Google Working To Set Guidelines For Addiction Treatment Search Ads

Ad agencies expect Google to introduce new advertising standards and guidelines for running ads and ad extensions related to addiction treatment centers in Google search.
Google may require these brands to go through a verification process to ensure that only legitimate resources will reach those in need. While Google would not confirm the guidelines or provide a timeline for any changes, the company has been working with industry experts such as Facing Addiction to find a solution after hearing that patients are sometimes viewed in monetary terms, with their needs a lesser priority.

Last week, Google began pulling ads and restricting the use of some keywords in search advertisements in a crackdown on addiction treatment ads, citing the rise in the overuse of opioid-type drugs in the United States. The change will not affect organic search.

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For example, one of the most competitive terms would simply be "addiction treatment centers." Typically, searchers would see ads for this query because it is a highly searched term, and many businesses would be in the auction. Today, no related ads serve up in search results, whereas on Monday they still did.

“We found a number of misleading experiences among rehabilitation treatment centers that led to our decision, in consultation with experts, to restrict ads in this category," according to a Google spokesperson. "We constantly review our policies to protect our users and provide good experiences for consumers."

Within the Google AdWords advertising policies, there is a lot of information on restrictions for healthcare and medicine, according to Tami McBrady, vice president of media at the digital agency Nina Hale. She believes these policies could serve as a framework for rehabilitation center advertising guidelines. 

Reducing the immediate impact from the change, McBrady said Google suggested using keywords that are not related to treatments requiring the use of opioids or more generic in which these types of drugs could fall under. For example, a search for "addiction treatment centers" could misconstrue the intent for someone looking for a different type of treatment.

McBrady told Search Marketing Daily that Google is working on a solution, but put in place a "temporary stop gap" as they work through the changes to weed out "bad apples."

Nina Hale supports a long list of clients. Among them are the Hazelden BettyFord Foundation, United Healthcare, Land O'Lakes, Renewal by Andersen, YMCA, Blue Cross Blue Shield of MN, and many others. 

Over the years, Google has made changes to improve experiences in challenging categories. PayDay Loans and locksmiths are just two examples. For the locksmith category, Google created an advanced verification program to fight fraud. Google also banned ads for PayDay loans. Now the opioid crisis has Google addressing another battle in the $35 billion addiction treatment industry.

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