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Rehab Marketing

How the Right Marketing and Advertising Strategies Can Transform Business Results

Promoting substance misuse recovery services is more difficult than ever before. Competition from so many treatment centers that use popular advertising strategies, such as keyword search, has caused the price of those ads to skyrocket. But the challenge isn’t only that promotion is costly. Stories of predatory tactics have haunted the industry, too, creating skepticism about advertisements.

Simply put, it is increasingly tough for legitimate rehab programs to connect with those who are looking for care. That's why a smart digital strategy is all the more important. This short guide will help those who run treatment centers understand what makes for an effective marketing strategy, built on authentic stories of patient experiences, in these turbulent times.

Content Strategy: Connect With Your Audience

Consistently curating content that is relevant, authentic, and compelling to those seeking a reputable treatment center is a must, as it makes for a reputable online presence. In an attention economy where your competitors are vying for the same eyeballs, differentiating your brand and value proposition is critical.

“Content” encompasses much more than copy: According to Google, 70% of your results depend on the strength of your creative materials, including videos and imagery. Incorporating creative content that is engaging and relevant to your audience goes a long way in conveying character and building trust.

“Pick images that fit your brand’s voice, style, and mood. Create a persona — then choose images that relate to your tone or cause.” Google’s “Creative Best Practices for Display and Formats Available in Google Marketing Platform,” June 2020

Your content strategy affects your website, social media properties, and advertising — in other words, your entire marketing ecosystem. Getting it right and using it consistently will make the most of your marketing dollars.

Paid Digital Advertising: Generate and Capture Demand

While online advertising is hypercompetitive, its power to deliver specific messaging, including visual imagery, to highly targeted audiences — and produce measurable results — is unmatched. Especially for businesses with digitally based services, digital advertising has eroded the barriers to entry and allowed even smaller campaigns and organizations to compete with larger and more established industry competitors.

When creating your marketing mix, balance efforts to both create and capture demand. Not everyone with a substance use disorder is ready to pursue treatment and recovery. And when they are, their window of time might be limited. Generating awareness and interest in your brand — and, to be exact, your services — before that time is up increases the likelihood that they recognize and choose your rehab program when they are ready to start their recovery.  

Every advertising campaign for recovery services should test and evaluate these three formats:


Social Media Marketing

Facebook and Instagram are giants in the advertising world. They should be core components of most digital marketing strategies.

Strengths: Rich canvas to tell your story and express your unique positioning; highly engaged audience.

Weaknesses: Limited ability to target audiences that may be expressing intent to seek recovery services. 


Search Engine Marketing

Purchasing keyword ads on Google allows you to reach people at the exact moment when they are looking for treatment.

Strengths: Unmatched ability to reach people actively seeking recovery services.

Weaknesses: Expensive, with some search terms costing upwards of $50 per click; limited ability to differentiate your services in the ad units.


Online Treatment Center Directories

Treatment center directories, like and, organically rank high in search engine results for some of the most sought-after keywords in recovery advertising. That means that when someone searches for terms like “drug rehab center,” for users in many locations these directories are often one of the first results on the page.

While different treatment directories have different approaches, they often aggregate recovery services to make it easier for potential clients to browse and compare options based on selected criteria.

Strengths: Highly qualified traffic; high return on investment, especially on newer platforms.

Weaknesses: Limited opportunity ability to differentiate your services in the ad units.

60-Day Free Trial: Premium Listing on Start Your Recovery’s Facility Directory. Connect with more patients by claiming your free trial of our premium listing feature. Every day, we connect more than 1,000 people to substance use treatment options. 

Search Engine Optimization: Show Up in Google

Getting listed in a higher position in Google’s search results can transform business results. More than 90% of clicks go to URLs that appear on the first page of search results — leading to hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of website visits. More than 30% of those clicks go to the first item on the search results page.

Achieving a ranking that high for sought-after keywords takes time, persistence, and above all, content that users find valuable.

When considering search engine optimization (SEO) — enhancing content to improve your website’s search engine rankings — it’s important to understand how Google’s algorithm works. Although there are hundreds of ranking signals — that is, characteristics of a website that determine its position in search engine results — the algorithm seeks to answer a few simple questions to rank competing websites.

Google’s algorithm is trying to determine...

By looking at these metrics…

How relevant is the page to the user’s query?

Keyword density (how often  you use keywords, such as “rehab,” in key page elements)

How trustworthy is this organization?

Quantity and quality of links from other trusted sites

Do users have a good experience?

  • Reviews
  • Click-through rate (the percentage of people who see your website and click on it compared with those who see it and do not)
  • Dwell time (how long people stay on your site)
  • Website speed (how fast your pages load)

A smart SEO strategy starts by determining for which of these questions your site is weakest and then creating a plan to improve your metrics.

SEO efforts can help increase your site’s visibility in two aspects of Google’s results: traditional and local listings. A similar algorithm and logic determine in what position your URL shows up in these results; however, there are some important differences:

Traditional results: More likely to favor businesses that have a high number of links from other organizations.

Local results: More likely to favor businesses with better reviews and closer physical proximity to the person searching.

Analytics and Optimization: Improve Your Results Over Time

If you understand what works and why, then you can make your marketing more efficient and your business more profitable. For the purposes of this guide, we assume you have implemented sound digital analytics and tracking on your website and created a framework to measure how effective your marketing strategy is in helping you reach your overall business goals. If you can’t complete the steps below, you may need to consider whether you have the right tools.

Step 1: Determine What Drives Leads. Determine when calls and inbound requests are made, and which channels drove them. To help fill gaps in tracking, unique “call tracking” phone numbers can be assigned to different marketing efforts to better understand the impact of those channels and advertising content.

Step 2: Calculate Return on Investment. Determine how much money you’re investing on each channel (search ads, social ads, SEO, radio, etc.). Compare the number (and quality) of leads you’re getting from each. Assess where you are getting your money’s worth — and where to double down.

Step 3: Test and Optimize. Each month, commit to one high-level experiment: What happens if I cut the Google spend by 50%? What happens if I run a trial spend on a new platform? What if we make a dramatic change to the creative content? If you take one big insight away each time, by year’s end you will have transformed your marketing.

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