Understanding Google’s Role in Treatment Marketing

Recovery Unscripted banner image for episode 39

Episode #39 | October 11, 2017

Featured Guest: Dan Gemp

My guest today is Dan Gemp, president and CEO of Dreamscape Marketing, a creative firm that provides digital marketing solutions for companies in the addiction and mental health treatment field. He sat down with me at the Moments of Change conference in Palm Beach, Florida, to share his expert insight about the massive changes happening right now with paid search engine marketing. He explains the actions that Google is taking to combat unethical marketing practices, gives us his forecast for how this will affect the treatment field and breaks down what these changes mean for all the ethical programs out there trying to do things the right way.

Podcast Transcript

David Condos: Hey, guys. Welcome to another episode of Recovery Unscripted. I’m David Condos and this podcast is powered by Foundations Recovery Network. My guest today is Dan Gemp, President and CEO of Dreamscape Marketing. A creative firm that provides digital marketing solutions for companies in the addiction and mental health treatment industry.

He sat down with me at the Moments of Change conference in Florida to share his expert insight about the massive changes happening right now, specifically with paid search engine marketing. He explains the actions that Google is taking to combat unethical marketing practices, gives us his forecast for how this will affect the treatment field and breaks down what these changes mean for all the ethical programs out there trying to do things the right way. Now, here’s Dan.

I’m here with Dan Gemp. Thanks for being with us today.

Dan Gemp: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

David: You have to start things off. Let’s have you tell us a little bit about your personal story and how you got started in the world of marketing.

Dan: I’ve owned Dreamscape Marketing for 12 years. We’ve always worked in consumer marketing. We’ve done some big brand work with Dunkin’ Donuts and some NFL teams, and very quickly got into the addiction treatment space through some partnerships with hospitals and other mental health. For the last eight years, we’ve done almost exclusively addiction treatment marketing and we’ve watched the industry change and watch Google change in response to it.

David: What are some of the marketing strategies or plans that they are seeing some success with right now in this field?

Dan: There’s always been a lack of transparency, there’s always been a lack of education. We’re seeing that people that are investing in content, building out their own websites, educating families, educating alumni, they’re succeeding right now in leaps and bounds. The guys that were just spending massive amounts of money on paid media on AdWords with new regulations with Google cracking down at AdWords, that’s changing the game.

David: Yes, it’s changing fast now. I guess to back up a step, was there a specific reason or what motivated you to direct your company into working so much with the addiction team in film?

Dan: What was interesting is the same amount of work we would put into brand building or selling tickets to football games, the same amount of work yielded massive results on the admissions side. For low dollars, we were able to put a lot of people into treatment specifically through a treatment centers own website. It was never lead generation which is very efficient marketing, and then we got asked questions by our own production team, web developers, and content writers, “Hey, are we keep people from overdosing? That our website save a life?”

We realized, to some level we do have that benevolent agenda. A lot of our employees are either in recovery or have family members who are and it just became a passion somewhat organically.

David: I mean how they say– especially you say like eight years ago 12 years ago, there was a huge need, there is still is a huge need for efficient forward-thinking marketing in this industry. It must have been a pretty natural thing for you to see that need.

Dan: What I’ve also seen is that the marketing practices themselves have changed. The industry was behind and now everybody is getting caught up. They’re able to see what the shady players are doing, it is obvious to them now that they understand how to advertise.

David: Before there is a lack of education, lack of information, so people could get away with stuff just because you didn’t know.

Dan: Exactly. So there are fewer corners to cut and everybody’s got to play the game fair enough.

David: The big news that’s happening right now, as you mentioned Google has made some changes. I guess to start off this part of the conversation, could you give us a quick overview of what’s happened in the last few weeks with some articles coming out and then Google responding to that?

Dan: The New York Times, Bloomberg, a lot of mainstream publications have run this story. Google has only ever manually regulated four or five industries from the start. There is always limitations on pharmaceuticals but payday loans, bail bonds, remote desktop support where somebody could just log into your computer, steal your identity. Those things all became fraudulent. What’s interesting is Google is just a series of empty billboards, it’s just a place to advertise.

When people are taking advantage of and spending millions to post shady advertisements and fraudulent information, when they get enough reports, when they hear outcry from an industry for a long enough period of time, they do slam on the brakes. They’re trying to remove the unethical players so they’re verifying addresses, they’re making sure that you’re actually the facility that your ads say you are, cut down on trademark infringement, cut down on false advertising. They’re going really deep in the data to do that manually.

David: What are some of the specific marketing practices or things that they’re targeting right now with their reason action?

Dan: At the top level, there’s about 70,000 or so keywords that there are going to be reviewing. They will limit the volume that those viewers can generate ads. You won’t see pay-per-click ads and some keywords right now at all. Others have been greatly reduced while they’re going through this cleanup effort. Some of them will never be turned back on, they drive up prices to inflationary levels.

It was causing other industries, like the word “Rehab” also applies to physical therapy and other industries. Some of those key words, you’ll simply not be allowed to bid on anymore, they will be considered regulated. They will still allow people to advertise, especially for brand related terms, location-related terms, and you’ll find that that slowly but surely comes back as they’re putting the things in place to enforce their own policies.

David: The changes that have happened just recently– was Google regulating it at all before and they’ve just really stepped it up or is this kind of the first step into that?

Dan: To an extent. They’ve always through Google partners or any agencies managing campaigns. We could always submit complaints and they were very responsive about quickly replying to those. I think a lot of independent operators that were managing their own marketing, they don’t know that they have that audience, they don’t know that they ever get to speak with Google. They have pretty strong customer service, they know that they’re a corporate giant.

I don’t think it’s a scenario of corporate profiteering, I think it’s a scenario where they’re just a media outlet like a TV channel, like a billboard company. What you choose to put on air is really up to the advertiser. The ethical standards need to be set on your end or by the industry. That’s where to some extent, they fell victim to that. Their own bylaws already were in place, they don’t allow for re-marketing ads that follow you around the Internet or they already had some of those things in place to try and set the ethical guidelines on how to use their platform.

David: Did you have an opinion on where that responsibility should lie if I fall more on one side or the other?

Dan: In my opinion, it should fall on the advertiser to be responsible. False advertising, especially in a medical space, it’s typically a crime. Instead of reporting a lot of these people to Google, I think they should be reported to the FBI. Potentially, Google is taking things that far, I’m not sure, but as an industry, there’s the outcry, everyone organizing, everyone speaking at these events. That is being heard by Google, by federal law enforcement, there’s State Law 807 in Florida, that are now regulating our ability to market, you have to procure a license to do any marketing.

I think you’ll see the solution doesn’t just happen at Google Corporation, you’ll see it happen industry-wide, systematically, and the laws will be enforced more stringently as well.

David: With some of these changes that have made, do you think that they’ve gone far enough to make a big difference?

Dan: I do. I think estimates on how much revenue the industry represents to Google or anywhere from 250 million to a billion of annual revenue, they’re going to be taking a massive hit.

David: Because this really hurts Google in a lot of senses.

Dan: It does. Again, one of their internal slogans is, “Do no evil.” They’re trying to be consumer advocates on their platform but it is simply a platform, it can be taken advantage of by someone. They’re working, I’m sure, long-term to fill in those gaps to make sure that there is less vulnerability, they don’t want bad press obviously. They are keeping their word, they’re sticking to this. We have seen in good healthy campaigns, we’ve seen a manual reduction, and then a manual increase again on specific keywords.

Anyone that owns an actual treatment center that is looking to market ethically has nothing to fear. I think that the search volume to some extent will be there in the near term. You might see for another couple of months potentially even through year-end this manual review will continue, because when Google does hit the brakes and change things systematically, they’re going to be thorough.

David: Do you envision them making more additional changes in the near future as they go through this?

Dan: Yes. What I think you’ll see them do, it’ll be much harder to launch a campaign, there will be a lot more internal review of the specific ads and what they say. Google’s team will actually go to your website and read the content or confirm your phone number on your site matches your phone number on Google My Business, they have also been policing your Google My Business listings, there is an issue where a lot of shady operators were using the open source suggest an edit feature.

David: Yes, I read that.

Dan: They were stealing the phone numbers of very large operators, and you don’t see that happen in other industries. You don’t see somebody go to the Johns Hopkins Google My Business page or Mayo Clinic and steal their phone number. It’s almost unheard of, and that was the issue. How can you put a bylaw in place against some kind of crazy criminal scheme?

David: From the consumer’s point of view, we don’t these yellow pages anymore, the Google Business phone number is the phone number.

Dan: Exactly. If everybody put on their consumer thinking cap, “How do they shop? How do they use Google?” It’s pretty commonplace. There is a general understanding among American consumers on how we Google things. We literally use the term like, “Let’s Google those things.” They have the bulk of total search volume. Bing and Yahoo are much, much, much smaller even in the space, lower search volumes. Google’s the largest referral source for mental health, it’s simply is.

It’s a stigmatized disease and you don’t see people openly discussing, “Hey, where did you got a rehab? It sounded like you had a great time.” It’s private issue to a lot of families and they do turn to the Internet they do trust the Internet and that’s what shady players were taking advantage of. I think you’ll see Google continue to add some bylaws to their platform, I think you’ll see them police this on an ongoing basis, I don’t think that this is all a one-off.

David: Because really Google is such an authority at this point like when you’re saying getting the consumer mindset. Even if they’re just a billboard, it says, “Google on the page.” and so for most people, it’s like, “Okay. I guess that’s it.”

Dan: They’re in it for the long haul. Google wants to be in business and grow forever, whereas a lot of treatment centers is there’s a lot of merger and acquisition activity people might be looking to build something up really quick even if they’re cutting corners just to sell it for a lot of money. I think that that greed is what’s fueling some of this.

David: For legitimate ethical treatment programs who are out there doing things the right way, what do these changes mean for them, a lot of them who depend on search engine marketing for a lot of their new patients?

Dan: There’s two primary advantages this is wonderful news to ethical operators. The first is organic search. It will be much easier for them to drive traffic from terms they might already be ranking for organic results that will no longer have traffic siphoned off from the paid ads. Much more authentic, much more brand-related, they’ll find inbound marketing to be more effective for them.

David: Like less noise.

Dan: The second benefit, Google is an auction. In a regulated environment, there are fewer people bidding on these keywords, more protection for your location, your brand, there are advantages on price in that center. On the page search side, I think that there will be more of a long-term option at a lower cost for treatment centers to actually use AdWords the way it was intended.

Market their own facility, their locations and their specialties, and Google will cross-reference the ads and the claims you’re making with the information you provide on your website. When those things match, you’ll absolutely be approved, you’ll be allowed to advertise and have them be part of your marketing mix.

David: If I’m understanding this right, it was really inflating the prices for a lot of this stuff.

Dan: Correct. Google doesn’t necessarily want that. Obviously, they welcome revenue but they would rather have 100 marketing organizations bidding at reasonable prices for a long duration than have two groups standing in the back of an auction holding up their paddles bidding a price up to infinity that actually doesn’t benefit them. It’s like an accidental monopoly.

David: Is that because it’s not sustainable for them or what?

Dan: Correct. I mean, when something gets to a cost-prohibitive price or if these were some of the most expensive keywords in all of health care and it’s a chronic condition, there is relapse that is a reality, repeat traffic at ever increasing prices, that’s a recipe that can’t be sustainable.

David: What do these developments tell you about Google’s role in marketing addiction treatment looking into the future?

Dan: I think that they’ll always be viewed as a source of information by the consumer. In Google’s mission, they want to rapidly answer your questions. You have an inquiry, a semantic search, “How do I choose an addiction treatment center? How do I know if I need rehab? Do I have to leave my job to attend a rehab center?” That’s information that Google absolutely within seconds wants their customers have access to.

No middleman, Google is the advertising platform. They need to be the medium that conveys that information. You’ll see them standing true to what they’ve built themselves on: quick access to information, do no evil, they will have their own bylaws and these aren’t laws–

David: It’s within a company.

Dan: Correct, that will give them the structure they need, the opportunity that comes from that will be more local marketing, you’ll find that it’s easier for facilities to market their own brand name and play defense of it and it’ll keep costs reasonable.

David: The question over that is what are some new opportunities that this might open up?

Dan: The opportunities to become publishers, to produce information, that’s an asset. The more words you have, the more knowledge you convey, the more you educate the higher market share you’re going to have. I’ll use WebMD as an example. When people sneeze, they go to WebMD and you self-diagnose, and it could be anything from a common cold to death plague. Just about everything– you’re convinced it’s death plague.

When consumers are shopping, especially for something that’s heavily stigmatized, first, they want to educate themselves on what the heck they’re even looking at, then they want to make an informed choice. But from the data we have, they’re only actually going to two or maybe three treatment center websites before they make a final decision. You simply want to provide enough information that you’re one of those sites.

If that information contains keywords that you think people might search a lot, men’s addiction treatment program, women’s addiction treatment program, concepts like that, that’s when you become an authority. The encyclopedia-style resource.

David: I’m sure you’ve seen the landscape changed a lot in this arena since you founded Dreamscape 12 years ago. I want to wrap up and get your thoughts on what’s next for the industry, how do you think things will change big picture over the next few years?

Dan: What I’ve already seen just in the last two years, massive acceleration in private capital coming into the industry and this has happened in other healthcare sectors. In the ’80s it was hospitals consolidating them or these healthcare networks. That will happen here, you’ll see massive consolidation, you’ll see a consolidation of marketing efforts as well. Fewer total brands.

You’ll see marketing evolves, there will be a lot more asset production, video production, educational resources, media, there’ll be more TV, more radio-

David: More podcasts?

Dan: – more podcasts. Beautiful, beautiful podcasts, send it out every week. I think you’ll see more organizations embrace those concepts and share some thought leadership at a clinical level, at a business level, and that’s where we’ll start to level out the industry. You’ll see people on the same page but this is still at an epidemic level and still a $40 billion plus healthcare sector.

You’ll see the consolidation happen rapidly over the next couple of years, and then you’ll see the agreements on ethical practices, you’ll see more operators that are afraid of lawsuits and jail time and federal regulation.

David: If you’re a giant company that is very ripe for suing, if you do something wrong and then you really have to be sure that everything you own is doing things the right way.

Dan: Exactly. Instead of a shoot from the hip mentality, you’re going to find everybody thinking through their strategies, their tactics will be risk averse and that’s going to get people a much better match for the treatment that’s right for them. The consumers will end up being happier, leaving better reviews, referring in more patients, and it should even bring marketing costs down when you do that effectively, when you build a true community.

David: Word of mouth is free.

Dan: The ethical operators know that and that’s what they’ve been trying to combat for years. This guy just showed up down the street from me and spends half a million dollars a week and is stealing my market share. When that guy is still able to fill his treatment center, because they’ve been ethically providing strong clinical care for decades, and those admissions are through an alumni community word of mouth, the respect of their professional colleagues.

Those should be the goals. Alleviate fear, demonstrate respect, earn the respect of your colleagues, and then just like any other medical field, if you’re the best surgeon in town, doctors will refer to you. If you’re an expert at what you do and your unique art of mental health, people struggling with addiction are going to find you.

David: Thank you for your time, Dan.

Dan: Thanks for having me.

David: Thanks again to Dan for joining us. Now, I get to welcome Will Hart from the Life Challenge Team. He joins us each month to give us an update from their community which is the aftercare support network for those who have gone through Foundation’s treatment programs and anyone else up for accepting the challenge of living life in recovery. Last month’s challenge was to focus on the community that you have around you. Now, Will’s back to share the new challenge for this month. Welcome, Will.

Will Hart: Thanks for having me again.

David: Man, how you doing?

Will: I’m great. How are you?

David: Doing good, man. Recovering from Moments of Change, as we all are.

Will: Great week, though. It’s beautiful down there in Florida.

David: Yes, absolutely. What have you got for us this month?

Will: This one’s a little different. It’s going to be more contest oriented. We’re going to challenge everybody to go to a pumpkin patch, get a pumpkin, carve a pumpkin, send us a photo on our website, LCaccepted.com on the bragging rights page. If you’re like me, you don’t really like getting into the pumpkin except Halloween costumes, as well. Whatever pictures we’ll get, we’re hoping to send out some LC swag. Get it out in the community and we hope to see everybody having a good time this month.

David: Perfect, man. October, the weather is turning to get cool and crisp, it’s a great time for it. Good idea. As always people can send in their pictures, show you what they’re doing at LCaccepted.com and then like you said, it’s a contest. Get in there and get your spot.

Will: Can’t wait to see everybody.

David: All right, man. Thanks for your time.

Will: Thank you.

David: This has been the Recovery Unscripted podcast. Today, we’ve heard from Dan Gemp, President and CEO of Dreamscape Marketing. For more about their services, visit dreamscapemarketing.com. Thank you for listening today. Please take a few seconds to give us a rating and review on Apple podcasts or your favorite podcast app. See you next time.

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