VIPPS Certification and Paid Search for Health Systems and Hospitals

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Healthcare marketers and advertisers, I feel your pain; you have to deal with so many obstacles, especially when it comes to online advertising. Previously, I had written about two specific challenges that healthcare advertisers deal with on a regular basis: Advertising on health-related content & using site remarketing.

Today, I am writing about another challenge that you may have faced or could be facing in the near future. Google AdWords has recently disapproved some of our health systems’ ads on the grounds of not having a VIPPS Certification and a link in the footer of their website to their pharmacy page.

Link to Pharmacy Page

From my understanding, if your website links to information regarding your pharmacy AND patients are able to fill or refill prescriptions, your Google AdWords ads could be disapproved since they are considered an online pharmacy. However, if the pharmacy link goes to the various locations of your pharmacies and there is no way for patients to fill or refill prescriptions, you should be OK.

So, what does VIPPS stand for? VIPPS stands for Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites. According to the official VIPPS website: “To ensure public health…[it] requires an Internet pharmacy to comply with the licensing and survey requirements of its state and each state to which it dispenses pharmaceuticals.”

VIPPS Certification Logo

So, how do you know if your AdWords account has been dinged by this pharmacy-related issue? I would recommend filtering for disapproved ads. Then, hover over the callout icon and see why. If you see “[Healthcare and medicines] online pharmacy required”, then you may be in trouble!

Google AdWords Health and Conditions

Next, what are your options if your ads have been disapproved and an “online pharmacy certification” is required? You can take 1 of 3 routes:

  1. Remove any links on your site to the pharmacy page. Ha, yeah right! Yes, I realize there is a low possibility of this happening for most hospitals and health systems, but I figured I could mention it.
  2. Apply to be accredited and pay for the VIPPS certification. Pricing can be found here and is dependent on the type of pharmacy you are. Fees can range from $5,000-$8,000, which can be a pretty significant chunk of your marketing budget.
  3. Create strategic landing pages for your specific service-line campaigns that are on a completely different domain that DOES NOT LINK to the pharmacy section of the site. You cannot simply use a sub-domain since it technically links back to the root domain.

Well, there you have it, another day in the life of a healthcare marketer! Have you had to apply for a VIPPS Certification to get your ads back up and running? What has your experience been like? Hopefully, you haven’t had to face this issue and don’t have to moving forward. Good luck!

About Joe Castro

Joe Castro is the Director of Online Advertising at Fathom. He has over 7 years of experience in digital marketing with a concentration in PPC/paid search and display advertising. He primarily works with healthcare clients, but his experience spans across all verticals. Joe is a frequent blogger for Search Engine Journal. In his free time, he enjoys working out and spending time with family and friends.

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