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About Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

Ethical Addiction Treatment Marketing Alternatives to Paid Ads

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Ethical Addiction Treatment Marketing Industry Paid Ad Obstacles - Eminent SEO

Dear Rehab Owners: Beware of Shady Marketers and Lead Generators

I am part of an ethics in addiction treatment group on Facebook. Some of the members are marketers, like me, but most of the members of the group seem to be treatment providers. What they have to say about the shady practices is pretty disturbing, and it goes well beyond digital marketing.

One member asked about the ethics and legalities around addiction treatment marketing, and after reviewing the comments, it was clear that there is still a lot of gray area.

Some acted like all marketing is bad. Others implied that it was how the marketer was paid.

Can You Legally Market Your Addiction Treatment Center?

Marketing is an umbrella term for so many tactics and channels. You’ve got ground marketing, referral partnerships, online advertising, lead generation, traditional and digital forms. You’ve also got branding, content development, local, paid ads, organic, etc. etc.

The problem is all of these are legitimate forms of marketing, yet all can also be easily distorted and manipulated. So, when the law gets involved, they’re not always sure where to draw the line. There is a lot of gray area and the people writing and enforcing the laws don’t always understand the full scope of what’s going on. This leaves a lot of loopholes for anyone looking to scam the system.

Unfortunately, with technology and the law changing so fast, rehab owners can’t keep up with it all. Think about the implications of even owning and operating your own website. Is it safe and secure? Can you be sure your content is medically accurate, even blog posts from years ago? Do your leads go to a HIPAA compliant tool?

Don’t think this matters? Think again.

If you’re making claims and can’t back them up, you’re going to be in trouble. Not just with generating leads, but with insurance companies and, yes, the law.

Certain aspects to what falls under ‘marketing’ can be looked at as illegal. You can’t lie and manipulate. You can’t patient broker, fee split or take kickbacks. If you violate HIPAA compliance, they’ll be coming for you.

Defining Ethical Addiction Treatment Marketing

So, what defines addiction treatment marketing and how can you ensure you’re doing it ethically?

Most will agree that “marketing” is neither illegal nor unethical. To further clarify, addiction treatment marketing is when a treatment business hires an agency or salaried employees to:

  • Create a website with proper SEO and messaging.
  • Perform outreach and networking tasks on behalf of the facility.
  • Utilize digital marketing channels and assets to promote the brand.
  • Run paid ad campaigns to raise awareness and generate leads.
  • Attend conferences, man a marketing booth and network to promote the facility.
  • Educate other providers, such as EAP groups, unions and other potential referral sources.

All of this is legitimate and ethical, assuming you are working with honest people. Where you get into a gray area is when the individuals are also paid a commission based on admissions to the program. Many legitimate marketing positions, where all business is conducted in the light of day, include such incentives.

Many in my ethics group are confused why commission is allowed, but fee-per-referral is not, or is at least frowned upon. There are still hordes of websites and social media pages that seem to be making money from addiction treatment referrals.

Can You Refer Addiction Treatment Leads Legally?

Whether you are a facility owner or not, there are plenty of reasons why you might have to refer a lead to a treatment center. If you are an MD, psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, run EAPs or have some other related affiliation, from time to time you may need to refer clients to an effective addiction treatment provider.

Please note that I am not a lawyer and therefore I can’t give legal advice. However, based on popular public opinion, I can say there are a few things you can do to avoid violating HIPAA and professional codes of ethics:

  • Pre-qualify any treatment center you partner with.
  • Only refer patients to facilities qualified to treat the specific needs of this client.
  • Host and transfer your treatment center leads in a HIPAA-compliant system.
  • Never sell your leads to the highest bidder.
  • Don’t accept kickbacks for patients you refer.

The laws around lead referral seem to vary per state, so if you are in the business of referring leads, you should definitely consult a lawyer and make sure you understand what you can and can’t do legally.

Alternatives to paid ads

Generating Addiction Treatment Leads the Ethical Way Isn’t Easy

I can’t say I don’t understand why so many treatment centers resort to buying leads. Generating your own leads has always been hard. But, generating leads for addiction treatment is harder than ever.

At one point, before Google decided to eliminate the ability for addiction treatment centers to bid on treatment-related keywords, the cost per click on their paid ads had skyrocketed to $100 to $150 per click. This meant that Google ads were altogether too expensive for some of the smaller rehabs.

Alternative forms of marketing, such as branding and social media, can also be expensive and take time to get results. Plus, there are no guarantees. Take Facebook ads for example: After Google crushed AdWords, many rehabs moved to Facebook paid ads. So much for Google’s plan to stop shady rehabs from advertising, right?

Wrong.

Per this post from LegitScript on August 8th, 2018, LegitScript Addiction Treatment Certification Expands to Include Facebook:

“Starting today, Facebook will require LegitScript certification for providers of drug and alcohol addiction treatment who want to advertise in the United States. This partnership follows the official rollout of our program, which began at the end of July after an initial pre-launch phase. Now both Google and Facebook will require LegitScript certification for addiction treatment providers looking to advertise.”

So, now you have to have a LegitScript certification for both Google AND Facebook ads.

Viable Marketing Alternatives to Paid Ads for Rehabs

Here’s what to do/try if you’re a rehab business and not LegitScript certified:

#1: More of What’s Already Working

SEO Client Organic Rankings Growth Chart

Want growth like this? An organic approach to multi-channel marketing can rank your website for thousands of keywords and drive countless qualified visitors to your site and branded assets:

  • On-page SEO
  • Organic Link Building
  • Local Marketing
  • Strategic Blogging
  • Content Marketing
  • Asset Development
  • Branding
  • Outreach and Engagement
  • Email Marketing

#2: Test Other Ad Platforms

YouTube Stat 2018

Google and Facebook are not the only tech giants selling ad space. Why are these other channels of marketing and paid ad opportunities not being more heavily tested? Someone give us a budget so we can test this stuff already, such as:

  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Bing
  • Yahoo

If you do decide to test other ad platforms, just keep in mind that each work differently and may need to also utilize a supporting lead nurturing campaign.

When considering the buyers journey most ads on social platforms will reach buyers at the top of the funnel, or beginning of the journey. These leads can be nurtured into sales with the right strategy, but don’t expect to convert the majority of your visitors from the first touch.

You can learn more about this strategy here: How to Convert Leads into Sales by Understanding the Buyer’s Journey

#3: Get Listed on Relevant Sites

There are numerous high traffic sites that still sell ad space or offer directory listings. Trusted sites, such as PsychologyToday.com, offer brand visibility and referral traffic for a monthly fee.

Our good buddy, Jim Peake, of Addiction-Rep, has a good-sized drug rehab directory list on his site here. Some of the listings are free, but most decent websites want to charge you for valuable real estate on their site.

You do have to be careful about what sites you buy ad space from, however, as there are still so many shady third-party sites that fake their statistics and the quality of their traffic, banking on the ignorance of their buyers.

#4: Everything Else I Already Said Before

I don’t want to be redundant, so if you missed it, I provided some other interesting marketing ideas in my previous article here: Can Rehabs Survive Big Changes to the Addiction Treatment Industry?

In Closing

Unfortunately, there are no cheap solutions or quick fixes here.

Effective marketing requires addiction treatment center owners and advertisers to work together on reaching clients where they are with the right messaging. If Google and Facebook can eliminate your ability to bid on paid ads practically overnight, then your other channels of marketing and lead-generation sources could dry up in the same way.

The key is to diversify, test everything and use a smart marketing strategy that is always focused on what is working NOW … and focused on the tried-and-true solutions that provide long-term gains, like SEO.

See How We Approach Rehab Marketing

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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Cannabis Marketing Challenges – and 10 Strategies You Can Try

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Cannabis Marketing Challenges Paid Advertising - Eminent SEO

Most Advertising Platforms Will NOT Accept Cannabis Ads

If you own a medical dispensary or work in the cannabis industry, you might already know this by now, but hear this: The big ad platforms are not your friend.

I know, I know, this is totally counterintuitive to our typical multi-channel marketing approach, but hear me out.

The United States is a big place and our country operates at the federal and state level. So, even though states like Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington and 24-plus other states have made the drug legal in some form, it doesn’t mean the big advertising platforms are happy to host paid ads.

In fact, with the changing political landscape, four of the major ad sellers – Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – have all decided NOT to allow marijuana brands to run paid ads on their platforms, at least at this time.

Facebook and Instagram Shut Down Cannabis Accounts

But, it’s not just paid ads the big tech giants have cracked down on. Both Facebook and Instagram are infamous for taking down cannabis-related accounts.

Look at what others are saying:

Facebook Cracks Down on Marijuana Firms with Dozens of Accounts Shut Down

“We tried to log into Instagram, and a message said we violated their policy, but they won’t say what that violation is,” said Rick Scarpello, CEO of Incredibles, a Denver-based edible company. “I’ve written them every day, saying I’m not doing anything illegal and please reinstate my account.”

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

Did Instagram Change its Marijuana Marketing Policy?

“Instagram does not allow people or organizations to use the platform to advertise or sell marijuana, regardless of the seller’s state or country. This is primarily because most federal laws, including those of the United States, treat marijuana as either an illegal substance or highly regulated good. Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, street addresses, or by using the ‘contact us’ tab in Instagram Business Accounts. We do however allow marijuana advocacy content as long as it is not promoting the sale of the drug. Dispensaries can promote the use and federal legalization of marijuana, provided that they do not also promote its sale or provide contact information to their store.”

Read this line again: Our policy prohibits any marijuana seller, including dispensaries, from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, street addresses, or by using the “contact us” tab in Instagram Business Accounts.

Wait, what?

A Long Way to Go – Another Example

The Cannabis Industry Is Still Fighting for Legitimacy on Social Media Platforms

“It’s been frustrating for us not being able to advertise on Facebook and Google because of our involvement in the cannabis industry,” said Jeffrey Zucker, co-founder and president of Green Lion Partners, a business strategy firm focused on early-stage development in the regulated cannabis industry. He added that he has had to deal with influencers who have spent a lot of time building up their followings suddenly seeing their accounts deleted without any prior messaging or warning, and often with no recourse.

So, what can you do?

10 Cannabis Advertising and Marketing Strategies

1. Play by the Rules

You can still create branded social accounts. However, if you are going to use Facebook and Instagram, then you MUST play by the rules:

  • Add a disclaimer: “You must be 21 or over to follow this account.”
  • Don’t EVER post a product for sale.
  • Don’t use a “Contact Us” direct contact button on Instagram.
  • Avoid claiming any direct medical benefits.
  • To advocate for legalization and use, give strain and product reviews.
  • Don’t offer a physical address or phone number to buy any products.
  • To promote your store, direct people to your website for location information.

And, don’t think this is everything. These popular social platforms tend to update their terms of service quite frequently. As a cannabis business owner, it’s imperative you understand and keep up with the laws and changing restrictions.

2. Use Engagement and Outreach

If you’re going to play nice and use social media for your cannabis brand, you really need to get creative with your strategies. Even with ads, clients can have a hard time standing out online and getting new followers.

If you expect to grow your organic reach, you must identify, target and engage with your prospects. Try this on:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • YouTube

Bonus engagement tip: Your biggest fans may already be engaging with your brand regularly. Don’t ignore those users. Instead, focus on building a relationship with them first. When relationships are nurtured correctly, fans can turn into powerful brand advocates who actually create engagement and viral opportunities for your business.

3. Brand Your Business

As this industry grows, the marketplace has become saturated with new products and brands. With so much to choose from, branding is key to ensure your marijuana business gets found. Try:

No matter which marketing channels you choose to leverage for your business, you need a memorable brand identity with a solid personality in order to gain customer engagement and brand loyalty.

Why does loyalty matter? If people like your brand, they might come back to buy again. If they love your brand, they’ll pick you over your competition every time. And, if they just can’t get enough of your brand? Well, they’ll tell all of their friends too.

4. Buy Media on Relevant Sites

Sure, Instagram and Facebook might not allow you to buy ads, but there are some digital advertising networks that do allow cannabis media buys, such as banner ads and other dynamic display ads.

Popular networks and media ad sites include:

However, buyer beware: As with any form of paid cannabis advertising, having rented ads on these sites isn’t cheap. Most will cost you at least $500 to $1,000 per month. Want to play with the big boys? An ad on the HighTimes.com online magazine starts at about $5,000 per location.

5. SEO Your Website

As an SEO agency, we might be a little biased. But, the data doesn’t lie. Websites with the right search engine optimization are getting the most traffic and best conversions. With the ongoing social media roadblocks and paid ad restrictions, organic website marketing is even more crucial to gaining visibility for your marijuana brand online.

Effective SEO tactics today include:

  • Identification of your ideal buyers
  • Keyword research and selection
  • Optimized metadata and image alt tags
  • High quality, unique and keyword rich content
  • AMP and mobile responsive pages
  • Rich schema markups
  • Local business citations
  • Mixed media for user engagement
  • Outreach and link building

The right SEO strategy can drive huge amounts of qualified search traffic to your website. Check out this organic case study on one of our local medical marijuana dispensaries. Now, after just a few more months into their campaign with us, they are getting HUGE amounts of organic traffic to the site.

In the last 30 days, they have had more than 8,000 visitors, 6,700 of which are organic. This is what expert SEO can get you.

Marijuana Dispensary Website Traffic Data - ESEO

6. Tap into Local

From Google My Business to Yelp, if you are a geo-targeted business, you MUST have a local presence. Did you know that your Google My Business page can rank for hundreds of keyword phrases? Just like organic SEO helps drive relevant traffic to your website, local SEO helps drive geo-targeted traffic to your Google My Business page.

Think about this: Most users are searching for cannabis-related products and dispensaries “nearby.” Google understands search behavior and therefore assumes specific keyword phrases are intended to produce a local result. Because of this, many terms will return the Google My Business listings before any organic website listings, even if they don’t include a geo-target or the words “near me.”

For example, I searched “medical dispensary,” a generic keyword phrase, and Google assumed I wanted local help:

Medical Dispensary Google Search - ESEO

Having a Google My Business for your cannabis shop, medical dispensary or marijuana product line is a no-brainer. If you don’t have one, go make one now: Google My Business

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@eminentseo

“In cannabis, it's an education-first mindset, not product first.” – Matt Rizzetta, CEO of public relations agency N6A

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7. Share High-Quality Content

For decades now, cannabis has been illegal, forcing a lot of misinformation and stigma around the plant, including its uses and benefits. Many cannabis businesses are left with the task of raising awareness and spreading education around the facts.

Quality content can help a brand reach prospects and partners. If doctors are going to prescribe marijuana, they must understand it. By educating doctors and other health care providers on the benefits of the plant, dispensaries can earn trust, respect and new partnership opportunities.

You can develop and host high-quality content on:

  • Your own website
  • The company blog
  • Your public social media platforms
  • Your local listings

You can also write and share a company newsletter, offering users a gateway to other relevant content on your website and other branded platforms.

8. Leverage Email Campaigns

Another great way to share and spread quality information is through email marketing. In addition to a monthly newsletter about your brand, why not tap into targeted email marketing campaigns?

The Direct Marketing Association says for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return on investment is $40.56. Not a bad ROI, huh? However, there’s a lot more to an effective campaign; sending out emails is only part of the strategy.

For effective email marketing, try this:

  • Develop specific landing pages to match your email offers.
  • Create multiple opportunities for new users to subscribe to your lists.
  • Organize your existing contacts into related groups.
  • Send each group offers and content relevant to their specific interests.
  • Use catchy headlines to increase open rates.
  • Test various send times and dates, and use analytics to optimize your delivery strategy.
  • Use your social media platforms to build a bigger audience.
  • Include personalized visual content, such as videos and GIFs.
  • Showcase client testimonials, case studies and other social proof.
  • Hire a designer to create a custom template and awesome graphics to wow the audience.
  • Always include a desired call to action. And, track everything!

Bonus Tip: Don’t oversell. Remember, when a user subscribes to a list, it’s because they believe they will receive something of value from it. Oftentimes, prospects are not ready to “buy now.” Instead, personalize your emails and become a trusted friend, someone your readers rely on for information they need. Provide value and the sales will come.

9. Try Text Messaging

Did you know that you can send short messages right to your employees, partners and customers using a text-messaging service? What better way to share daily quotes, specials, event updates and other important information with your clients? With text messaging, you can get your message directly to your audience in a cost-effective way.

With group texting services, you can:

Run Drip Campaigns:

  • Welcome texts
  • Updates on new products and sales
  • Detailed information about the service you offer
  • Transactional messages
  • Reminders about events
Send Business Promotions:

  • New offers and deals
  • Product announcements
  • Invitations to exclusive sale events
  • Announcements about sales
  • Product promotions

You can also segment your subscriber lists and send different messages to various groups based on their specific interests and buying patterns.

10. Traditional Marketing

This isn’t as much a tip as it is an option. Traditional marketing is expensive, but for cannabis?

“You have a handful of websites; you have print ads, which are abnormally popular, [and] dispensaries spend more on a cost-per-impression basis than a Super Bowl commercial to get into a local print publication,” Joel Milton, CEO of Baker Technologies, told Adweek.

Trying radio or TV? Good luck getting a prime spot:

“Most TV companies will only let you advertise if you can prove that the TV station or radio station has less than 30% of listeners that are under 21 years of age,” says Celeste Miranda, co-founder of The Cannabis Story Lab.

However, billboards might still work:

“We’re seeing a lot of marketers turn to out-of-home in place of digital opportunities,” says Kyle Del Muro, a consultant with several cannabis clients. “In Vegas, billboards are becoming a big thing,”

But, similar to online magazine ads, billboards are not cheap. To run a billboard ad in most small to mid-sized cities in the US is roughly $1,500 to $4,000 per month. Larger markets can reach $14,000 per month!

Canna King Billboard Oregon - ESEO

(Twitter Photo/@420dispensary)

Final Tip to Overcome Cannabis Marketing Challenges

Cannabis marketing and advertising isn’t easy. As the political and legal landscape continues to evolve, expect even more changes in the way cannabis businesses do marketing.

Get ahead of the curve, implement effective, long-term marketing strategies now, such as cannabis SEO, and reap the rewards for years to come.

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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Grow Your Cannabis Business with These Marketing Tips

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Cannabis Marketing Tips Dispensary Businesses - Eminent SEO
Marketing cannabis businesses is actually pretty nuanced. For example, you can’t just start a new Facebook account about your marijuana brand and say whatever you want about your products like any other business would. Nope. Facebook does not like that.

Cannabis marketing is still evolving with the changing industry, and there are things we can and can’t do. On top of that, the industry is young and many companies didn’t have to worry about strong branding and forward-thinking marketing because the demand was so high. But, with increasing demand always comes increasing competition.

Here are a few cannabis marketing tips to help businesses navigate the changing landscape of marketing and stand out from the competition:

Be Careful Your Marketing Messaging Doesn’t Target Minors

Cannabis is still in its early stages in terms of its legalization and acceptance in many ways. You must always keep age restrictions in mind and be careful about where you choose to advertise.

Marijuana businesses should make marketing messaging a top priority. Using a lot of jokes and incorporating cartoon mascots, like Joe Camel, will give the wrong image of your brand. It will also undermine the goal of the cannabis industry as a whole: to be taken seriously.

Make sure your social media AND your website both ask the user to confirm that they are 21 years or older in order to proceed. You might not be able to verify each follower yourself, but the disclaimer gives the platforms some assurances you are trying to do your part.

Don’t Try to Sell Your Cannabis Products on Social Media

The big social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, are being pretty particular when it comes to what you can and can’t say about cannabis on their platforms. Some cannabis business owners have reported being flagged, getting posts removed and their accounts taken down altogether. It seems like marijuana is all over social media, so why are some accounts getting shut down while others are not?

We turned to the Instagram Community Guidelines to see if we could find any answers. This seems to be the closest thing to an answer: “Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is also not allowed.”

Okay, we get it. But, why then do some accounts seem to remain unrestricted for years while others are taken down over and over? With cannabis only recently becoming more legally available, it doesn’t surprise us that Facebook and Instagram are a bit paranoid about what they allow on their platforms. But, if cannabis is treated like other substances, this wouldn’t be such a common issue for dispensaries.

Just look at alcohol. Who is monitoring the Coors Light account to make sure the 82,000-plus followers are all over 21? No one. But, better believe they are promoting the sale of their product. It appears to be fine to share product pics and talk about the product as long as you don’t directly suggest that fans purchase it.

Unfortunately, this is a bit of a gray area for some. It’s hard to know what you can and can’t say. And who has time to read all of those guidelines, anyway?

Are You Recreational or a Medical Dispensary? Why? There’s a Big Difference.

If you are marketing yourself as a recreational cannabis business, then social networks should treat you like it treats tobacco and alcohol industries. Meaning, you should have to make specific warnings and then be allowed to market your product as you see fit.

However, if you are offering a medical product and making medical claims about cannabis, then it makes sense that they would view you as a pharmaceutical company, which has its own process for proving a product has medical benefits.

Decide What Type of Cannabis Business You Are

Recreational Or Medical What Type Of Cannabis Business Are You - Eminent SEOUnfortunately, if you want to play by the rules, you are going to have to decide. Are you going to market yourself as a recreational brand? Or, are you going to push the medical benefits?

If you are going to share health advice, be advised: Certain platforms will see this as a violation of their terms.

There are two main rules you should remember:

  1. If you are talking about medical benefits, don’t take a solid stance as a brand. Instead, refer to studies and other third-party information to support your comment, such as patient testimonials. For example, write, “Many patients claim CBD helps them with their arthritis,” instead of, “CBD is known to help with pain from arthritis.”
  2. If you are a dispensary, you cannot push your cannabis products. If you have some new products to sell, they don’t want you publishing a picture with a caption that says how and where you can buy the products. Yes, even if you are dispensary and require visitors to present a valid card before they can purchase anything. The social platforms don’t care. These types of posts will be removed, and your whole account may get banned or suspended.

Branding Your Cannabis Business Beyond Recreational vs. Medical

Of course, there is more to it than simply knowing whether your brand represents a recreational business or medical company. What does your brand stand for? Do you have a company mission statement? Why did you get into the cannabis business? What is your story? What is your long-term vision for your brand?

If you hope to stand out from the competition, you must first define what sets you apart. Ask yourself what makes you unique?

Start with a Mission Statement

Marketing Tips For Cannabis Dispensary Businesses - ESEOA well-crafted mission statement aligns the company officers and employees with the same goals and objectives. The mission statement can act as the framework for decision making and provide a clear path to change if the company gets off track.

Without a mission statement, a company can easily lose track of its values, stability and specific goals.

Here at Eminent SEO, we have our own Mission Statement clearly stated on our website:

“Eminent SEO seeks to create and promote beautiful brand collateral, expertly optimized websites and well-crafted marketing messages as a means to push the boundaries of internet marketing, and to help companies, corporations and government agencies be more successful.

“It’s our mission to deliver ethical, high-quality services while simultaneously working on creating meaningful relationships with our clients, partners, each other and those in the community around us.”

If you want to get to work on your own mission statement, here are some things to consider: Mission Statement vs. Vision vs. Company Culture

Examples of Cannabis Business Mission Statements

TheCannabisIndustry.org:

To promote the growth of a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry and work for a favorable social, economic, and legal environment for that industry in the United States.

“The National Cannabis Industry Association was founded on the principle of power in numbers. The thousands of American businesses involved in the state-legal cannabis industries represent a tremendous economic force in this country. As the industry’s national trade association, NCIA works every day to ensure our growing business sector is represented in a professional and coordinated way on the national stage.”

EarthMed.com:

“EarthMed prides itself on providing the highest quality compassionate care to patients who truly need it. We understand that for many, pain is a daily part of life and that nobody should have to live in pain when there are treatments available. Medical Cannabis has many medical benefits that ease the pain that traditional medicine cannot offer. EarthMed’s focus is to provide a safe and legal venue for patients to receive treatment using Medical Cannabis.

“Another ideal EarthMed strives for is community outreach and education regarding Medical Cannabis. These include educating the community with regards to the benefits of Medical Cannabis and how to legally obtain it.”

KindMedsAZ.com:

“Kind Meds is a medical marijuana dispensary that is focused on cultivating top-quality medical cannabis flower and similar products to help patients overcome illness, pain, and to live happier.

“Our company is passionate about supplying grade A cannabis flower as well as being a reliable resource to help educate individuals about quality cannabis medicine, because we feel that it can help change people’s lives for the better.”

Define Your Buyer Types

Before you can market to new prospects, you must define who they are. If you have a luxury cannabis brand, for example, your buyer might have a higher income, certain profession and live in a specific geographical location. You also need to consider age, gender and interests.

Buyer Personas for Cannabis Businesses

Depending on your specific brand and goals, you may have one, two or several buyer persona types. If you are just getting started, don’t overdo it.

Define your top two to three revenue-generating buyers and build your strategies around them to start. Consider:

  • Medical patients
  • Cannabis advocates/fans
  • Professionals
  • Advertising partners

Let’s say you are a medical cannabis dispensary that offers top-shelf products in Mesa, Arizona. You may ask yourself:

Who is my desired customer? What motivates them? What do they need to make a decision?

Define:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Location
  • Occupation
  • Goals
  • Challenges
  • Favorite websites
  • Shopping preferences
  • Typical buying concerns
  • How they found you

Once you have your buyer personas identified, you can create better marketing strategies for each one. If you know your buyer hangs out on Instagram and watches YouTube videos but never goes on LinkedIn, then you know where to focus your marketing dollars and effort.

Cannabis Business Logos

We always tell our clients to think about how their logo will look on T-shirts, hats, mugs, letterhead, business cards – all kinds of swag and print. Your branding should be cool enough to wear on a hoodie, and professional enough to use on the website and marketing collateral.

James L. Bowie, a sociologist at Northern Arizona University who analyzes patterns and trends in logo design, wrote in Slate’s design blog “The Eye” in 2016:

“Analysis of United States Patent and Trademark Office records shows that 44 percent of logos registered as trademarks for marijuana-related businesses feature the familiar cannabis leaf.”

Too many cannabis brand logos and websites look the same. If your competitors are all using the same colors, fonts and symbols, maybe – actually, definitely – you should do something different. How else will you stand out among the endless sea of green marijuana leaves?

Marijuana Cannabis Dispensary Logos All The Same - ESEO
Where’s the creativity, people?

Cannabis Digital Marketing

Branding is just the beginning. Next, it’s tagline, messaging, website and marketing strategy. In today’s marketplace, people are consuming more digital content and less traditional media.

You might still rely on some forms of direct marketing, such as billboards, radio spots and print. However, if you expect to be successful long term as a brand, you’ve got to incorporate digital.

Our outline for a successful cannabis digital multi-channel marketing plan includes:

  • Quality Website
  • Expert SEO
  • Well-Researched, Relevant Content
  • An Engaging Website Blog
  • Google My Business and Other Local Listings
  • Organic Search Marketing
  • Social Media, such as: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Email Marketing
  • Text Messaging Marketing
  • Video Creation and Promotion
  • Branded Asset Development
  • Banner and Ad Network Campaigns
  • Influencer and Brand Partnerships
  • Event Sponsorships (with Online Event Promotions)
  • Reputation Monitoring and Management

We then track all marketing channels and evaluate the data each month to determine what the strategy will focus on in the following month.

The cannabis industry is evolving at a fast pace. If you want to be part of the future of cannabis, you might want to consider upping your branding and marketing game.

The Public Demands Quality Cannabis Content

Matei Olaru, CEO of Lift, a cannabis media and technology company in Canada, said that putting the right data, instruction or knowledge in front of consumers, sellers and medical professionals is a need that cannabis entrepreneurs can fill.

“Decades of misinformation has been perpetuated by prohibition,” Matei said. “As the number of legal cannabis consumers increases exponentially, so will the opportunities for information and media companies (in print, video or on the web).”

Before Applying These Cannabis Marketing Tips, Share Your Story!

Have you found success with a specific marketing strategy for your cannabis business? What about an epic fail or a big lesson learned?

Share your cannabis branding, marketing or business strategies in the comments and help budding entrepreneurs grow their businesses (pun intended).

Together, we can create and share cannabis content that matters. Learn more here: Professional Cannabis Branding and Marketing Services or call to speak with a pro: 800.871.4130.

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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Can Rehabs Survive Big Changes to the Addiction Treatment Industry?

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Big Changes To The Addiction Treatment Industry - Eminent SEO

We work with several addiction treatment centers, speak with new prospects weekly and work with other consultants, and across the board, we are definitely seeing a trend. Despite increasing demand, treatment centers are finding it harder and harder to get new patients leaving many to wonder, can rehabs survive the big changes to the addiction treatment industry?

Even after growing a new client’s website traffic more than 40 percent month over month…

Rehab Client Monthly Traffic Screenshot - ESEO…they are still reporting a rough month for admissions and voicing concerns about how the insurance companies are not paying out like they once did.

All Treatment Centers Are Struggling, Even the Big Guys

It’s not just the “ma and pa” centers who are feeling the pain. Big, well-known treatment centers are not paying their employees, closing facilities and filing for bankruptcy.

Elements Behavioral Health, the rehab center that operates the very well-known Promises Malibu that treated actress Lindsay Lohan and singer Britney Spears, filed for filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month.

In the spring of 2016, Solid Landings didn’t have the resources to keep fighting the city of Costa Mesa, California. So, in a settlement agreement, Solid Landings agreed to shut down 33 sober living homes. Fifteen closed immediately. Just last month, they filed for federal bankruptcy protection.

The FBI raided Sovereign Health last year over patient allegations of insurance fraud. This year, employees are speaking out and even filing claims against the company, saying they are not receiving their paychecks and that no one is being forthright about why.

Why the Addiction Treatment Industry Is Hurting

If you are in the rehab business, you probably saw this video. If not, this might bring some quick clarity:

Despite its intentional focus on poking fun at the treatment space, this video actually hits home in a lot of ways for people familiar with the industry. And… it’s sad.

John Oliver may have not gotten all of the points right, but he touched on many issues that really reveal why the rehab industry is in the state it’s in now. For example:

  • Shady practices
  • Lack of regulation in the industry
  • Insurance fraud
  • Misguided ownership

But, that’s not all…

Google has made rehab advertising and marketing harder than ever.

  • It decided to make SAMHSA No. 1 organically for literally every single addiction treatment-related keyword. Although, just today, we are noticing other sites like Rehabs.com are now coming up in the No. 1 position for some terms again.Google Search Results Addiction Rehab Centers - ESEO

How to Survive Big Changes to the Addiction Treatment Industry

Stay strong, treatment providers. To keep your addiction rehab center afloat during these rough waters, pay closer attention to these five areas:

Evaluate Costs

Knowing how much to spend on operations, overhead and marketing is key to any successful business. However, in the addiction treatment space, there are specific operational pitfalls you can easily avoid by carefully reviewing your internal processes for lead follow-up, staff retention, ground marketing and other non-clinical-related costs.

Align Sales and Marketing Goals

Too many addiction treatment centers rely on the marketing team to provide results. However, marketing is only part of the sales funnel. And if a business expects marketing to perform, the sales team must work hand-in-hand with the marketing team.

Learn more: How to Build an Aligned Sales and Marketing Strategy

Diversify Marketing Efforts

Having been in digital marketing for more than 13 years now, we have seen how unpredictable the internet can be. Because of its volatility, we have always been a strong advocate of multi-channel marketing. What works today can, quite literally, be gone tomorrow, so you should NEVER rely on one source of marketing.

Invest in Branding

So many forms of advertising are built to force the buyer to continue to pay for ads indefinitely. Some platforms wait until you are dependent on their ability to direct clients to you to then jack up the price and force you to pay to get the same leads you once got for a fraction of the price. However, with branding, you are investing in yourself – and this always pays off in big ways long term.

Track Everything

The beautiful part about digital marketing is everything is trackable. The data can tell you where your audience is, what content they engage with, what questions they have, what their likes and dislikes are and so much more.

With the right tracking metrics in place, the data can also tell you which marketing channels are producing leads. And, when the admit team gets involved and provides admission data, we can even report back on which marketing channel produced the admits – and develop strategies that focus on the campaigns that convert the best.

Eminent SEO - Marketing ROI Report

Is the Face of the Addiction Treatment Industry Changing?

With so much bad press, it’s no wonder individuals who are struggling with addiction are hesitant to go into treatment. After watching that John Oliver video, any family member would be right to question the clinical services, price and ethics of any rehab they are evaluating. Who wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars on treatment that might not even work? Tough sale.

The treatment center space is going to have to undergo a complete overhaul – including YOUR brand. You might offer a world-class treatment program, but if you continue to market it as you always have, you may be left in the dust.

The old methods of addiction recovery are already getting replaced by new concepts. Now is the time to evolve with the times. Here are a few of the innovative business models and ideas we think you’re going to start to see a lot more of:

Medically Assisted Treatment

Although medication-assisted treatment isn’t necessarily new, how treatment centers look at it and consider using it is evolving with the opioid epidemic. MAT is no longer simply the model for methadone and Suboxone clinics who supply a daily dose of the medication indefinitely.

Instead, with prescription drug addiction, there is a whole new set of pain medications that one must taper down from in order to be prescribed a different drug for pain management. Because of this, treatment centers should consider offering an MAT program and marketing it to EAPs.

Read more: Why Your Treatment Center Needs to Offer MAT

The Bridge Device

After working with Jim Peake of Addiction-Rep on messaging for The Bridge Device, we are convinced that medication isn’t the only way to change the way our brains work. The Bridge Device is a gentle neuro-stimulation system (NSS) device that attaches to specific points on the earlobe.

The Bridge is generally worn for four to five days while the patient undergoes detox. The device is reportedly reduces the pain of withdrawal and detox. Patients also say the process is comfortable and goes by quickly.

Telemedicine Rehab Service

One of the obvious problems regarding addiction treatment is providing an affordable option to meet the growing demands of lower-income residents in urban and rural areas. Patients may have a hard time finding transportation to their treatment provider. Additionally, trained health care professionals may be hard to find in certain areas.

Because of this, we predict a rise in telemedicine in the addiction treatment space. Counselors can communicate with patients via video calls and other digital communications. Even if you don’t offer “digital rehab,” you may end up considering remote patient monitoring and alumni follow-ups.

Rehab Community Sites and Pages

Online addiction recovery communities have sometimes earned a bad rep. In fact, The Verge recently put out this huge exposé on Facebook Addiction Support Groups and how the predatory behavior runs rampant there. Although I agree, and have seen the scams with my own two eyes, I still found myself defending the concept to the Addiction Treatment Ethics Group I am in on Facebook.

“The thing is,” I said, “there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything”. I then went on to explain that a group, page or website is not in the wrong as long as what they offer is not misleading.

It’s not unethical to offer community support or even refer to your own treatment center, as long as you don’t trick or lie to the individuals seeking help. And, it’s not illegal unless you SELL the leads. Community sites and pages provide a unique value to the web, and I think we will be seeing even more of them.

Cannabis for Addiction Treatment

Harm reduction is a known strategy for treating addiction, and it begins with acceptance. This philosophy aims to help those that would otherwise be unwilling or unable to simply quit. The intent is to progress into a less and less negative situation.

Some addiction treatment centers are now using medicinal cannabis in detox and as a maintenance protocol for severe addictions. Not all treatment centers will embrace the use of cannabis in harm reduction. But for those that do, there will be a market for those that want to maintain sobriety from a drug by using a less harsh drug, such as cannabis.

In Closing

If you work in the addiction treatment space, it’s time you took a close look at the direction this industry and going and how your brand will fit into the future of treatment. Are you ready to evolve with the changes, or, will your treatment center end up as just another rehab closing its doors?

As one of my favorite business authors, Tom Peters, says, “Evolve or die.”

Thomas Peters Quote Improvement Constant Change - ESEO

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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How Long Does SEO Take and Is It Worth It?

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How Long Does SEO Take Clock - Eminent SEO
As Google, Facebook and the other popular platforms continue to change the terms of their advertising services, many who have previously overlooked organic marketing are now asking, “Can I use SEO instead? How long does SEO take, and is it worth it?”

Let’s start by talking about what SEO is – and also, what it’s not.

What Is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of optimizing your content (website, social platforms and ads) for the search engines. We consider SEO an umbrella term for a number of different services and tactics. Primarily SEO is considered:

Keyword Research and Competitive Analysis

Before any target keywords are selected, research must be performed. If you are going to optimize your website and outrank your competition, you must understand them first. In-depth competitive and market analysis should drive the SEO strategy.

On-page SEO and Content Optimization

Each buyer type and stage of the buyer’s journey should be considered first when developing the website and content strategy. Keywords should then be incorporated into well-written content and metadata. That’s not all, though: On-page SEO is highly technical and includes everything from fast load times to internal linking.

Off-site SEO and Link Building

Link building or link earning, call it what you will, means SEO isn’t just limited to what you can control on your website. Off-site SEO is equally, if not more, important. The process of link building is very in-depth, but in a nutshell, the goal is to get other relevant and reputable websites to link to yours. Links act like votes, and how many, where and whom they come from matters.

Testing, Reporting and Analyzing

Because Google is always changing, so too is SEO. The fundamentals are the same, but the specific tactics, tools and applications are always changing.

Luckily, SEO is a data-driven marketing method, and almost every component can be tracked, tested and reported on. By analyzing the data, you can make changes based on user behavior as well as the search engines.

What Is NOT SEO?

Although SEO is a lot of things, it’s also NOT a substitute for:

  • High-quality website designs
  • Branded videos and images
  • Interesting content for the users
  • Products consumers want
  • Great customer service
  • A positive brand reputation
  • Trained sales professionals

All of these are needed to have a successful SEO campaign. It’s all connected.

How Long Does SEO Take to Start Working?

CEO Jenny Stradling Long-Term SEO Quote - Eminent SEOThis is maybe the No. 1 question we have received over the last 13 years or so of doing SEO. And, the answer is always the same: It depends.

Not what you wanted to hear, right?

But, it does depend on a number of different factors, including:

  • Age of domain and website
  • Number of current pages indexed by Google
  • Current rankings
  • Existing website content and digital assets
  • Information architecture and blog categories
  • Indexed website backlinks
  • Social media channel following
  • Existing competition and their websites and digital marketing strategies
  • Budget

If you come to us with a new website, hardly any content indexed, very few rankings, an outdated design, no digital assets, a sloppy navigation, no blog optimization, low social channel followers and heavy competition, depending on your budget, I will tell you it’s going to take at least six months – maybe a year. SEO is a long-term strategy, and you have to put in the work. It takes time to gain authority with Google. You can’t fake that.

However, if you come to us with a decent website and some of the foundational work done, we can speed up the process and rank a site in as little as two to three months.

It all depends.

If you have very little competition, if your keywords are under-marketed, if your competition isn’t spending a lot on SEO – all of these variables work in your favor.

Real SEO Case Studies

Since it all depends, it’s best to look at some real-world examples to see what is possible.

SEO Case Study #1: Transitioning from Google Ads to an Organic SEO Strategy

In October of last year, an addiction treatment center came to us with a huge Google PPC ad budget and a cost per admit that was higher than the price of treatment. We switched them to an SEO strategy right before the big Google AdWords smackdown, and now look at the data.

This SEO traffic would have cost $200K. We saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars per month on paid ads, and their ongoing SEO campaign is a fraction of the cost with a higher conversion rate.

Transitioning From Google Ads To Organic SEO Strategy Data - Eminent SEO

SEO Case Study #2: Big Gains in a Competitive Niche

This client has been with us for a few years now. He also had a Google ad budget running and wanted to slowly transition from paid ads to organic SEO. He knew SEO would take time, so he continued to run Google ads while our team worked on the website SEO.

By staying true to the course, his website now dominates for all of the top terms in his niche and he no longer has to spend any money on paid ads. His organic traffic is estimated to cost almost $100,000 dollars a month if he were still bidding on paid ads. The cost of SEO is a small fraction of what the paid ads would cost.

Big Traffic Gains In A Competitive Niche - ESEO

SEO Case Study #3: New Domain and Website and Small Budget

This client came to us as a new brand. Their goal was to get online and start producing results through digital marketing. They were open to paid ads, but their industry is very limited on what they can advertise on, driving up the cost of the terms you can bid on. Due to their budget constraints, we started with SEO only.

In only three short months of a small-scale SEO campaign, we have climbed to more than 1,000 ranking keywords, showing it is possible to get organic rankings on Google in a short period of time. Of course, the site is also beautifully designed, and we’ve implemented expert SEO.

New Domain Website And Small Budget Traffic Data - Eminent SEO

Is SEO Worth Investing Into?

Let’s talk financial investment. All marketing costs money. The key to success is to be smart about the long-term strategy. If you simply throw all of your marketing dollars at short-term gains, you’ll miss out on an awesome opportunity to develop a marketing channel that will provide a substantially higher return on your investment in the long run.

For example, let’s say you have a set marketing budget. Over the first three to six months, you may see little monthly ROI. However, over the course of the full year, when you take your total sales and total marketing expenses, SEO generally produces anywhere from a 300 to 3,000 percent return on investment. That’s HUGE! Any investor’s dream!

Being Patient

The problem is, many new businesses didn’t plan for this, and when SEO doesn’t produce an immediate ROI, they become uneasy and turn to Google or Facebook for paid ads.

Google has been a powerful ad platform for many simply because it’s a search engine and buyers are asking for specific products or services – placing them much further along in the buyer’s journey. Problem is, some people can’t afford to pay the high cost per click, and some industries are even blocked from bidding on relevant terms unless they pass a difficult certification process.

Facebook, on the other hand, is at a higher point of the sales funnel. Prospects are simply scrolling through their social feed and minding their own business when an ad pops up. It doesn’t take an expert to guess that Facebook ads are harder to convert. They are definitely more affordable than Google ads, but unless you sell a product that has a social message, the click-to-website conversion rate can be less than desirable.

Then, there’s SEO. Just like with Google ads, the buyer is already searching for the product or service. But, unlike paid ads, when a user clicks your listing in the organic search results, it doesn’t cost you any more or less. Just one click on a paid ad can cost between $3 and $5, all the way up to $300 to $500, depending on what industry you are in. If that visitor doesn’t convert, you may have just wasted hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars!

The Long Play

SEO isn’t just about saving money on ads though. SEO is the foundation for years and years of brand visibility and website traffic. It’s the gift that keeps giving. Once you achieve a certain age and trust with Google, you can add new content to your site and rank it almost instantly.

And, another benefit? The leads are better. Just ask anyone who has run both SEO and paid campaigns which leads convert better, and they will tell you that SEO leads, every time.

Conclusion

When you really take the time to weigh the pros and cons, it’s pretty clear that SEO is a marketing channel worth investing into. Yes, it takes time…but honestly, all ad channels take time.

What sounds more strategic to you? Dumping thousands of dollars into paid ads that provide short-term gains with no residual return? Or, investing into SEO, which has proven to provide long-term value for companies through residual gains for years on end?

I know my answer.

See How We Do SEO

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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New Addiction Treatment Certification Allows Rehabs to Bid on AdWords Again

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Several of our addiction treatment center clients here at Eminent SEO, and those of our partner Addiction-Rep.com, have asked us about this news: “Exclusive: Google unveils vetting process for drug rehab ads.”

So far, there have been several direct questions that stem from this article, so here I will attempt to answer all of these questions. In addition, I will give some suggestions and professional insight, being that Eminent SEO is an agency that works with several addiction treatment centers and behavioral health care consultants.

Question 1: Does this mean we can bid on Google AdWords again?

Yes, kind of. Google did announce it will allow treatment centers to run ads after they have been vetted by Portland, Oregon firm LegitScript.

However, don’t expect this to happen overnight. In a new article posted this week, “LegitScript’s New Certification Program for Addiction Treatment Providers Will Help Those Most Vulnerable,” LegitScript included an important note:

“During the first three months, we’re going to intentionally take it slow. Irrespective of how many applications we receive, we’ll probably only certify about 20 to 30, simply so that we can make sure and get the process right. After that, we’ll ramp up the speed. (This goes into the “lessons learned” bucket from our existing healthcare merchant certification program.) This also works well with Google’s timeline, since they have indicated they will actually begin allowing these advertisers in July.”

Question 2: What does it take to get the addiction treatment certification?

The LegitScript website says the company is now accepting applications and that the evaluation includes criminal background checks as well as license and insurance verification. Rehabs will also have to provide “written policies and procedures demonstrating a commitment to best practices, effective recovery and continuous improvement.”

They will charge $995 up front and then $1,995 annually for the vetting.

You can see the full LegitScript Addiction Treatment Provider Certification Standards here. They are not messing around. If you want to get approved, better read this first.

Question 3: What does this change for rehabs?

Up until recently, treatment centers could buy Google ads without a certification. However, over the last few years, Google has been rolling out a new vetting process for certain industries that will only allow entities to bid once they get the certification.

Before this announcement, the certification process only applied to garage-door repair techs, locksmiths, pharmacies and prescription drug providers. Now you can add addiction treatment centers to that list. From the LegitScript article, it sounds like Google will also be asking for more documentation from political advertisers soon this year as well (thank God).

Question 4: Does this LegitScript company manage the ads?

No. This is a qualification process, but the company will not be managing the ads. What LegitScript does is verify you meet the criteria and then provide a legal certificate to Google as proof. You would still need to have a professional Google PPC expert run your ads.

So, this cost is in addition to the ad management, and apparently required if you want to do Google ads in the future.

Question 5: How much will Google ads cost now?

This is still yet to be determined. Before the Google rehab keyword crackdown, the ad rates were out of control. Keywords were going for $50 to $150 a click sometimes. It was crazy!

Since the rollout doesn’t come until July, all we can do is speculate. And since LegitScript is only certifying up to 30 applicants, I can’t imagine there will be a bunch of competition driving up the bid rates.

Anyone care to speculate? Please add your thoughts to the comments.

Question 6: Can my treatment center get certified?

If you are a treatment facility with a valid company website, physical address, qualified staff and think can meet all of their certification qualifications, you can definitely apply!

However, it looks like the early bird gets the worm in this case. With only 30 applicants being accepted for a trial run and more than 14,500 specialized drug treatment facilities in the U.S., it may be tough to become one of the first.

You can start the process here if you’re interested and ready to begin AdWords as soon as Google permits: LegitScript’s Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Certification Application.

Maybe the bigger question here is really: Should I get certified?

A successful Google AdWords campaign now requires a significant financial investment each month:

  • A LegitScript fee of $995 up front, and then $1,995 annually.
  • A professional setup and management fee, which could run you $500 to $5000 per month, depending on who you hire and their level of skill.
  • Expertly written ad messages and optimized landing pages, which could run another few thousand dollars.
  • Google AdWords and Display ad fees, which historically have run companies anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000 per month. That’s right, I said $500 THOUSAND. These people were not messing around. I don’t know what ads will run for these 30 or so accepted applicants, but I am guessing they will need a few thousand dollars, just the same.

What Does That Total?

Conservatively speaking, you’re looking at $5,000 for the setup costs and at least $10,000 per month including ad fees, landing pages and management costs. I guess you could do it for cheaper, but if you think your ads will perform without expert management and optimized landing pages, you’re probably wasting marketing dollars.

Ads need the right strategy to get results. It’s easy to blow tons of money fast if you don’t have your campaigns set up right.

Final Take

My advice? If you’re not prepared to spend thousands of dollars, don’t bother. There are so many other channels of marketing that you can utilize to generate qualified leads without breaking the bank. I would strongly suggest you really think through all of your options and talk with a strategist before making a decision on investing into Google AdWords again. It’s a commitment.

On the other hand, if you DO have the money, this could be an opportunity for your rehab organization to come out ahead of the insanely high pre-ban bid rates.

What do you think? Worth it or naw? Weigh in below.

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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How to Build an Aligned Sales and Marketing Strategy

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Sales + Marketing = SUCCESS - Eminent SEO

In this post, I want to explore how and why sales and marketing strategies must align. I also want to share some tools that will help you build, monitor and track your campaigns and marketing ROI.

Who Does Sales and Who Does Marketing?

Generally, a business that doesn’t have an in-house marketing team will look for an agency, such as ours, to partner with. In this scenario, they are the sales team and we are the marketing team. Seems simple enough, right? Sadly, no.

Little Girl Suspicious Look - ESEOYears of working with sales teams both internally and those responsible on the client side has taught me that the roles and responsibilities aren’t always as clear as you’d like them to be.

There’s one more thing: The sales and marketing goals aren’t always aligned.

When misalignment exists, leads slip through the cracks and become lost. While it’s impossible to create THE end-all perfect lead generation pipeline with a 100 percent closing rate, maximizing the full potential of ALL marketing and sales efforts means you’re getting as close to perfect as possible.

The key is through effective communication between both sides.

The Need for an Aligned Sales and Marketing Strategy

The sales team needs to know AND fully understand what kind of performance data the marketing team relies onto measure success, and vice versa.

The marketing team needs to make sure every lead they’ve generated has the capability to seamlessly transition into becoming the sales team’s responsibility to close.

If the teams are using any automated tools, both need to understand how the other side reads the data – and how to use it to maximize efficiency.

According to The Aberdeen Group’s report: [clickToTweet tweet=”In 2017, 92% of organizations reported below-average lead conversion rates because of misalignment between their marketing and sales teams. @eminentseo https://www.eminentseo.com/blog/build-aligned-sales-and-marketing-strategy/” quote=”In 2017, 92 percent of organizations reported below-average lead conversion rates because of misalignment between their marketing and sales teams. “]Similarly, the sales teams who were top performers in their field were 76 percent more likely to report a “complete or strong alignment” with their marketing team.

A campaign where both halves understand each other’s differences in roles, responsibilities, goals and overall strategy – and have successfully aligned their efforts in a cohesive manner – will be losing fewer leads overall. That’s a win for both sides.

Tracking Every Customer

I get it, we all want MORE SALES! It’s true, but not all businesses have the ability to track their sales to the source. It’s easy if you’re an eCommerce business and the entire sales transaction happens online.

But, what about the brick-and-mortar stores who are using digital marketing to get people into their shops? I guess you could have the cashier ask them how they heard about you, but in the end, is a handful of responses indicating “Google” as the lead source really going to empower you to make better marketing decisions?

I doubt it.

As marketers, how do we even begin to work toward getting “more sales” if we don’t even know which key performance indicators (KPIs) to focus on?

Marketing Key Performance Indicators

Marketers need DATA! The only way any of us are ever going to provide a client with an accurate lead generation report is to have the proper tools and processes in place.

Typical campaign KPIs we track and report on include:

  • Organic marketing keyword impressions and rankings
  • Website traffic data, per source type (direct, organic, referral, social, paid, etc.)
  • Website traffic trends and user behavior
  • Conversion rates, per type (phone calls, form fills, eBook downloads, chats, subscribers)
  • Off-site marketing conversion rates, per type (email opens, social followers, fan submissions)
  • Marketing platform insights, such as increased page likes and followers
  • Marketing return on investment (ROI)

In order to track these metrics, we use:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Keyword tracking tools
  • Call tracking tools
  • Website and social platform chat tools
  • Platform insights
  • Other paid reporting tools

Sales Key Performance Indicators

These KPIs and reports are certainly useful and important to the sales team. But, among those responsible for conversions, you will hear this time and time again: “We only care about sales”.

Sales can be nearly impossible to track for some businesses without the sales team entering data into the tools. How can your marketing team track sales if they only happen offline?

If you are an addiction treatment center, for example, and you take phone calls as a primary lead source, what happens after the call? Do you make notes in a call tracking system? Then what? Does the “lead” get manually placed into a CRM? Do you have a CRM?

If you are a call-centric business or if your sales cycle isn’t completed entirely online, then you MUST have a CRM.

What is a CRM?

A CRM is a customer relationship management tool. This is where you can house your contacts and manage your leads.

Do I still need to notate my call tracking tool if I have a CRM?

YES! Your CRM will help you manage your leads.

If a lead closes and it came in from a phone call, you should always go back to your call tracking system and enter in the conversion information. This allows the marketing team to export the calls and determine which ones converted into sales…and which ones didn’t.

And not just calls, but the source of the call. Don’t you want to know where your conversions are coming from? Was it the Facebook ad campaign or the email marketing?

By scoring the calls and entering in conversion data, the sales AND marketing teams will know what is and isn’t working.

Website Leads Website Sessions Comparison Report Chart - Eminent SEO

The Difference Between Marketing and Sales Qualified Leads

Now that we all agree the marketing team can’t perform its job without the sales data and input from the sales team, how do we know who is responsible for what?

Marketers generate leads.

Sometimes, however, lead generation focuses on different stages of the buyer’s journey. This means not everyone is ready to BUY NOW.

So, we develop various funnels and lead capture opportunities to catch the various buyers at every stage in the journey.

We then group the leads into two types:

  • Marketing Qualified Leads
  • Sales Qualified Leads

Marketing qualified leads are typically website visitors who downloaded a gated asset, such as an eBook or brochure, in exchange for their email info. They can also be newsletter subscribers, quiz participants, event attendees or webinar signups.

Really, an MQL can be anyone who connected with us and provided contact information, but has not yet requested a call or more information from the sales team.

Sales qualified leads can start as a marketing lead and turn into a sales qualified lead when they explicitly express interest in purchasing.

Similarly, they can start as a sales qualified lead if they:

  • Call
  • Initiate a chat
  • Request more information
  • Fill out a sales form (such as insurance verification, intake form or consultation request)

As marketers, we need a system and the right tools to generate and nurture the marketing qualified leads. We can then convert them into sales leads through a manual process, or we can work with the sales team to align the systems and tools to automate the lead-management process for reduced human error and better lead management overall.

Generally, this system is a CRM.

Marketing and Sales Automation Tools

It might sound complicated, but it’s really not that difficult to manage the tools once you set them up properly and the teams are both trained on how to use them.

Unfortunately, there isn’t one singe tool that will provide the sales and marketing teams with everything they need.

As outlined above, your marketing may rely on several tools to track and report on your multi-channel marketing campaigns.

Today, most of the paid tools open up their API so developers can code integrations. Still, this does require an expert who understands the technical side of things if you want to automate the process.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

You can automate most of the marketing and sales funnel, but there will always be some pros and cons when doing so. Automation tools are pricey and require a professional team to setup and manage.

On the other hand, you can manually manage your leads and save costs on automation tools and supporting marketing materials – but at what cost to your bottom line? How many leads get forgotten when there is no CRM to store and manage them? How much time is wasted manually emailing leads that aren’t qualified for the sales team?

Automation costs more on the front end to set up and manage. But in the long run, you’ll save on:

  • Avoiding human error
  • Automating lead capture
  • Paying an employee to follow up with the unqualified leads
  • Automating lead nurturing
  • Reusing emails and assets in automation campaigns
  • Leveraging the tool data in the marketing strategy development

Even if you decide not to automate, you still need to manage and track your leads. And unless your business gets less than a handful of leads a month and you can manage them in a shared Google document or other free tool, you should consider getting a CRM.

There are free CRMs, such as the HubSpot CRM FREE, that allow you to test using a tool to manage your sales pipeline without making a huge investment into customization and integrations. It’s literally free, forever. We like that.

Free Hubspot CRM Landing Page - ESEO

Creating an Aligned Marketing and Sales Strategy

We begin by outlining all of the marketing channels. This should include both digital and direct marketing sources:

Multi-Channel Marketing Venn Diagram - Eminent SEO

We then like to think through the possible conversion actions, per source. This includes:

  • Calls
  • Chats
  • Downloads
  • Subscribes
  • Likes
  • Messages
  • Submissions
  • Form fills

All of these user actions or conversions are trackable with:

  • Call tracking
  • Chat tracking
  • Website form capture
  • CRM lead capture
  • Social insights
  • Email tools
  • Reporting tools

The sales team is responsible for:

  • Scoring calls
  • Scoring chats
  • Managing sales leads
  • Entering in sales conversion data
  • Providing feedback to the marketing team

The Marketing Team’s Responsibilities

The marketing team is responsible for:

  • Ensuring the tools are set up and integrated properly
  • Monitoring social messages
  • Generating leads
  • Nurturing marketing qualified leads
  • Reporting on marketing and sales KPIs
  • Using sales data in developing the marketing strategies

Marketing keeps the channels up to date with branded assets, such as:

  • Content pages
  • Images and graphics
  • Videos
  • eBooks and white papers
  • Blog posts
  • New landing pages
  • Infographics
  • Quizzes

Marketing also performs ongoing strategy development and campaign management tasks, such as:

  • Organic outreach
  • Guest blogging
  • Email campaigns
  • Paid ads
  • Social engagement
  • Media buys
  • Keyword research
  • Technical SEO
  • Editorial calendar development
  • Competitive analysis

When both sales and marketing agree to the strategy, we upload it into a shared Google doc and privately share it to the various members of the teams. This way, we all have an open, shared document to reference that outlines the marketing channels.

Using a Google doc also makes it easy to add columns for identifying who is responsible for which leads, the tool used, steps in the lead workflow management, and final “house” for the lead once it’s converted (or dead).

Lead And Sales Lifecycle Strategy Google Spreadsheet - Eminent SEO

Defining and Measuring Your Marketing and Sales Goals

Each business is unique. Your service offering, your product, your marketplace, your competition, your history, your mission – these are all defining variables. It’s important for your sales and marketing teams to review all of the data, put the data in context and create a shared short- and long-term set of goals.

You’ll need to review:

  • What your unique value propositions are: What sets you apart from your competition? Why are you special?
  • Who your audience is: Are they searching for your brand or products? Where do they “live” online? Is there a demand for your services?
  • Who your competition is: What are they doing with their website and marketing? What do you have to do in order to compete?
  • Your existing website and digital assets: Are they optimized for the engines and your audience? Do you need a new design as well as marketing materials?
  • What your brand says to the world: Who are you and what is your mission? Does your brand and reputation say “work with me”?

Depending on your overall existing digital footprint, you may need to factor in a bigger budget or a longer amount of time to reach your goals.

Aim for a Mix of Short-Term and Long-Term Victories

It’s possible to speed up the process of lead generation with paid ads and low-hanging-fruit opportunities. The only time these shortcuts wouldn’t apply is with your organic marketing, because there is no amount of money you can spend to speed up the process of building trust within your niche. Trust comes with age, and age comes with time.

With a multi-channel marketing campaign, your goals should be aimed at short-term wins and long-term gains. Even paid ad campaigns take time to mature and gain better quality scores for improved ad placement and click-through rates.

You should aim for month-over-month increases in the important marketing KPIs, but you should estimate marketing ROI for a full campaign on a quarterly or yearly basis.

Goals vs. Objectives

Your goals may be specific desired business results, such as:

  • Adding more sales funnels
  • Automating the sales cycle
  • Gaining a specific percentage of repeat customers
  • Generating a specific number of leads

Whereas, the overall marketing objectives may be broader, such as:

  • Brand awareness
  • Product awareness
  • Fan and social follower growth
  • Marketing lead generation
  • Lowering the cost per acquisition
  • Growing market share
  • Reputation management

Although it may seem like a good idea to target all of these objectives in your strategies, you may want to focus on one or two at a time and create a plan to expand into additional areas as you go.

Setting SMART Goals

Once you’ve developed a strategy and have a clear plan on which marketing objectives you want to focus on, it’s time to create the SMART goals.

SMART marketing objectives are:

  • Specific: The goals are clearly defined and prioritized.
  • Measurable: The goal KPIs are established and tracked.
  • Achievable: The team agrees these goals are within their abilities.
  • Relevant: The goals relate to the overall brand purpose and mission.
  • Time-Bound: The goals have a timeline, milestones and deliverables.

SMART Acronym For Marketing - Eminent SEO

Final Tip: Assign a Leader

We’ve found the sales and marketing teams work best as a functional unit when there is one primary decision maker. Ultimately, the person who makes decisions on budgets, marketing KPI’s, business objectives and sales goals should understand the strategy and be empowered with the correct data to make an informed decision.

Once you’ve established your short- and long-term goals and have a strategy and a team in place, stick with it! The leader should give the team the freedom to work on its individual expertise, but always regroup and share strategy updates with both sales and marketing in order to ensure a continued, cohesive strategy.

Main Takeaways for Building an Aligned Sales and Marketing Strategy

An alignment between your sales and marketing strategies is crucial for generating high-quality leads and better conversions. When there is a failure in alignment, leads get lost in the pipeline; they slip through the cracks and never reach the closing stage.

To ensure alignment:

  • Build a solid line of communication between the teams.
  • Develop and manage one strategy plan with clear processes.
  • Use tools to monitor and track your progress.

If you are just getting started or your sales and marketing teams have already learned how to work independently of each other’s goals, this may sound like an arduous task. However, once the plan is developed, the tools are set up and the teams are communicating well, you will be thankful you took the time to align your marketing and sales strategies. And, better yet, your bottom line will benefit.

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Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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Did Google Crush Your Addiction Treatment AdWords Campaign?

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Eminent SEO - Google Crushes Addiction Treatment AdWords CampaignsAround September of this year, Google placed new restrictions on advertising keywords related to searches for addiction treatment. This had a tremendous impact on addiction treatment centers around the country that relied on Google AdWords campaigns as their primary digital ad source.

In fact, word on the street is certain centers have been hit so hard they are cutting staff, selling their facilities and even going bankrupt.

Why Did Google Crack Down on Addiction Treatment Ads?

As a long-time addiction treatment marker myself, I have watched the recovery industry evolve over the last 12 years. Over that period of time, I have seen a lot of shady marketing practices in general. I mean, a ton.

However, what has become even more alarming over the last few years has been shady (sometimes even illegal) addiction treatment center business practices. I even recently wrote a blog post directed to addiction treatment centers as an open letter on what NOT to do: Dear Addiction Rehab Owners.

Those of us who preach ethical marketing saw this coming and said it would happen. Overnight, Google decided to stop selling ads for a giant number of “addiction treatment” related search terms, including “rehab near me,” “alcohol treatment” and thousands of others.

Imagine the SHOCK around the country as the $35 billion addiction treatment industry discovered its primary lead generation source was practically shut off overnight.

Google told The Verge in a statement:

“We found a number of misleading experiences among rehabilitation treatment centers that led to our decision, in consultation with experts, to restrict ads in this category. As always, we constantly review our policies to protect our users and provide good experiences for consumers.”

Isn’t This a Loss for Google?

Uh, yes. Some of the top-searched rehab terms were going for $100-plus per click! We know addiction treatment centers that were spending millions of dollars a year on Google ads alone.

But, you know what a bigger loss is? The 570,000 people who die annually from drug and alcohol use every year in the United States. According to National Institutes of Health drug facts, that number breaks down to more than 480,000 deaths related to tobacco, about 31,000 due to alcohol, nearly 22,000 due to overdose on illicit (illegal) drugs, and close to 23,000 due to overdose on prescription pain relievers.

If those deaths don’t shock you, let me give you something to compare that too. This is the list of the top 10 causes of death in the United States every year:

  • Heart issues: about 630,000 people die of heart disease annually
  • Cancer: a source of roughly 596,000 deaths annually
  • Chronic lower respiratory disease (a collection of lung diseases): 147,000 deaths
  • Accidents and unintentional injuries: 136,053 deaths
  • Stroke: 140,323
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 110,561
  • Diabetes: 79,535
  • Influenza and pneumonia: 57,062
  • Nephritis and nephrosis (kidney issues): 49,959
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 44,193

If you combine alcohol and drug related deaths, we are talking about 90,000 annually. Doesn’t that place substance abuse and addiction number 7 on the list?

People are dying! And, the saddest part? They are dying because they aren’t getting the help they need.

Although this stat is outdated (real-time stats on this stuff are hard to find!), the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found only 10.9 percent of the individuals who needed professional substance abuse actually received it.

We can do better. We MUST do better.

How Can Addiction Treatment Centers and Marketers Do Better?

Jenny Stradling - Quote on Ethical MarketingUnfortunately, this crackdown wasn’t rolled out based on the legitimacy of the facility or its advertising agency, like the organic rankings have been. This change impacted all treatment centers and their marketing agencies, legitimate or not.

It’s not fair, but Google never claimed to be fair. One bad apple might have not ruined it for the rest of us, but a LOT of bad apples did. And you know what? Good.

You heard me.

I’m tired of shady business practices. I am tired of seeing the greed in this industry. I am tired of getting calls for “grey hat” marketing practices from treatment centers who still think they have to trick Google in order to win.

I am tired of finding misinformation on legitimate sites (yes, I see you spammy rehab marketers and your regurgitated, ill-researched content). I am tired of seeing zero value being placed on quality and ethics. I am tired of auditing digital brands only to find crap.

Wake up, addiction treatment providers and marketers! This is not why we do business. We MUST find a way to do better.

Start by putting your clients first. Start by laying out a clear goal and mission. Start by agreeing to do things ethically. Start by working with other industry professionals that care about getting results AND are passionate about making a difference.

The only way your brand stands a chance in the long run is to do things the right way. Otherwise, it will catch up with you. It always does.

What Should You Replace Your Addiction Treatment AdWords Campaign With?

As a multi-channel marketing agency, we have always suggested a custom brand and marketing strategy for our addiction treatment center clients. There is no single marketing channel that will ever supply any business with all of its leads indefinitely, especially when you consider the ever-changing digital landscape.

Typically, our addiction treatment center clients will have a campaign that includes several tactics and digital channels of marketing:

  • Quality Website Design and Images
  • Professional Landing Page Optimization
  • Technical Website SEO
  • Optimized Content and Meta Data
  • Website Blogging
  • Brand Asset Development
  • Organic Search Engine Marketing
  • Local and Geo-targeted Marketing
  • Social Channel Management
  • Paid Social Ad Campaigns
  • Newsletter and Email Marketing
  • Testing, Tracking and Custom Reporting

We may also supplement with Google or Bing paid ads, but we have never relied on them. Why? Too expensive, higher cost per admit and lower conversion rate than the organic channels.

However, if you have recently been hit hard by the Google AdWords “rehab” related keyword restrictions, here are some channels you can explore:

Social Paid Ads

Yes, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat can generate addiction treatment leads when done properly. Facebook and Instagram ads are killing it for our clients right now.

Inbound Marketing

It’s not a quick fix, but utilizing custom landing pages, gated assets and email campaigns with smart, automated workflows can have a big long-term impact on your brand reach.

Geo-targeting

It’s not just “local marketing” anymore. Google gets to decide what search queries are considered local and which ones are not. You must optimize your website and ad strategies for the geo-targets you want to rank for. (Looking for more? Ask us about geo-fencing.)

Video Marketing

We can talk about video for days, but I’ll just say this: videos are valuable assets for your brand. But, not all videos are created equally. A well-researched video strategy can drive the entire marketing campaign. 2018 is the year to invest into video.

Website and Social Chat

A surprising number of treatment centers think online chat won’t work for them. Well, I am here to tell you something: it does work, and I know because I see the conversions from our client chat campaigns. If it isn’t working for you, you’re doing it wrong.

Conclusion

When you are in an industry that is known for false advertising, illegal patient brokering and bidding wars, it’s imperative you take the time to A) put ethical business practices into place, and B) hire a company who can guarantee they are doing the same.

If you need an agency that understands the addiction treatment industry and cares about quality, ethics AND the bottom line, give us a call. Let’s make something special together.

Contact Us to Get Started

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Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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The Cost of Doing Business Versus The Cost of Marketing

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BLOG POST PREFACE: I didn’t set out to write a blog, initially I wanted to just collect a few of my thoughts on the subject as I was talking to my team about the challenge we have helping our clients track their marketing ROI accurately. It turned into the blog post you see below when I realized that I want to share my thoughts with other businesses and start a conversation about this topic. I’d really like to hear from you on how you allocate budgets and track ROI, so please share your thoughts in the comment section here or reach out to me on my SEO social platforms:

Twitter (I am most active here and mainly tweet out SEO and marketing stuff)
Facebook (this is my professional page where I share business and marketing posts)
Google+ (I know G+ is dying, but I still find good info in the tech and SEO communities there)

The Cost of Doing Business Versus The Cost of Marketing

Eminent SEO offers a wide array of services to help other businesses find success online. Over the years we have developed and expanded our service offerings in order to accommodate the growing needs of our clients. This includes a lot of business and website services that are not necessarily marketing.

Here are some of the main reasons business owners hire us:

  • They want to increase their website traffic and leads (SEO, organic and/or paid marketing).
  • They need a new or refreshed website (design, content, development).
  • They need help with their brand (brand development and management).
  • They need help with an issue (audits, website cleanup, penalty resolution).

Before we begin, we ask: What are your needs and goals?

  • A new logo or site design?
  • Tools to track your efforts?
  • An audit of your SEO to see where you stand?
  • Help with your bad reputation?
  • Updated website content?
  • A new social media campaign?
  • Expert advice on overcoming a Google penalty?

We offer different services depending on your specific needs. Many of our solutions are marketing, but some of our services also fall into the categories of website management, creative work, preventative services or business expenses as well.

For example, is website hosting really marketing? Or, is it a necessary expense in order for your business to be online?

What about design? Although website design does enhance the user experience and can definitely help your website traffic convert, design in itself is not a marketing effort.

So, what are the differences in our services? What IS marketing, what is NOT?

 To keep it simple we have grouped our services into two buckets:

  1. Operations – The Cost of Doing Business Online
  2. Marketing – The Cost of Getting Traffic, Form Fills, Phone Calls and Conversions

Business Operations Versus Marketing - Eminent SEO

Clearly there is a lot of overlap, but this should help give you a better understanding of the intent behind each service.

So, how do we measure results?

Each service comes with its own measure of success, including operations and marketing tasks. Not all services are intended to have the same outcome, so there isn’t one single point of data or one single tool that can tell the whole story.

Lower-OnPageSEO

We suggest a combination of the following to properly track your marketing:

  • Google Analytics for traffic and visitor data
  • Google Analytics Goal Tracking for website conversions
  • Gravity Forms, fed to Google Analytics for form tracking (website form fills)
  • Call Tracking Metrics for calls and call conversion tracking (check them out, they are pretty rad)

The above tools will collect data that we can combine into a report to show you:

  • Changes to website traffic, by source (organic, referral, direct, paid, social, etc.)
  • Changes to user behavior (time on site, page views, top landing pages, etc.)
  • Where the traffic for the forms is coming from, and what action they took (subscribed to newsletter, filled out the contact form, downloaded your eBook, etc.)
  • Where the website conversions are coming from and how many conversions you received
  • Where your calls are coming from and (if you use the tool to enter in call sentiment and conversion data) what sources are driving the calls that convert

The data then helps us better understand:

  • What is working, what isn’t (with the site and the marketing)
  • What content/pages get the best visibility
  • What lead sources drive the best leads
  • What marketing channel converts the highest
  • What your ROI (return on investment) or ROAS (return on ad spend) is, per source
  • Where you should be focusing your efforts moving forward
  • How you should allocate your marketing budgets in the future

However, we would like to point out that no matter how many experts you have working on your team, no matter how many tools you have collecting data, and no matter how much time you spend evaluating the campaigns, there is no such thing as PERFECT reporting.

Why?

NONE of the tools are perfect, not even Google Analytics. Marketers report on inaccuracies all of the time. Sometimes it’s the implementation of the tool. Sometimes Google samples data. Sometimes third-party tools buy their data from someone other than Google. Some reports even say that Google only gives you about 70% of what they see. There are a million reasons, but the point is NO tools are perfect, and therefore you cannot expect to get perfect data from them.

Lead sources are never perfect. Even if you have cookies and sophisticated tracking methods, the lead source is only the first or last point of entry. For example, a visitor could find you on Facebook, follow your fan page and engage with your posts – having never clicked a link to your site. Later, when they decide to look you up they might go to Google and search for your brand. From there they could click a pay per click ad, your map (Google My Business listing) or your site in the organic results. What source gets credit for the lead?

Online Marketing Campaigns don’t come with clear parameters. At first, evaluating website and call tracking data seems pretty straightforward. If you see visits and calls from one lead source and not another, that must mean the second one isn’t working, right? Not necessarily. Big brands didn’t become household names by only focusing on the measurable data. They understand that it takes a multi-channel approach to get big results. For example, you will likely never be able to attribute a lead or call to a clean logo and website design. But, you know that your professional website helps users trust your company, leading to increased conversions. The same goes for blogging, social and even press. Although they CAN give you direct clicks (referral traffic) and phone calls, they are really part of a bigger marketing strategy intended to help your brand and website gain visibility with the search engines.

Branding is impossible to measure perfectly. I would almost never use the word “impossible,” but in this case, I feel confident saying it. Why? Your brand awareness began the first time you handed out a business card or sent your first company email. Your brand includes any mention of your company name and any image of your logo, online and off. Raising awareness for your brand doesn’t start and stop with marketing: It can be TV, billboards, radio, mailers, brochures, wearables, handing out your business card, emails, comments on blogs, listings on directories, the yellow pages, social media platforms, apps, blogs, press, attending events, newsletters, referrals, your storefront, signs, partnerships, etc. The list goes on and on. If you are using tools to track your lead sources, keep in mind that just because the tool shows one source, that doesn’t mean that the other campaigns and efforts didn’t contribute to the lead/conversion.creation-hosting

The Bottom Line

  • Website and online business services are not necessarily “marketing” and therefore should not be included in your tracking efforts as marketing, but rather the cost of doing business.
  • When budgeting for the year, always develop a separate budget dedicated to website changes, fixing issues, adding content, etc. Trust me, you need it.
  • When analyzing the effectiveness of your online marketing campaigns, don’t forget there is no such thing as perfect tracking and reporting. Don’t get so caught up in the details that you lose sight of the bigger picture. What’s most important is that your overall conversions are increasing… because that is why you are really investing into marketing in the first place, isn’t it?

Need Help?

If you have a question about business services verses marketing services and how to effectively track and measure results, give us a call at 800.871.4130, comment below or drop us a note. Team Eminent SEO is here to support you, your business AND marketing needs by working together to achieve the best strategy and reporting for you.

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Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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Spammy Referral Traffic: What Is It and How Do I Get Rid Of It?

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This all started a few months ago when we noticed specific clients had a HUGE spike in Referral Traffic out of nowhere. Sometimes a client will acquire rented ad space without our knowledge, so we started looking closer at the Referral Sources in Google Analytics. This is when we noticed that the new Referral Sources appeared to be tools for website optimization or SEO:

Referrer Spam Site

Referrer Spam Site

Referrer Spam Site

Was it us? Was someone here using new tools I didn’t know about?

No.

It quickly became clear we are dealing with spam. Around here we call it bot traffic and it’s pretty easy to tell it’s fake, as generally it’s 100% bounce rate and the names of the referral sites always include something like “buttons”, “site”, “traffic” or even “SEO”. Stupid spammers.

Referrer Spam Site List

Unfortunately, Google still displays this traffic in Google Analytics, which means that clients see a spike in traffic (overall and referral specifically) but it’s not backed by increased time on site, page views, phone calls, form fills or conversions.

This traffic is actually hurting, not helping – and skewing our reporting. So, now what?

Spammy Referral Traffic: What Is It and How Do I Get Rid Of It?

You Should Exclude Spam Bots from Google Analytics

As mentioned above, if you are reporting to clients or even simply using Google Analytics to track and manage your marketing campaigns, you need accurate data. Who wants to send a client a report with hundreds or sometimes thousands of referral visitors and zero conversion data to back that up? Not me.

And, Block The Bots

Also, who knows what these spammers are doing and what the bots are collecting? Every spammer has a reason for spamming, right? I mean, it seems like a lot of work to create these web bots and run these scripts, so it’s got to serve them some purpose. What if they are looking for vulnerabilities in order to hack in? No thank you.

How To Block The Spammy Referral Traffic

The good news is there are a number of ways you can block the referral spam. We suggest you block known spammers in the .htaccess of your site code and also filter the spam out of your traffic data using advanced Google Analytics filters. Below is the lowdown.

Editing the .htaccess File for Known Spammers

This part can become pretty technical, so it’s important to have a developer perform a full backup of your website before implementing this change. If there is anything wrong with the code in this file of your site, it could cause your entire site to go down. So if you don’t know what you are doing, please get a pro help you. (and if you screw it up, don’t say I didn’t tell you so!)

What is the .htaccess file and how can it prevent the spammers from hitting the site?

This hidden file located in your server cPanel, allows you to alter visitors who are able to access your site from a server level. We’re going to block the visitors we don’t want (referral spam) by not allowing them to hit the server at all.

To access the file on your server, simply log in to your hosting account and go into the cPanel. Your .htaccess file will be in the File Manager area but may be hidden. Check with your hosting provider to see the necessary steps for accessing this file.

Once you’ve located the file, implement the code to block all of the referral spam from hitting your server.

# Block Russian Referrer Spam
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly.\.ru/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly\.org/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*ilovevitaly\.info/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*iloveitaly\.ru/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*econom\.co/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*savetubevideo\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*kambasoft\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*buttons\-for\-website\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*semalt\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://.*darodar\.com/ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ – [F,L]

Unsure of all of the spammers altering your referral traffic? You can always go into your Google Analytics account to find the spammers. Simply export all of the referral traffic sources from the past 6 months. Otherwise, here is a comprehensive list of current spam bots that you can refer to.

Blocking Spammy Crawlers with Google Analytics Filters

One way these spam crawlers are accessing the Google Analytics servers are through inaccurate hostnames. To ensure the spam crawlers aren’t hitting your server with these hostnames and causing inaccurate data, you must verify to Google Analytics what the valid hostnames really are.

1. Create an unfiltered view in Google Analytics first because you can’t go back to an unfiltered view after implementing filters.

Google Analytics Unfiltered View 2. Locate your valid hostnames by going in the Reporting section of your Google Analytics profile using a wide date range. Under Acquisition –> All Traffic –> All Channels –> Referrals, select the Secondary Dimension for Hostname. You can export this list and identify the valid hostnames, which may include the following: your domain, sub-domains, or redirected domains. Anything else would be an invalid hostname. So keep the ACCURATE hostnames in a list.Google Analytics Valid Hostnames

3. In the Admin tab of your Google Analytics under View (make sure you’re on the main site view now, not the unfiltered), click Filters.

Google Analytics Filters View

4. Add a new filter to include the valid hostnames you found.

Valid Hostnames Google Analytics Filter

Note: This method will NOT remove all of the referrer spam. You must also add additional spam filters in Google Analytics to filter all of the spam sources since the spammers can alter their hostnames to be a valid hostname. See the steps below for adding additional spam filters to prevent as much referral spam as possible.

Blocking All Referral Spam Sites with Google Analytics Filters

Since simply validating the hostnames isn’t enough to block spammers, you will also need create additional filters to block each individual site at a domain level. You do not need to include sub-domains since the domain itself should be enough to filter the sub-domains as well.

1. Locate referral sites that are currently spamming your site. You can do this by searching the web for the most accurate list of referral spam (already linked above), or you can export a list of referral sources from your Google Analytics. To know if it’s spam, you will notice the visitor behavior is non-existent. There will be 100% bounce rates and little to no visitor duration.

referral-site-behavior

2. Create your list of sites using guidelines for the Filter Pattern using Regular Expressions provided by Google. Note: For the referral spam list filter pattern, you can keep it simple. As long as there aren’t any special characters within the domain. Keep this at a maximum of 255 characters. See the example below:

3. Create a new filter in your main analytics view entitled Referral Spam Filter #1.

4. Filter Type: Custom – Exclude. Filter Field should be set on Campaign Source.

Referral Spam Filter

5. Save this filter. Repeat this step a few times until you have used all of the referrer spam sites you’re finding in your analytics (because of the character limit in Google). The end result should look like the example below:

Referral Spam Filters Overview

Exclude Bots with the Bot-Filtering Setting in Google Analytics

This is an easy one, we promise: The last step to make sure you have excluded as many spam crawlers and as much referral site spam you possibly can is to check your Google Analytics settings to make sure the bot setting is checked. In the Admin panel, click on View Settings. Check the box to exclude all hits from known bots and spiders. Save these settings.

Bot Filtering Setting

Closing Thoughts

The steps listed above are not an end-all solution, unfortunately. New spam referrer sites are going to show up even if you do everything you can to try and prevent them. We suggest monitoring the site referral spam by checking in every 1-3 months (give or take) to see if you notice any new spam sites showing up in your Referral Traffic. If you do, simply follow the instructions above. There is word Google is also working on a solution to this problem, so we’ll keep you posted when we learn more.

Do you need help monitoring your Google Analytics for accurate data and reporting? We’re experts at that stuff! Give us a call: 800-871-4130

Avatar for Jenny Stradling

Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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