Jenny Stradling

CEO at Eminent SEO. Working on making the web a better place through design and business sustainability.

Rehab Marketer Rant

A Rant on Being a Long Time Rehab Marketer

Chris and I have been working together for 15 YEARS. And that is like forever in internet years…. So much of our work has been for other people. We’ve made thousands of websites and put countless hours of research and time into building out brands, content, videos, websites and beautiful assets for organic marketing campaigns that just go to waste, get destroyed or taken down because the owner doesn’t understand their value. It’s a shame. It’s also so frustrating and disheartening that it almost destroyed us.

And, I live with him and work with him, so where else am I supposed to vent all this crap? I mean, it’s literally killing me. Us. So, I have to let it out. Don’t like it?


Don’t read my blog.

I don’t care anymore. I need to VENT SOMEWHERE BEFORE THIS KILLS ME.

Sometimes being an SEO is the worst. You know what needs to be done but no one will listen to you because they literally have no idea what you’re talking about, need to protect their job or want to use the budget for something else. It’s infuriating.

In the last two years over and over we were told that the marketing dollars that used to go towards organic marketing (aka “SEO”) were going to be spent on something else instead. This was generally by a newly hired in-house marketer who saw what their boss was paying our agency and decided it was too much (for SEO) and their buddy could do it for cheaper instead.

So, instead of taking the time to talk with us and understand why things are the way they are today (and that we actually do A LOT more than just SEO), they got greedy. They underestimated me. Us. Poke holes in our strategies or even sabotaged our work to prove I didn’t know what I was talking about. It’s insane.

sabotaged our work
Sabotaged by the very people paying me!

How One Rehab Took Advantage of us After We Helped Them Make Millions of Dollars

Back in 2017 we took over the project for a men’s drug and alcohol treatment center. They ended up being one of the rehabs we had to help rebuild on WordPress from scratch because the “design and marketing agency” (do they deserve to be called that?) they were working with was RENTING them their site.

YES, that’s right. This other agency makes clients believe they are building them a site they own. Making it seem like they offer the same thing we do at Eminent SEO. But no, they actually trick people and sell them a template that THEY (the agency) owns and then rents back to them. So, the client doesn’t have access to do what they want and they don’t get to keep the site if they leave. The client is literally renting their own site.


For 15 years we have been building big, BEAUTIFUL, custom WordPress sites with technical SEO, professional content, high end design, graphics, video, photography, shopping carts, forms… and even though we could have easily taken advantage of our clients, the same way these other marketing agencies did, we didn’t.

Instead, Chris and I made a conscious choice to ALWAYS DO THE RIGHT THING.

We have ALWAYS made sure our clients own their sites. Even the guys that didn’t pay us.

Yet these other agencies are (STILL) getting all of the work because they lie, cheat and convince other companies that they are better (cheaper) somehow. They will cut costs to win the deal and then cut corners and fail the client on the marketing. This fails us ALL because then when it doesn’t work, clients blame SEO and the industry – not the fact that they went with sleezy marketers who only care about making a quick buck. It’s sickening.

I digress…

Rehab SEO

Just a quick side note. We don’t just make SEO campaigns. We’re digital marketing strategists. We happen to specialize in SEO, which is a huge advantage for a rehab because their other advertising options are limited and very expensive. BUT, SEO takes time and most rehab owners don’t want to give it the time it needs to grow into a profitable channel of marketing for them.

Before we even consider taking on a new project, we look at an entire digital marketing strategy and brand footprint and then talk to the owner about their goals, budget and internal team. We then decide if we need to leave things as is, take over some of the campaign or burn it to the ground and literally start from scratch. A lot of variables have to be considered when determining these things.

These guys new they needed a solid organic campaign and a strong website, but they hired the wrong agency to build it. Now, here we were, the right team for the job, but they didn’t even own their biggest asset – their brand website.

I say all that to provide a small backstory here. This client got a full brand audit, marketing strategy and website – for FREE. Because WE felt bad for THEM because some other marketing company was sleezy in their terms and basically held their site hostage.

Oh, the irony!

We basically built them a $20,000 site for free. (You’ll see why that is ironic later on.)

I dug up my campaign review document, sent to them on 4/12/18, so I could remember the exact numbers. Keep in mind I don’t mention anywhere here who this client was specifically, so I am not disclosing who we worked with here or trying to expose them. I just want to tell the story to show what is really happening with rehabs and marketing agencies.

Fed Up with Rude Customers
I can’t be the only one that is fed up.

Here are their real numbers:

Your Marketing Campaign Recap

{Rehab Website}.com has grown dramatically in the last 1.5 years.

Call Growth: 122% Increase

Call Sources: Google Maps and Google Organic Are Top Sources

Total Revenue: $1,195,000

Total Spend: $173,130

{Rehab} has gone from having 13 beds to 46 beds to fill in 1 and 1/2 years. The monthly marketing budget needs to increase in order to support more content and asset development as well as managing a larger website. Now that our team has been managing the campaign for almost 2 years, we recommending you invest into additional digital assets and landing pages. We need those to enhance the social and SEO strategies. This will help deliver more leads to {Rehab} as well as increased traffic from channels we’re promoting.

This client was making an estimated $1.2Mil a year from spending $173,000 with us. That’s a huge organic return in a highly competitive space. (And, these are just the numbers we know about. Lots of other things were going on over there, I’m sure…)

In 2018 they basically still had the same marketing budget they started with. We managed to wean them off of expensive Google paid ads while strategically ramping up their organic SEO, so when the Google AdWords Ban happened to Rehabs practically overnight, we already had their marketing budgets diversified and they were well positioned with Google organically.

That means that they managed to continue to generate quality leads WHEN EVERYONE ELSE WAS LOSING.

That’s what SEO is all about: long term, sustainable strategy development. Not just get rich quick and who cares as long as the numbers look solid this quarter decision making.

Is that all business owners care about today? Last quarters earnings?

Each month their organic numbers would climb, but the client was never satisfied. The rehab industry was becoming less lucrative and increasingly competitive so the pressure was on. If the sales team had a bad month, it was the marketing team, couldn’t be them. If the insurance companies didn’t pay out, guess who the in-house team suggests gets cut? Not anyone in house. Not their jobs, of course. What THEY are working on is AWESOME. Cut the outside team. They suck.

It’s really easy for an in-house team to win when we work in an office across the country, or state, and they are there spoon-feeding their boss whatever he needs to hear.

Ha ha ha, don’t you worry boss. That girl is fired!

We could see the industry changing and issued a clear call to action to our clients- and generally to anyone who wanted to listen. Heck. I even wrote a post about why rehabs should consider integrating MAT to try and get owners to think about how insurance companies were going to change what they pay out for.

And now look, that’s exactly what happened.

I think if you read anything I write, especially to rehab owners, you can tell I am passionate about my work. I don’t just want to sell you. I do deep research before I make any recommendations. Nothing is ever perfect because A) we don’t control Google or the Internet and things change and B) no one pays us enough budget to be able to monitor, manage and market every single aspect of their online brand.

I don’t think most people even understand what that means. Even if you didn’t build it, you have a digital footprint. YOU do. Your brand does. If you’re trying to make millions of dollars, everything you do as a business online has to be managed professionally. Clients think we’re expensive but then expect us to handle things that are well beyond the scope of “SEO” or marketing even.

Do you understand how complicated it is to even get the tracking and reporting correct for a seemingly simply website marketing campaign? But, we also need to know the legalities, compliancy policies and terms with every single platform, application and tool we interface with.

One project could require literally dozens of platforms, applications and tools. They all change regularly and need to be updated daily. We work with:

  • Custom WordPress websites and custom API integrations for carts, SEO, email marketing, blog sharing, call tracking
  • All of the social media platforms, like: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and LinkedIn
  • Google My Business and Bing Local
  • YouTube for hosting and marketing videos we actually create as well
  • Tools for email marketing, paid ad campaigns, organic outreach, social monitoring, website rankings and other campaign tracking metrics

We could be running campaigns $50-250K easy for one rehab website and then add another $100K for paid ads.

Once we took over a campaign that was spending almost $500K a month on Google paid ads. That was ONE rehab. Remind me to tell you that story one day, that one is even worse than this one…

Back in the day (we’re talking 2005 days) I was running campaigns where rehabs were spending $50K, per month, just for links. Not website hosting, management, design, development, SEO, content, blogging, local, social media, video, paid ads and all of the other services people expect us to also include today.

People come in today and want a website and full multi-channel marketing solution AND paid ads for like $500.

It’s a joke.

The issue is now everyone and their grandma claims to be a designer and an SEO so the pricing metrics are all messed up. Well, we aren’t doing what they do.

We get results. We make things that last.

That matter.

That takes money.

I mean, it takes money to make money, honey.

Psssttt: There’s a post on that too. Check it out here later.

Back to my story

So, these guys are with us for years and basically always complaining. The owner won’t increase the budget even though their business keeps growing and we have more digital assets to manage, but we keep going.

Then one day I get asked to come visit them. We don’t always go on site so thought this might be a good chance to see them. I like to see the clients face-to-face as often as I can, but most of our clients are not local so I don’t always get that chance.

At the time we were really busy with a lot of work, so I didn’t have time to sit around and overthink the meeting invite too much. I looked at the analytics and rankings and everything looked great, so I figured they wanted to talk shop.

I’ve met with them several times and we talk to them practically daily, so I asked my contact if I needed to prepare anything special before coming. No, he said.


I had a whole team that worked on this project, including an Account Manager, but we were so slammed with other work I left her to it.

They had asked for me and I created the strategy, I have also been there a few times before to meet the owner and shoot videos, so I figured I would just go see them alone.

However, Chris, my partner, had not been there, so I asked him to come up with me. He was really busy too and so he almost didn’t come. After you read this next part, if you know me (or care about women at all), you will be glad he did.

The Beat Down

Chris and I own and run our agency, but we also work here. We do SEO. We are link builders, content writers, designers. We give art direction, do audits, build strategies, we literally do it all. So, if we take off for a day, that is two full time employees for our small agency going on site for a client. Our two best SEO’s. Not just some sales dude we hired. Each of us has 15 years of technical SEO experience.

Also, Chris and I have six kids. So, if we are going to go anywhere together without them, a lot of coordinating has to take place. (Just sayin)

That morning we drove hours to get to their rehab, expecting to discuss budgets and growth strategies.

So, to say that we were blind-sided, when we were literally brought into a room full of a large group of all men, some of which we had never even met before, well, that’s putting it mildly.

All were super serious and had their laptops open with papers printed, ready to chat about. Papers we hadn’t been given the privilege of seeing before the meeting.

From there, a lot of what happened is a blur actually because it was so fucked up. Excuse my French, but it really was. They asked if they could record the meeting, as if it was a legal proceeding or something.

All Mens Rehab
I can’t make this stuff up.

We sat down and I was not prepared and, therefore, flustered. The room was hot and I didn’t have enough space to properly set up and get online. I would have happily walked them through the last 3 years of marketing and explained where I think the industry is going and where I think they should invest their marketing dollars next.

That’s what they should have invited me there to do.

I would have done extensive preparations had I have known we were getting audited and that there would be 10 dudes sitting there waiting to ambush us.

I’m having anxiety all over again just thinking about it.

But, no. It seems my contact intentionally didn’t warn me that I had anything to be worried about. He wouldn’t even look me in the eye during the entire meeting.

We agreed to record the meeting and called the reseller. They passed out papers from, what appeared to be, an audit tool and a manual review of the website and digital assets. Apparently the men we didn’t recognize were brought in to audit “our work” (all digital assets). They were trusted friends of the newly appointed in-house marketing director.

Ahhh, of course they were.

Yeah, why trust US, the people that have literally worked on your brand personally every day for the last 3 years. Why trust US when you have THESE GUYS?

Rehab Owners, Don’t Do This

They proceeded to point out everything they thought they could find wrong with the site or campaign. We had a response for every single “issue”. But, because the owner is A) a self-centered jerk and B) has too big of an ego to listen to a girl (he always hated me and gave all of the credit to the male reseller, who didn’t actually work on the campaign… one time he even acted like he was going to physically come at me, I mean, it’s crazy), they still accused us of doing a bad job and actually ripping them off!

At one point he literally wouldn’t let me speak, even though he asked me a question, and then made a big statement about how he felt I personally “did this to him”. I guess in reference to the low mobile speed scores.

No one wanted to talk about the beautiful 300+ page WordPress website we made for them or the custom marketing campaigns that were driving rankings, calls and conversions.


Just slow load times, which we could have had fixed that day by the way, and a few other silly nit-picky things that any marker could point out. I mean, come on. We were working on a budget and with a huge website and multiple channels of marketing. Not to mention, we were not the only people on the campaign, they also had an in-house team. Mistakes happen.

But, no. All they wanted to do really was fire me in person it felt like. Me. Not the reseller they contracted. Not Eminent SEO, my agency and all the people who worked on the campaign. Just me.

It was like being in a bad movie or something. It was nuts.

They were getting NO calls and paying MORE money to the agency before us. AND, they didn’t even own their website and were buying expensive paid ads, which was not sustainable. We fixed their mess AND build them a profitable, sustainable marketing model that provided growth and return in the first YEAR!

Yet, after 3 years of steady growth and the data to back our strategies, we were fired on the spot and not even paid for the last month of work and the video we shot, on location.

To squeeze lemon in the wound, they even told us that the website was no good because it wasn’t getting 100% on the Google SpeedTest.

Wait, what?

We explained why and how we could work on improving it, but that we had made a really awesome, custom WordPress site. So, yes, there were a few things we decided to compromise on speed for, but that it was worth it for the conversion rate we were getting. We loved that site. THEY loved that site. People would even call them and tell them how much they liked their site.

We made that.

The two people sitting here before you. Not the guys you just met that see dollar signs in their eyes and have no idea all the work that really goes into this campaign.

The results were on the rise.

Why wouldn’t they listen to us now?

We spent 100’s of hours designing a cool brand for men with elements that would work for their loved ones as well. We researched the local and national competition and helped them gain traction with their Google My Business, email lists and social media, too.

If they really wanted to just fire us, why did they have to do it like this?

After they canceled, we watched them “fix” what wasn’t broken. The new team literally destroyed our YEARS of organic marketing, SEO and beautiful design to try and get 100% on the Google PageSpeed test tool for developers.

That is literally the dumbest thing I have ever heard of.

Do you know how many tools there are for grading a site?

Do you know how many different data points there are for determining the success of a website and marketing campaign?

You can’t achieve 100% on one tool and think you’ve won at marketing. It just doesn’t work like that.

I am sure other marketers / agencies are happy when their former (asshole) clients tank their sites and ruin themselves. But, I just feel sad mostly.

Imagine going to work every day and putting in your best effort, only for someone else to misunderstand it, misjudge it and then, knowing it was actually profitable, still take it and destroy it out of fear or hate…

Angry Rehab Owner
Is that why they do it?

To me, as the strategist, an artist and an empathetic marketer, it has become soul crushing. I can’t put my best work into something or someone that is just going to destroy it again. No, not my work.

Our work is made to last.

We’re not like those other guys. We make websites that educate and really help people. We care about our work and we take it seriously. We work tirelessly to understand what is happening with the Google algorithms and the different digital marketing platforms and tools available to businesses today.

It’s important to us that we do a good job and get results. Especially for rehab clients. This isn’t a joke. Lives are on the line.

If they are going to destroy our work after we gave them our best stuff, it’s not worth it to me anymore.

I just don’t know how else to say it.

I need to work on projects that matter, that create impact and that last.

I can’t invest any more of my energy into making other people millions of dollars only for them to not give us credit, take the work from us and even act like assholes to us when they leave. It’s happened too many times. It hurts and I just can’t do it anymore.

Tests and Tools Aren’t SEO

These guys obviously saw that our work was the real reason they were getting traffic and calls, not some delusion those “other guys” sold them, because, after a few months of seeing their rankings drop to practically ZERO, they put our old site back up, exactly as it was, blog posts, SEO and all…

And, now look. Rankings are coming back up:

Real Rehab Rankings

Even though the mobile speed test currently reads 31/100 and desktop 86/100.

And, remember, we didn’t have 100% so that is why we were fired. Even though we technically made the site for free and it would be a lot of extra work to get the mobile optimized for speed the way they wanted it. (like, pay us for our time and we’ll do the work, asshole)

At this point we just have to laugh. (and shake our heads)

Of course, they will likely taper or level off again soon as they have created mistrust and, unless they pump the site with new quality content and links to support their recent comeback, well, they are doomed to stay in the stagnant “distant friend zone” in the Google SERPs for ever more.

Which some businesses are, frankly, fine with. But, in this industry? Not going to cut it. You don’t grow that way and you definitely wont sustain long term when the competition is steadily investing into content and SEO.

This sucks too because we had them on the right path to continually gain trust with Google, even after we had to make some major changes to accommodate the major algorithm updates in recent years. If they ever took a hit, it was only small and temporary and we would adjust and come back stronger. That’s how a good, agile organic marketing team works. And, that’s what we are.

But, I can’t call this client and be like, remember what an asshole you were to me? Remember how you accused us of years of bad work? Did you know you would literally destroy your own site just to prove you were justified in firing us and not paying us?

I told you so
I told you so.

No, I don’t get to do that.

So, we just have to quietly carry on as though it doesn’t matter. That it doesn’t matter that business owners are rude to us every day. That they won’t take the time to understand what we do but then accuse us of trying to trick them so we can make a quick buck.

Well, that sucks! It sucks when they are the ones that are unethical, not us. But we did all of the hard work and they get to walk away with a fat asset and leave us with nothing!

Too Many Shady Business Owners

I mean, sure. There are plenty of shady marketers. But, if you have worked with someone for YEARS and they are willing to drop what they are doing and come sit with you and go over things with full transparency, well, we’re probably not one of the shady ones.

And, come on. Do I look like I am out here trying to take advantage on anyone?

I think after 15 SOLID YEARS of working online and showing up day after day after day and doing the same thing should at least earn me the right to be called HONEST and ETHICAL.

And, I think that our work is some of the best in this space. Honestly. Go look at the shit out there. Our work is easily worth ten times what we charge.

At this point I think it’s a waste of resource not to use our team for good, so I am reinvesting my skills into building projects and assets for my own company that I can monetize and then market on my own terms.

Despite NEVER ONCE getting paid enough for our work, we have made some of the most beautiful addiction treatment sites still on the web.

I am really proud of our design work and want to showcase our abilities, but I always felt it would be a conflict of interest to share the sites we worked with. So I didn’t. But, then I see other drug rehab marketing agencies actually claiming they made the sites WE did.

WTF guys. Who does that?

The internet is UGLY sometimes, I swear.

But, I think after 10 years of making awesome sites it’s time we share OUR work.

Eminent SEO is getting ready to launch a whole new section on our website featuring some of the cool projects we’ve been working on. A lot of people are surprised to learn we actually do logos, print work, like brochures and business cards, custom websites, video production, illustrated graphics and custom artwork. But, the design work is a really big part of what we do!

You can’t really do marketing without design. If it takes only seconds to grab a user’s attention, which it does, how else can we “marketers” do that without visual storytelling?

As marketers, we have to be good at:

  • Understanding the user
  • Understanding the brand
  • Understanding the marketplace opportunities and challenges
  • Understanding how to get the user to see the brand message
  • Understanding how to tell a story through the brand messaging that moves the user to take a desired action

Over the years we have been working on expanding our capabilities in those areas. This means we are uniquely overqualified to do a lot more than the majority of other companies are willing to hire and pay us for…. under the umbrella of “SEO” or just marketing that is.

And that’s fine.

Maybe we should start a business consulting agency or change our name or whatever…. Like we’ve heard time and time again over the years. But, who has time for that? Sorry, I have been busy running the business I have now and helping the clients we still have. We’re not dead, you know.

SEO is not Dead

Yeah, 2018 and 2019 pretty much sucked.

The rehab industry royally screwed us and, frankly, other marketers too.

But, I was forced to rethink what we were doing and what I was willing to apply my own skills to moving forward, and, I’m pretty sure I have discovered a new way to make money for myself and help others at the same time.

So, I’m feeling pretty freaking good about things right about now. And, if my theory proves to be true (which it is already on its way to doing!) then I have created a path to generating income from websites we already own and, at some point, we will never have to use (waste) our talents on another asshole again!

Cheers to not working for assholes
Hooray! We no longer have to work for assholes!

Why didn’t I think of this before?

I guess sometimes you have to burn things ALL the way to the ground before you can dust off the ashes and start over, fresh.

But, I did rebuild it.

And, I believed in myself and even though it has been really hard and it still hurts, I keep going.

I am not scared. I am a problem solver. I will stand in my pain, face the issues head on and keep on believin.

I am a problem solver

“I no longer feared the darkness once I knew the phoenix in me would rise from the ashes.” — William C. Hannan


You Might Also Like

Dear Addiction Rehab Owners

Why Your Addiction Treatment Center Needs to Offer MAT

The Right Way to Do Addiction Treatment Marketing

Why I Do Rehab Business Consulting

Why You Can’t Do Paid Ads on Mental Health and Addiction Related Content (even if you aren’t a treatment center)

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