Ethics in Drug Rehab Marketing

If you Google “ethics in drug rehab marketing,” you’ll find that it’s a hotly debated topic within the addiction treatment space. No one knows that better than Dreamscape Marketing’s CEO Dan Gemp and CTO Kevin Plumlee. The two are partners of one of the top five SEO agencies in the country, and they’re setting standards within the industry for drug rehab marketing ethics.

As CEO Dan Gemp recently told the New York Times, “We have to constantly monitor the web for fake versions of our clients’ websites.” Between fake social media reviews and fake Facebook profiles, Gemp sees serious challenges in the addiction treatment field. “We’ve worked with 28 different industries. However, we’ve never had to play more defense than we do in addiction treatment.”

Gemp and business partner Kevin Plumlee have their work cut out for them. Not only are they dealing with unethical marketers but also the search engine giant that everyone tries to influence: Google.

“Ethics in Drug Rehab Marketing And Google Have a Difficult Relationship,” Says Dan Gemp

One key to the battle over drug rehab marketing ethics is Google. This is because the search engine giant profits greatly from the rising price of AdWords related to drug addiction and addiction treatment. Many rehab professionals accuse the company of being slow to curtail unethical drug rehab marketers.

Ethics has become an important concept for Dreamscape Marketing,” says Dan Gemp. “It really came into critical focus for us in 2017.” As it turns out, Gemp was on the panel at a National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers conference. The audience was hostile to Google’s seeming indifference at trying to stop unethical drug rehab marketing practices.

“The atmosphere was tense. You could feel it,” says Gemp. Also speaking at the panel was a Google contractor named Josh Weum. Unfortunately, he had the difficult job of defending Google’s practices regarding numerous drug rehab issues, including patient brokering. As drug rehabs know, patient brokering involves the buying and selling of potential patients, often by third-parties. The reputation of honest drug rehabs is under assault by this practice, and everyone in the room knew it.

“I’m not surprised that happened,” says Gemp. “Ethics in drug rehab marketing and Google have a difficult relationship. I’ve filed multiple complaints with Google about treatment center operators. My web development team has seen these people hack our clients’ websites just so they can get names of potential patients. We’ve even seen unethical competitors change clients’ phone numbers on ‘Google My Business’ directories.”

Why do all of this? “It’s to steal names of prospective patients and bid on clients’ names as AdWords keywords,” says Gemp. “At this conference, I talked about how reputable drug rehabs can defend themselves against the unethical actions of a few. The situation is a long way from resolved but we’ve made headway.”

Google Features Are Part of the Problem

Surprisingly, for all of Google’s contributions to a good search experience, the company unknowingly contributes to the problem. “It’s easy to take what seems like a good Google feature and use it for bad purposes,” says Dreamscape Marketing’s CTO Kevin Plumlee. One example, he says, is Google’s “Suggest an Edit” feature. “It’s the perfect way to get your Google My Business listing hijacked or directed to a competitor in some way.”

“Suggest an Edit” on Google My Business allows any user to recommend altered phone numbers, addresses, and web URLs. “Competitors and black hat marketers can attempt this and if an administrator does not deny it, the change goes through,” says Plumlee. “It’s a system begging to be abused.”

Therefore, Plumlee says, it’s easily manipulated features like these that put honest drug rehab centers in jeopardy. “It’s depressing to see reputable addiction treatment centers harmed by a few unethical players,” says Plumlee. “When this happens, it reflects on the whole industry. Of course, that’s extremely unfair, considering the number of committed and dedicated addiction treatments out there. Ethics in drug rehab marketing needs to be the norm. That’s definitely Dreamscape Marketing’s goal.”

The Importance of Good Data and Business Intelligence

In the end, insists Gemp, the best way to get more web traffic is to optimize drug rehab websites. Specifically, that means using legitimate data to drive reliable business intelligence. “If every single facility directed its energies toward ethical marketing, no one would need these deceptive practices,” says Gemp. “Ethical marketing is sustainable. Unethical marketing isn’t. That’s why we’re a strong believer in business intelligence. It’s where your lead generation should come from.”

Despite this, some companies rely on intuition or anecdotal evidence. Which is a nice way of saying that you’re guessing at things all the time. In contrast, business intelligence empowers a company by providing a historical, analytical and predictive “snapshot” of a company’s operations at any given moment. For an addiction treatment facility, this data can point to a number of things, including:

  • What web content drives phone calls
  • How many phone calls lead to conversions

Data-Driven Decisions Are Crucial

In fact, good business intelligence decisions always begin with solid data. Unfortunately, not every drug rehab center can firmly state that they do this. Until facilities make decisions based on solid, verifiable data, they will essentially be operating blind. Data that has been accurately gathered and analyzed will increase the effectiveness of marketing initiatives, as well as the entire admission process.

Data-driven decision making is an effective way to gain a competitive advantage in the addiction treatment space. This is particularly true with call tracking. For example, more and more drug rehab centers purchase trackable virtual phone numbers. If a competitor uses call tracking and your facility doesn’t, they have the advantage because they know:

  • Why people are calling
  • How many of them convert into admissions
  • How long that process takes

Without question, business intelligence is the key to identifying new opportunities or correcting existing inefficiencies. Similarly, it can also determine future operational and strategic decisions. “Business intelligence is basically a gateway to make drug rehab centers more competitive,” insists Gemp.

Gemp’s Push For Ethical Drug Rehab Marketing Gains a Surprising Convert

Dreamscape Market’s emphasis on drug rehab marketing ethics is getting noticed in the industry. In fact, when Dan Gemp spoke at the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers conference, his words had a strong effect on one person in particular. Weum, the Google contractor who faced the hostile gathering, accepted a job offer from Gemp shortly after the conference and now works for Dreamscape Marketing.

For More On Dreamscape Marketing’s Managing Partners:

Dan Gemp, CEO
Kevin Plumlee, CTO


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