In recent months, Google Ads has implemented substantial changes to its platform and policies. The advertising juggernaut eliminated Expanded Text Ads, updated Smart Shopping campaigns to Performance Max, updated ad accounts to data-driven attribution, and announced that the much-feared, often talked about cookie-less browsing world won’t arrive until 2024.
One of the less-talked-about changes was the May 9th announcement that Google would alter the Healthcare and Medical policy and that beginning on July 11, 2022, cell and gene therapy ads would be allowed. This update was noted by many marketers who had run headlong into Google’s strictures on medical advertising, which only became stricter during the Covid pandemic. But was this new policy going to relieve a long-time headache for medical ads?
The Existing Google Healthcare Policy
The existing Healthcare and Medical policy had long been an obstacle for medical practices that provide Google-approved services, including hair restoration and non-Google-approved services such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP). Many hair restoration clinics utilize PRP as a complementary post-operative procedure. Unfortunately, PRP is strictly forbidden by Google Ads.
“So, what exactly is the problem?” hair restoration clients would ask. They would point out that their ad campaigns focused on hair restoration and (in most cases) an FDA-approved FUE method. The problem is guilt by the unfortunate association with “speculative and experimental medical treatment, cell therapies, and gene therapies.”
This included – specifically and unfortunately – platelet-rich plasma (PRP), a frequent offering from hair restoration clinics as an add-on service.
Advertisers whose clients offered PRP would frequently see this error message when they checked their ads:
The Google policy, upon review, made clear that any ads which promoted cell or gene therapies would be rejected except under particular exceptions.
Upon contacting Google, it became clear that getting permission for most hair restoration clients wasn’t possible.
What’s worse is that (in some cases) even when the PRP service was removed from the client’s website, any mention of cell therapy had to be removed – even if the client wasn’t promoting the practice. The mere mention of the word “stem cell,” when discussed in a blog post about possible alternative treatments, was enough to trigger ad and campaign disapprovals.
Issues with Limitations
In some cases, ads could be run and weren’t summarily rejected, depending on the wording and target URL. If the account had been penalized for past policy violations, Google might limit the ads in reach. While a partial win is better than nothing, it isn’t the optimal outcome… and Google still placed limitations upon the client in other not immediately apparent ways.
- A client not being able to show certain services on their website would be detrimental to their practice. A competitor who might not be running ads would have no such restrictions and thus seem like the better option.
- It can hurt the client’s organic SEO. PRP is growing in popularity and, with it, so is the keyword search volume. In the case of the blog about non-surgical alternatives for hair restoration, the loss of this blog meant a loss in backlinks, organic traffic, and client authority in this particular vertical.
Adding another limitation to the ad campaign can make finding success even more difficult in an already challenging market. Hair restoration ad campaigns face many problems –
- Conversions can take upward of 30 days to materialize fully
- Keywords can be expensive and ad costs can quickly spiral
- The market is highly competitive. Potential patients can spend $15,000 on a procedure, so the contest is fierce.
- Google censors don’t allow for the advertisement of medicines that are not FDA-approved or made extraordinary claims. Some hair clinics prescribe hair loss medications as a non-surgical option but some such as finasteride or minoxidil trigger ad shutdowns.
In an effort to combat disreputable online pharmaceutical sales, Google has tightened their ad restrictions considerably over the past few years. Unfortunately, in an effort to reduce exploitative practices, it makes legitimate marketing more difficult.
So, the May announcement was met with varying degrees of relief and skepticism. Did this mean that Google was going to allow advertisers to promote PRP? Not exactly. The newly updated policy stated in Google’s typically open yet still decidedly vague manner:
The restriction was still there but to some it appears that there was now room for possible workarounds. Perhaps advertisers could manipulate the informational aspect of their ads and claim that they were helping to educate the potential patient during the sales process. This particular approach of trying to sneak one by the Google live and AI censors seems somewhat risky as well… especially considering Google’s recently updated 3 strikes account suspension policy. The penalty of losing an established Ads account and those ramifications made the gamble too risky.
Trust Efferent Media’s Hair Restoration Marketing Team
Marketing your hair restoration clinic represents a significant investment of time, money, and trust. That’s why it’s critical to trust a team with a proven track record of generating qualified leads and who can meet the needs of a competitive, ever-changing landscape. If you are ready to take your hair restoration clinic to its next stage and meet your business expectations, call the team at Efferent Media and get started.