By MATT BLOIS
The Brentwood based company American Addiction Centers is doubling down on its digital marketing efforts after website traffic fell substantially last year.
Last fall, the Brentwood based addiction treatment company American Addiction Centers reported that a change to Google’s search algorithm dramatically lowered the number of new patients.
About a month after the changes to Google’s search algorithm, AAC hired Stephen Ebbett as its new Chief Digital and Marketing Officer.
In an email, Ebbett said the vast majority of people seeking treatment start their search online. That’s why a significant chunk of the company’s efforts are focused on digital marketing.
“Our goal is to meet them where they are by providing education and resources to help them find quality and trusted treatment options,” he wrote in an email.
AAC operates online directories that list information about their treatment centers, as well as treatment centers from other companies. If a visitor calls the website’s help line they are connected with an AAC employee who will discuss treatment options through AAC and other companies.
In November, AAC reported an $11.5 million loss and a major drop in calls to call centers in the third quarter of 2018.
Raymond James & Associates analyst John Ransom, wrote in an email in January that a business model driven by call centers and Google searches is not in favor at the moment.
Ransom also cited United Health Systems CFO Steve Filton, who presented at the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco in January.
“We found over the last several years that that business is undergoing an evolution and a change that out-of-network model is moving to a much, much greater percentage of in-network business,” Filton said at the conference. “Some of that direct-to-consumer marketing, particularly on the Internet has been interrupted by some of the logic changes that Google has made, et cetera. Those are issues that are affecting the whole addiction treatment business.”
According to research from Raymond James, the search visibility of some of AAC’s treatment directories fell by more than 50 percent between April 2018 and September 2018. Further research showed that the visibility of sites remained low through the end of 2018.
Through all of this, Raymond James still expected the company to outperform the market “based on the belief the marketing engine will be able to overcome the Google obstacle.”
Ginger Jackson — vice president of marketing for Brentwood-based addiction treatment company Spero Health — said digital marketing is certainly an important part of reaching people. She said Spero also makes a big effort to reach people offline.
“We believe to be a resource in any community you’ve got to be on the front lines, helping with prevention, offering training opportunities,” she said. “We work arm-in-arm with law enforcement, health department directors, local drug area task forces”
As an example, she said Spero might host a training for the overdose reversal drug Narcan. She said employees sometimes join drug task forces to offer expertise and get plugged into local efforts to fight addiction.
In an email, Ebbett said AAC uses traditional marketing methods like radio, TV and billboards in addition to digital marketing. He also pointed out that the company’s digital efforts are not concentrated in one part of the internet, which allows them to reach more people in need.
According to Ebbett, AAC has been focusing on creating high-quality content for on its websites. He believes that now more than ever it’s vital to make sure people looking for addiction treatment have access to the best information.
“The world operates in a digital world, which explains why our efforts, and those of others, are digitally based,” he wrote. “What we can control is the quality, depth and breadth of our content and put the utmost effort into ensuring its medical accuracy and value to users. Ultimately, our goal is to get accurate content to users.”
AAC still hasn’t released financial results for the fourth quarter of 2018, and was late in filing an annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It expects to release those numbers soon and they could shed light on the efficacy of the company’s marketing strategy.