LegitScript Certification for Rehabs Rolls Out New Data, New Certification Tier

by | Aug 26, 2020 | Addiction Treatment Center Marketing

Millions of Americans struggle with drug addiction. And many families turn to Google to seek and find the best rehab for treatment. Initially, any rehab facility, including subpar rehab facilities were able to run advertising alongside quality centers. In an effort to protect users, Google abruptly eliminated all paid advertisements industry-wide in September 2017. They did so until the tech giant could figure out a way to vet advertisers. (Yikes!) In comes LegitScript certification for rehabs.

The impact of the changes between 2017 and 2018 was profound, and the industry is still working on best practices today. Fortunately, we’ve been able to advocate for our clients so they can continue identifying and treating new patients.

The Change was Needed, Here’s What Happened

Google suspended alcohol and drug treatment advertising on search pages and millions of third-party apps and websites in the United States in September of 2017[1].

“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,” a Google spokesperson said in 2017.[2]

At that time, drug rehabs, some legit and some unscrupulous,  were paying millions in AdWords to Google to reach clients searching words and phrases like “rehab” or “drug addiction.”

Google Pulled Rehab Ads 2017

Alcoholism-related advertisements generated $22.4 million in Google searches from August 2016 through July 2017. Drug addiction searches brought in $7.7 million during the same period.[3]

Treatment providers were willing to pay as much as $70 per Google ad click with the hopes of a significant reward. A person needing residential addiction treatment could yield thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket and insurance payments.[4]

But the move aimed at stopping bad actors also restricted legitimate healthcare providers from reaching those in need.

Here’s how. Searches still turned up what’s called “organic” Google results for “rehab” or “treatment.” Unfortunately, often those highest-ranked sites were directory sites or call centers that simply captured information and sold it to the highest payer. Those drug rehab facilities weren’t necessarily the best for the patient. In the worst cases, they weren’t even legitimate treatment centers. They simply paid a referral fee for clients, a shady transaction called “patient brokering.”

Thus, the move by Google to shutdown paid advertisements from all treatment centers initially made things worse for upstanding drug rehabs.

Time to Pivot

Instantly our clients’ ability to advertise via Google and Facebook to those in need of their services disappeared. They simply couldn’t target the clients searching for them.

Our first call was to Google. We began working with the search engine to figure out an acceptable vetting process so our clients, legitimate and nationally accredited drug rehab centers, could begin advertising their essential services again.

what happened when google pulled rehab ads in 2017

Meanwhile, the Full Circle SEM began to pivot our other marketing efforts for our rehab clients. We amped up social media posts; we rolled out fresh blogs, and we reevaluated and updated SEO on clients’ websites to help move them up on Google’s organic searches.

LegitScript Certification for Rehabs

In April 2018, Google brought on LegitScript to evaluate and certify treatment providers across the nation. LegitScript is the only source that certifies drug and alcohol addiction treatment providers. That’s the certification Google, Bing, and Facebook use to determine treatment centers’ eligibility to actually buy ads.[5]

There are 15 criteria to get certified to buy advertisements—those included criminal background checks along with license and insurance verification.

“LegitScript’s Addiction Treatment Certification ensures that providers of drug and alcohol addiction treatment services, including in-patient addiction treatment, mutual support groups, and crisis hotlines, are in compliance with applicable laws and regulations,” according to the company’s website.

Companies must provide “written policies and procedures demonstrating a commitment to best practices, effective recovery and continuous improvement,” according to LegitScript.

LegitScript Certification for Addiction Treatment

Certification isn’t Cheap or Easy.

Charges start at $995 for the upfront certification. The company then charges between $1,995 and $2,875 annually to maintain certification. Yes, you have to pay to play every year.

Here’s the kicker. After months of banning all rehab ads, Google and LegitScript finally released their plan. But initially, LegitScript only approved a pool of 30 applicants to run rehab ads again.

Thanks to the efforts of our team, five of those facilities initially approved to run Google advertisements were our clients.  Our team worked with clients to meet all the requirements for those certifications, including updating processes at their centers.

Where We are Now

Following the launch of the LegitScript certification for rehabs, LegitScript reported they’ve processed thousands of requests and certified more than 900 applicants and 2,000 individual facilities as of June 2020. This year the company also announced a certification for individual providers of drug and alcohol addiction treatment. The goal is to make the certification affordable for smaller organizations.  (And look, another revenue stream for LegitScript.)

“We’ve heard from many individual practitioners who want to get LegitScript-certified but for whom the current structure and pricing of LegitScript’s Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Certification was a barrier for the size and scope of their operations,” according to the company. “Not only do certified practitioners demonstrate compliance and build trust with prospective patients, but they are able to take advantage of online advertising through Facebook, Google, and Bing.”

 That’s Not All

Being certified (and thereby able to buy Google ads) should be a crucial part of your marketing strategy, but it can’t be the only way to reach clients. User-friendly website design, search engine optimization of your content, along with blogs and reviews, must all be included in your plan. At Full Circle SEM, we offer all those services… and more.

Give us a call to get started with drug rehab marketing today. 



[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-alphabet-google-ads-exclusive/exclusive-google-unveils-vetting-process-for-drug-rehab-ads-idUSKBN1HN28X

[2] https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/14/16309752/google-rehabs-near-me-search-adwords-crackdown

[3] https://www.kantarmedia.com/us/thinking-and-resources/blog/google-limits-addiction-rehab-advertising

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/business/google-addiction-treatment-ads.html?auth=link-dismiss-google1tap

[5] https://www.legitscript.com/service/certification/addiction-treatment/


Justin Ober

Justin built his first website and eBay store while in high school (circa 1999) and has had a hand in internet marketing ever since. After graduating from Penn State University he headed for warmer weather in sunny South Florida, where he worked on both the client and agency side of digital marketing. Yada, yada, yada, he's since managed over $30 million in digital ad spend and is an expert in all things PPC.

If you’re ready to take your brand to the next level, call 888-757-2714 or contact us here today.