfaction of its users, with the end goal being to only present users with reputable rehab centers that can truly help them heal.

The only issue with this strategy? Reputable rehab centers, that relied on Google Ads as a source of leads, found themselves in a tough spot.

The keywords that they were trying to earn real estate for with Google Ads were now unavailable.

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The UK also faced struggles with rehab center Google Ads

Just as the opioid crisis took a turn for the worse in the United States, the United Kingdom has also recently seen their addiction-related deaths break through previous records. Not only were Google Ads for rehab centers causing issues in the United States, but now they were a problem in the UK.


UK rehab centers were participating in “patient brokering,” which is not illegal there, but is illegal in some US states.

Patient brokering refers to middlemen bidding on rehab center terms and get large kickbacks from the rehab centers where the click ends up. When searchers call telephone lines belonging to these middlemen, they never actually disclose their business.

This practice is just one of the reasons that the cost of the rehab and treatment increase — and it’s all because the referral agents must be paid. Not to mention, with an increase in searches for rehab keywords, the cost-per-click (CPC) of Google Ads has increased drastically. On the high end of rehab CPC, advertisers can see prices as high as $200 per click.

A solution for Google rehab ads via LegitScript

As of April 2018, a company located in Portland, Oregon by the name of LegitScript turned things around for rehab center ads in Google.

After a year of purging Google of rehab center and addiction treatment ads, a vetting system was produced that allows these ads to once again appear in Google after they’ve been LegitScript certified.

The new LegitScript certification process requires all in-person facilities, crisis hotlines, and support groups to be certified before seeing their ads appear in Google.

Rehab and addiction centers aren’t the only ones who need the LegitScript certification, though. Google has also implemented steeper vetting processes for businesses including locksmiths, garage-door repair companies, drugmakers, and online pharmacies.

What does LegitScript do for Google rehab ads?

LegitScript is a lifesaver when it comes to determining the legitimacy of a Google Ad. For a rehab center to be LegitScript certified, it must provide a criminal background check, license check, and insurance verification. This helps to weed out the middlemen and ensure that all ads are for respectable, legitimate drug treatment facilities.


In addition, according to LegitScript, centers must provide them with “written policies and procedures demonstrating a commitment to best practices, effective recovery, and continuous improvement.” This extra step in the vetting process helps to ensure that those who click on the ad and become a client actually receive the treatment that they expect and pay for.

How do rehab centers become LegitScript certified?

Attaining a LegitScript certification is undoubtedly a frustrating event for law-abiding rehab centers that play by the rules of Google Ads. However, it’s understood that in order to ensure that the industry provides the help people desperately need, LegitScript certification is absolutely necessary.

Google unveiled that in order to become LegitScript certified, rehab centers would have to complete a two-fold application process.

  1. Drug and alcohol treatment centers are to contact LegitScript to fill out an application that allows them to become certified, if accepted.
  2. If those treatment centers have been certified by LegitScript, they will then request certification with Google through a separate form.

This two-factor certification process, after completed, allows rehab and drug treatment facilities to advertise on Google.

Though the two-step process is a nuisance and an expense to legitimate rehab centers, it acts as a barrier for third-party providers that have previously taken advantage of Google Ads.

Though becoming certified is a requirement, it also comes at a price. LegitScript will charge facilities an upfront charge of $995, and a yearly vetting charge of $1995.

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Are you a rehab center that needs marketing services?

WebFX is a full-service digital marketing agency that serves clients in countless industries, including healthcare and rehab. We understand how important it is to fill your client roster and help the people that so desperately need it.

We offer rehab marketing services including search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising (PPC)social media marketingemail marketing, and even web design. When you work with us, you’ll be paired with a dedicated project manager that can help with all of your marketing needs.

WebFX is home to over 500 marketing specialists that are masters in their field. They work with you to determine what your rehab center needs and walks with you through every step of the process.

Want to see what other clients say about us? Check out our 1,100+ customer testimonials!

If you’re interested in speaking with a specialist about your rehab center Internet marketing campaign, feel free to fill out a contact form on our website, or give us a call at 888-601-5359!

We can’t wait to hear from you!

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