marketing your addiction treatment centerAddiction treatment marketing has been around for many years and has gone through drastic changes in the past decade in particular.

Way back in the day, a rehab facility could simply throw some cheddar at putting an ad in a newspaper or relevant magazine, run tv or radio ad spots (at a premium), throw up succinct messaging and calls-to-action such as calling a phone number via billboard sponsorships, outreach personnel, etc. Other than traditional outreach personnel commonly referred to “boots on the ground”, those days, for the most part, are waning and depending on who you ask, are essentially dead or provide little or no value in terms of return-on-investment (ROI).

Segue the digital age.

The internet has been around for quite some time now, but only in the past 10-15 years or so have rehab centers started to look at online marketing as a viable place to start spending marketing dollars. And as each day passes, more and more addiction treatment facilities, both legacy centers and new centers alike, are looking at digital marketing as their primary source for lead acquisition.

It is now the end of 2018. I have no doubts quite a few treatment centers have experienced a banner year, but for others, it may have been the year their facility assumed room temperature and went out of business. For those centers that had a banner year, congratulations! For those that went out of business, there’s not much I can say other than I hope if your center was a reputable one, I truly hope whatever lessons may have been learned from your failed practice can be avoided in perhaps opening up a new center.

Here we are on the eve of 2019.

The challenge for treatment centers is to determine the best way to spend valuable marketing dollars in a manner that will produce the best results both in terms of brand amplification and putting heads in beds at their facility. Part of that challenge is to also determine which marketing venue will produce tangible results in both the short- and long-term for their facility.

From an online marketing standpoint, there are five main initiatives addiction treatment centers should pursue: 1) Pay Per Click Marketing, 2) Search Engine Optimization, 3) Google Maps Optimization (Google Business Profile), 4) Social Media Marketing and Advertising, and 5) Email Marketing. There are, of course, other online marketing options available, but the five mentioned above represent a solid majority of digital marketing initiatives any rehab center should either have in place or pursue as a part of their 2019 marketing strategy.

Of all of the digital marketing options available to rehab centers, the one initiative that has historically been pursued for most centers out of the gate is Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC). It was the quickest and more efficient way to buy your way to the top of search results for targeted addiction treatment phrases. That is, it used to be the quickest way to get there.

As I recently discussed in my previous post – “Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Digital Marketing Firm for Your Rehab Center”, Google started to kill off PPC ads for addiction treatment terms starting in September of 2017 and officially killed off all Google Ads in January of this year. Starting in April, Google announced a partnership with LegitScript as a means to vet rehab centers for being considered for re-inclusion on the Google Ads platform. The only caveat is if you’re not already LegitScript certified, you’ll have to be incredibly patient in waiting for certification which takes 2-6+ months from the date of submission until you’re accepted or rejected. Patience must be a strong virtue here.

Did I mention PPC is, by far, the most expensive form of online advertising? Google Ads’ cost per click’s go from just a few dollars per click to upwards of $170 dollars per click for certain alcohol and drug-related search phrases, so you better have deep pockets to play in this arena. If you’re operating a rehab facility and only concerned with local patient acquisition, be prepared to spend a minimum of $5k/month to see any realized returns. If you’re operating a multi-location rehab center and target nationally, set aside a minimum of $200k/month.

Enough with PPC. Let’s talk SEO for Addiction Treatment.

If you don’t know about SEO and you’re reading this article, you need to look into and study up on it ASAP. SEO is one of the strongest and most cost-effective ways of not only getting traffic to your center’s site but directly impacts inbound leads and patient acquisition.

Here’s a quick description of SEO: Organic Search Engine Optimization (also known as Natural Search Engine Optimization) is the process of adjusting code, content and linking variables for a website in order to gain search engine rankings for targeted keyword phrases you’re pursuing for your treatment center’s website pages. SEO for addiction treatment centers consists of elements such as title tags, meta tags, alt tags, content, internal and inbound linking, site navigation, site/page speed, etc.

The SEO for Addiction Treatment discussion.

I find it odd that when I talk to certain rehab center decision makers about digital marketing, how fixated many of them are on PPC and are perfectly content simply dumping hundreds of thousands and in quite a few cases, millions of dollars a year into running ads on Google. When I bring up the subject of SEO and how it can outperform their PPC spend, I can often hear an overt mouth exhale which typically means one of five things.

  • They don’t even believe in SEO (I’ve heard it quite a few times, people)
  • they’re fine just running PPC ads and like the instant gratification PPC ads give them.
  • They’ve been burned to a crisp by working with other marketing agencies that perhaps got them penalized by one of Google’s many algorithm updates.
  • They’re terribly exhausted with getting on the horn with yet another “sales” rep and want nothing more than to hang up the phone as quickly as possible.
  • They’re brilliant, their team is brilliant, and no agency could ever reach the level of awesomeness that is their in-house digital marketing angels sent from above.

I’m sure there are other reasons for rehab center marketers beyond what are numbered above, but everyone should respect one another because we don’t always know what’s going on with people personally or professionally. In other words, don’t assume anything and just be respectful of each others time.

For rehab centers that already have a plan in place, kudos! I truly hope it’s working for your facility and you continue to see positive key performance indicators (KPI) month-over-month (MoM) and year-over-year (YoY) when evaluating analytics data.

If you’re already executing an SEO strategy for your center, here are a few questions you should be asking yourself or perhaps asking your partner agency currently in charge of SEO for your location(s):

  • Does my site’s MoM search engine traffic stats show positive growth?
  • How does my site’s YoY search stats show growth as well?
  • With the traffic my site is already getting from search, which pages are driving the most traffic and are these pages showing strong KPI’s (livechat engagements, short form submissions, insurance verification CTA’s, etc.)?
  • How does my site’s search engine traffic KPI’s compare to other traffic channels in terms of performance?

The above questions should always be asked and acted on based on the answers to each.

If your rehab center is seeing positive traffic growth MoM and YoY, that’s a good thing. However, if you look at keyword ranking and/or Google Search Console keyword positioning data and see there’s a lot of room for improving your search engine positioning, you need to act on it sooner than later but make it strategic.


Let’s say you source your top 10 highest traffic keyword phrases and their respective pages and see you’re only averaging below the fold on page 1 or perhaps teetering between page one and page two, it’s time to revisit those pages and strategy.

First, start by looking at page content and internal linking structure of those pages and see how you can better amplify keyword mentions and anchor text inbound linking to them from other relevant pages within your site architecture.

Second, identify relevant, high-quality third-party sites and request links back to those pages, but make sure your outreach builds the case for why it makes sense for a webmaster to link back to the pages you’re requesting backlinks to so they understand the value to their site and their site’s users. This particular process takes time so please be patient.

If you don’t have an SEO strategy in place, I’m sorry you’re missing out. Organic search traffic is the most valuable form of traffic your site can get from the internet available today. Statistically speaking, users typically click on Google Maps/Google Business Profile (I’ll cover this topic in a later post) and organic search engine results over 70% of the time vs. Google Ads PPC listings. And if you look at click-through rate behavior for page one listings, the statistics look even more interesting:

1. 20.5%
2. 13.32%
3. 13.14%
4. 8.98%
5. 9.21%
6. 6.73%
7. 7.61%
8. 6.92%
9. 5.52%
10. 7.95%

The above click-through rate (CTR) stats should be eye-opening, but please keep in mind these click-through rates are for page one listings alone and are statistical averages, so please don’t consider them gospel.

The clicks on listings sitting page two and beyond see a significant decline in CTR’s. In other words, if you addiction treatment center isn’t sitting on page one of Google, chances are your facility isn’t being found and isn’t getting a piece of the organic traffic market share.

In terms of standard SEO practices, rehab centers (or agencies managing SEO for them), should first start by conducting an exhaustive website analysis which we refer to as a “Comprehensive Site Analysis”. For Lead to Conversion, this process which also includes exhaustive keyword research takes up the first 3-4 weeks of a campaign. You can look at this portion of an addiction treatment SEO campaign as creating an SEO “blueprint” from which all future SEO initiatives stems from and includes, but is not limited to, the evaluation of the following:

  • Titles
  • Meta Tags
  • Alt Tags
  • Content
  • Internal Linking
  • Inbound Linking (also known as backlinking)
  • Redirects
  • Website Errors (such as 404’s)
  • Navigation Structure
  • CTA Analysis
  • Analytics Analysis (Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools)
  • Social Media Profiles
  • Page Speed
  • Site Maps (standard and XML)
  • Robots.txt
  • Etc.

Each of the above elements needs to be evaluated and based on findings, each component should be prioritized based on their severity relative to SEO impact value for your rehab center’s site.

Once the SEO “blueprint” has been created, it’s at this point when your center’s team (or agency of record) should then start executing the SEO strategy to gain visibility on search engines with the ultimate goal of getting targeted traffic to your site that then turns into new admits at your facility.

So… about why SEO should be your biggest expense for promoting your rehab center online. I can honestly say that SEO won’t be your biggest expense if your treatment center is running a robust PPC strategy the likes of Google and is spending tens of thousands of dollars per month.  But the fact that PPC gets significantly less click-throughs than organic search results (10-30% vs. 70-90% respectively), costs a premium and has no real residual value, earmarking a good portion of your marketing dollars to search engine optimization should be a top priority.

The cost of running an SEO program for your rehab center should take the following into account:

  • Whether or not your center needs a website redesign and ongoing website redesign via a sustained conversion rate optimization program (if your site sucks, please factor this into the SEO budgeting equation)
  • The total number of locations and types of services your firm offers (detox, rehab, sober living or a combination of the three)
  • Targeting a single location locally within 25-50 miles, state-wide targeting, and national targeting. (this greatly determines the scope of work and overall budget needed to achieve your goals and objectives here)
  • Geography (doing SEO for Cleveland Ohio should cost less than doing SEO for a similar rehab center in Miami Florida as an example)
  • Total number of competitors, their SEO profile, and what it’s going to take for your rehab center to compete and ultimately usurp them in organic search results
  • Penalties railed against your site by Google for using controversial techniques that may be hurting your site at Google (Penguin, Panda, Fred, etc., algorithm updates)
  • Your focus on men only, women only, both, luxury focus, etc.
  • Your site’s ability to accommodate all SEO code and content variables into it. (WordPress websites perform the best when it comes to SEO IMHO).
  • Marketing budget/affordability

Single Location, Local [City] targeting.

If you have a single location addiction treatment center and are looking to budget for SEO, be prepared to spend anywhere from $3k/month to $8k/month or more depending on factors such as competitive landscape, location, and the number of heads in beds you need to accommodate, etc.

Multiple Locations, Local [City and/or State] Targeting.

If your rehab facility has two or more locations, budgeting for SEO should be looked at differently. Since each location should represent itself uniquely based on things such as geography and treatment service options for each, SEO for each location is needed. Expect to pay a similar amount of $3k/month to $10k/month per location (again, it depends on several factors as covered above).

Single & Multiple Locations. Local & National Targeting.

Regardless of whether you’re running a single rehab center or have multiple locations if your intent is to target both locally and nationally, be prepared to spend anywhere from $10k/month to in excess of $50k/month for your SEO project. Again, it depends on several factors.

Parting Notes

If you are doing SEO in-house and happy with your strategy and what analytics is showing you in terms of KPI’s, my hats off to you. Keep it going, keep it authentic, and don’t ever stop doing it. After all, there’s no question your competitors are tirelessly working diligently to beat you in organic search.

If you don’t have an SEO strategy in place, there’s no better time than the present to get your house in order and get things started. Just make sure that your in-house team or your addiction treatment SEO agency is doing what’s in the best interest of your brand and goals. And please, please, please, make sure you audit everything first to see where you need to be focusing time and valuable marketing dollars before you start pumping out content, building links, optimizing code, etc.

Unfortunately, addiction is getting worse. Thankfully, addiction treatment centers, perhaps yours, is helping to get people back on track. For that, I’d like to say thank you and please keep up the great work. You’re making a difference in people’s lives.

This post was written by Lead to Conversion’s CEO Sean Bolton