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April 6, 2021

Addiction recovery marketing – what to do if you can’t afford a LegitScript certification

Behavioral health organizations that provide addiction recovery services must be able to reach people needing help where they consume information. These days, that largely means through digital messaging, especially on mobile devices. A 2019 ScienceDirect report found that 94% of those surveyed with an opioid use disorder owned a smartphone, 67% used the Internet every day, and 88% searched the Internet for health information.¹

Yet, Google, Bing, and Facebook, some of, if not the, most popular digital advertising platforms, do not permit advertising of addiction recovery services without obtaining a certification from LegitScript, a third-party certification provider. The reasoning for this requirement is well-justified as, in the recent past, there were a number of unscrupulous treatment centers advertising on these platforms that were of poor quality or, worse yet, after collecting their fees, did not provide the advertised services at all. So, the purpose of the LegitScript certification is to vet addiction recovery providers to make sure they are competent and do what they say they are going to do. 

While this makes sense on paper, in practice it doesn’t always. The process to get the certification is not easy. It requires a lot of information about the organization and its operations. Also, and maybe most importantly, the certification is not cheap. Pricing is based on the number of unique facilities an organization has, with “unique facility” defined as either the number of entities under an organization’s control or the number of locations providing addiction recovery services. For each unique facility, there is a non-refundable application fee, plus a recurring annual fee. So, pursuant to the LegitScript certification pricing table, an organization providing addiction recovery services at 4 locations would pay an application fee of $5,980 ($1,495 per unique facility) and a recurring annual fee of $11,500 ($2,875 per unique facility). 

Granted, the burden and cost of getting LegitScript certified may not be a big deal for some organizations. However, for those largely nonprofit organizations that rely heavily on government and/or donor funding, and operate with lean staffs and very tight budgets, it is a big deal. There just simply isn’t the person power or available funds to warrant the time and expense. Meanwhile, to many of these organizations, the reason for the certification seems overkill since they are already highly regulated at state and/or federal levels to ensure competent, ethical services. 

Of course, behavioral health organizations like these still need to reach the people they’re trying to help. But, if they can’t justify getting a LegitScript certification, what are they supposed to do? Fortunately, there are alternatives to advertising with the big boys. If the LegitScript route is not right for your organizations, here are some suggestions for reaching your target audiences. 

  1. Website SEO. Step up SEO efforts on your website to help increase organic rankings. Start by updating your website text to include more keywords relating to addiction recovery (although in a way that that is relevant and makes sense so as not to anger the Google gods). There are a number of tools available to assist you but the basic idea is to stand in the shoes of who you are trying to reach and think about what search terms they would use to get addiction recovery help. 
  2. Listings/Directories. The majority of people looking for addiction recovery organizations search through Google. Having accurate mentions of your organization’s business and locations is critical in improving your ranking from Google searches. This means you will want to submit pertinent business information (name, phone number, addresses, contact information, description of services, number of employees, etc.)  to Google My Business and keep that information up to date. 

You will also want to make sure you are listed with relevant directories. This includes generic sites like Yelp, Facebook, Yahoo, and Bing Places but also more industry-specific sites like SAMSHA, Psychology Today, Rehab.com, and Rehabs.com. Because these sites rank high, they get a lot of SEO traffic, which means more people will see your organization’s contact information. 

  1. Reviews. You should also have a strategy for obtaining online reviews. Word-of-mouth recommendations from relatives and friends are and will always be the most powerful referral sources but getting positive online reviews is the next best thing. They really are the digital version of word-of-mouth referrals and the vast majority of people do read them when making a decision about an organization. And, of course, the more reviews you get on Google My Business, Yelp, or similar sites, the higher you will rank in organic searches. 
  2. Blogs/Social. Posting relevant blogs about addiction recovery on your website is important and worth the effort. By providing value through posts that establish the organization as a thought leader and expert, the level of trust of your organization increases with all of your stakeholders, including your target audiences. Also, with a steady stream of blogs, you will undoubtedly rank for more keywords and generate more traffic to your website. 

To promote your blogs, always post about them on your social media sites, with each post directing viewers to the post itself. You may also want to consider submitting them to local publications as commentaries and to other community-based organizations for their newsletters or websites. 

  1. Email blasts. While opportunities for sending email blasts are limited by regulatory restrictions (ie. HIPAA), they still are of value. Assuming you’ve obtained permission to email former patients who may no longer be receiving services, email blasts are a great way to share helpful content with them and keep them informed. This will help with SEO efforts as you will be driving more traffic to your website. More importantly, maintaining contact in this way provides some form of continued care. After all, addiction recovery is an ongoing and difficult process and, unfortunately, former patients may need your help again. 
  2. YouTube videos. YouTube is the second most popular search engine and, with the technology available today, producing a video doesn’t have to be a costly endeavor. Videos that inform the viewer about the care you offer, answer questions and offer testimonials can be a powerful way to reach people, especially those who may have an easier time digesting information visually. 
  3. Native Advertising. There are other types of digital paid advertising through companies other than Google. Companies like Outbrain and Taboola provide platforms through which so-called native ads can be displayed as recommended content on web pages or on social media feeds. Think of the “sponsored” content you often see at the bottom of a web article or on your social media feed. While some ads within this ad category can have a click-bait feel, you do not need to go that far with your ads. They can be tastefully done and offer potential for a lot of exposure. 
  4. Traditional Advertising. While digital avenues offer valuable opportunities for reaching your target audiences, don’t forget about the more traditional means of reaching people. Remember, not everyone is digitally inclined. There may be parents or grandparents of people needing help who pay more attention to local media sources. Consider placing ads (print and digital) and radio spots with local publications and broadcasters. Out-of-home advertising on buses and billboards can also be impactful at the local level.   

Advertising with Google, Bing, and Facebook are powerful ways for behavioral health organizations to reach the people they want to help recover from addiction. But, for those organizations with lean staffs and tight budgets, a certificate from LegitScript just may not be in the cards. Thankfully, there are other paths available. If you’d like to chat about how we might be able to help your organization reach your audiences, email us or give us a call.   

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¹ScienceDirect,https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352853218301500#:~:text=94%25%20of%20those%20surveyed%20with,use%20disorder%20owned%20a%20smartphone.&text=67%25%20used%20the%20Internet%20everyday,the%20Internet%20for%20health%20information.