The marketer that prompted Google to ban rehab ads in the UK keeps coming up first in search results

Shortly after Verge's report on deceptive rehabilitation marketing at Google last September, the search giant temporarily banned search ads related to rehabilitation in the US. UU., That they had been granted an estimated $ 78 million annually. After a January story Sunday Times exposed similar practices in the UK, focusing on a referral company called Addiction Helper, Google banned ads on rehabilitation searches there as well.

When the new policy was enacted, The Intercept published a story criticizing the policy to benefit large companies with good SEO, and noted that companies that are adept at finding games can appear above unbiased sources of information such as the Administration. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse from the federal government. Shortly after that story, the SAMHSA helpline began to appear as the first result in most US searches. UU Related to rehabilitation or addiction.

On the contrary, yesterday an informant pointed out that the first result in many searches for drug treatment in the UK is now UK Addiction Treatment Centers, or UKAT, which owns Addiction Helper, the company described in Sunday Times article . The property is public and available through a Google search.

UKAT appears first in most search results in the United Kingdom for "drug treatment" + location, "addiction treatment" + location and "rehabilitation" + location – even when that location is in Dubai, California or other regions not belonging to the United Kingdom. None of those places is mentioned anywhere on the UKAT homepage, and UKAT has no centers in any of those countries. It is certainly possible that UKAT has devised an ingenious S.E.O. solution to combat lost traffic when ads were banned, but two experts we talked to looked for evidence of S.E.O. tricks that the company could be using, and could not find any.

Although it is known that Google manually penalizes specific sites for participating in social networks, the company has never manually recognized the increase of a specific site in organic results. But there is some evidence that they may be doing exactly that for searches related to addiction. Three S.E.O. experts with experience in rehabilitation marketing told The Verge that it is likely that Google has intervened to boost the ranking of the SAMHSA hotline, placing it at the top of almost all searches related to addictions from the US. UU

Apparently credited sources also appear blocked at the top of search results in other countries, either as a result of a manual adjustment or that they are favored by new algorithmic priorities. Google users in India looking for many addiction-related keywords, including "12 steps" and "Delhi rehabilitation," will see the same first result, a 2015 news article about an addiction-led helpline government. Canadian users will almost always see the first two places dominated by a government resource page and a private rehabilitation directory, which lists the government programs at the top, although those two pages change location according to the search.

Whatever happens, the algorithm is clearly in flux: in January, even a search of "Paracelsus Recovery Switzerland", a rehabilitation based in Zurich, returned the SAMHSA hotline as the first result. Today, SAMHSA is not even on the first page. The Verge asked Google for a comment and will update it with any response,

If the current reign of UKAT in the UK results is intentional or not, Google plays with its search results To punish bad actors in a specific industry is unprecedented. As of 2013, for example, Google has periodically adjusted the algorithm that dictates the results of payday lender searches to disassociate spam and fake sites.

Although the prohibition of EE. UU He did not catch all the ads related to rehabilitation, he did catch them to affect the results of many treatment centers and their affiliates. That may be the reason why Google recently announced that it will re-establish US rehab ads. UU., Protected by a third-party selection process. Hopefully it will be better than what they are doing now in the United Kingdom