Google ads for an Alcohol Treatment Center

Google Ads for Women’s Alcohol Treatment Center in California, USA
The Client:
addiction treatment center for women located on the picturesque hills near Asheville, North Carolina.

The Niche: female-specific addiction treatment.

Our Task: set up and launch advertising targeted at women aged 35 to 65, belonging to the upper class and having a high financial status; select optimal types of advertising campaigns and audiences; test the ads for possible blocking by the Google moderation system.

The Goals: launch the project without getting banned; increase the number of clients turning to the clinic for “treatment of alcoholism in women" and “treatment of addictions in women"; ensure high quality of ad copies.

Problems: a rather specific type of service, advertising for which is often accompanied by blocking as well as partially or completely limiting the display of advertising.

Project Period: May 2022 — now.

Virtually all contextual advertising specialists who have worked on the promotion of medical services with Google Ads know that even permitted promotion directions can cause "unhealthy" interest of moderators and checking bots, which leads to constant rejections of ads or limiting the display of advertisements.

As of May 2018, ads for addiction services are officially banned within Google Ads in all countries except the United States. Advertisers from the US have to obtain LegitScript certification and be additionally certified by Google.

Theoretically, advertising delivery for queries like "how to stop drinking" should have stopped in 2018, but in 2022, when we type this query in the search box, we can see advertisements. It means that there is an opportunity to undergo moderation and find a way to launch ads that comply with the Google rules.

Case Description

The first and foremost question to tackle was how to launch advertising for a service prohibited by Google from advertising. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, we can share approaches that we have already tested.

Steps to Launching Advertisements

  1. We examined all the ways in which the moderation system checks advertising and what can get us blocked.

In order for the system to reject an ad or block an account for violating the rules, it must understand that the rules have been violated. There are three elements that must be checked by moderation bots:

  • keywords
  • ad copy
  • web page content

And while the first two points entirely belong to the advertising account, the client has to work on the web page content, and since the moderation bot scans not only the target page, but also the entire website, it will find "forbidden" words all over the website.

Together with the client, we decided to add a separate landing page on the website, created by programmers and designers according to the requirements, and direct traffic from ads to this page. We placed a greater emphasis on the benefits of the rehab center, accommodation, therapy, and relaxation.

  1. The landing page

Creating a landing page for advertising is a key rule of keeping things balanced. If you add a lot of relevant content, moderation will reject you for advertising a prohibited service. If you add too little content, you’ll get the same result, but with an explanation "not enough original content". Nevertheless, we managed to keep the balance by adding the following to the pre-landing page:

  • messenger widgets — for those who are ready to get in touch;
  • a call button to a 24/7 call line;
  • a link to the main site — for those who need additional information before making a decision;
  • a button to the quote page;
  • Google Analytics tracking codes.
  1. Search ads

3.1. Gathering semantics

Gathering semantics was different from our standard practice. While for most projects our task number one is to pick the most relevant keywords and remove inefficient ones at the prototype stage of an advertising campaign, we needed to change our approach in the case of addiction treatment. We could remove irrelevant keywords only in active campaigns. The main reason is that if you add keywords that are related to prohibited topics in an exact match, there is a 99% probability that the account will be blocked.

3.2. We determined four main directions of search campaigns:
  • Search (General) —  general keywords:

  • Search (Lux) — keywords targeted at the upper class and luxury services segment:

  • Search (Detox) — keywords related to detoxification and relieving alcohol hangover symptoms:

  • Search (AA) — keywords targeted at members of Alcoholics Anonymous and their families:

The first three campaigns passed the moderation check and were allowed to display, while the AA campaign was immediately blocked, and adjusting the list of keywords and ad copies didn’t help. Therefore, we stopped it and decided to focus on the first three campaigns.

3.3. Target location

The State of California and other locations where the upper class resides.

3.4. Target audience

Women aged 25 to 65 who love parties, fun, and luxury items.

3.5. Ad copies

Creating ad copies was the most massive task during both setting up and optimizing campaigns. It was necessary to adjust ads to the target audience.

The result:

Ad metrics after two weeks:

In terms of the leads effectiveness, we have an interesting picture:

  • we received a lot of traffic and conversions from the general keywords campaign, but the leads were warm and not all of them qualified;
  • we got most conversions from the luxury campaign;
  • we got the least conversions from the Detox campaign and they were the most expensive in terms of the customer acquisition cost.

We made conclusions based on the obtained results, adjusted the allocation of budgets and expenses for the next month across campaigns, and started to prepare for the launch of a display campaign.

Conclusions and recommendations

Launching advertising for specific services is possible, and it is also an interesting challenge and experience. It is important to consider the following aspects:

  • take advantage of micro-conversions from the landing page if optimizing for macro-conversions from the main website is problematic;
  • a low-quality indicator in the account, due to which traffic is more expensive than the average;
  • it is necessary to have a backup account with unique ads, in case the main one is blocked;
  • devote sufficient time and effort to working with search queries and extending the negative keywords list, at least in the first 3-5 weeks (depending on traffic volumes)
  • manually gather statistics from various sources and calculate profitability;
  • work in the account in the manual mode, without using Google Ads Editor.
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