Webconsuls Blog

Monday, January 15, 2018

Federal Government Freezes Database of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Programs

government freezes NREPP database
The federal government has suspended a database that gives health care professionals access to more than 400 programs and resources that prevent and treat mental illness and substance use disorders, The Washington Post reports.

SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) serves as a database for hundreds of mental health and substance abuse programs that have been independently vetted by a third party and employ evidence-based practices. It’s primarily used by people seeking treatment programs for themselves or loved ones, as well as mental health and addiction professionals.

Officials announced that the contract with the third party has been terminated and the database will be run by the National Mental Health and Substance Use Policy Laboratory, or Policy Lab. According to one agency spokesperson, the Policy Lab will take an even more stringent approach to vetting programs, but specifics about how it will work, when it will launch and what it means for the programs that are already included in the database are unknown.

The Policy Lab was established under the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016, which requires the government to provide information about about evidence-based treatments and created a new assistant secretary for mental health and substance use position at SAMHSA. According Elinore McCance-Katz, the nominee for that position, the Policy Lab’s primary function is to regularly review programs and identify the ones that are not evidence-based.

The decision has many mental health professionals and members of Congress outraged. Some fear that making the vetting process “in-house” could politicize it. The lab will also award grants to state and local governments, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions to develop evidence-based interventions.

“NREPP is one of the most important tools we have. Nobody has a financial stake,” said Catherine Tucker, president of the Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling. “It’s an impartial, nonpartisan, trustworthy source that represents thousands and thousands of hours of work.”

What does this decision mean for mental health and addiction treatment centers? 

Many are wondering why, after 20 years, the contract was terminated, especially on the heels of the Trump administration’s decision to declare the opioid epidemic and public health emergency.

Since the Department of Health and Human Services froze the NREPP database in September, approximately 90 new programs have been reviewed, but are not available to the public. It’s also unclear whether this decision impacts only the NREPP database, or the SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator too. Both databases will remain online as the agency works to restructure.

Treatment centers that are currently listed will stay there--at least for the time being. But centers that want to apply for review won’t be able to. It is unclear if it’s also unclear how the required evidence-based aspect of the 21st Century Cures Act will be put into effect. With the future of the database pending, how will the government disclose which treatments are evidence-based and which are not?

Webconsuls has more than a decade of experience in the addiction treatment space and has encouraged treatment centers to get listed on the SAMHSA/NREPP database, even going as far as guiding centers through the rigorous application process. Getting a coveted .gov link is like hitting the internet jackpot, and search engines reward the treatment centers who have them.

In the meantime, treatment centers should ensure they have a strong inbound link strategy by culling inbound links from other reputable online directories to improve search engine authority. Look for databases that verify facility licenses and are more legitimate, such as the Psychology Today for treatment centers and therapists.

If one thing is clear, it’s that there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding this decision. While it’s important for addiction recovery centers to be listed in a database as reputable as NREPP, if this decision has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is for certain. That’s why it’s imperative for treatment centers to enhance their authority by ramping up their own SEO strategy.

Webconsuls has specialized in digital marketing for the addiction treatment space for more than 15 years. With us, there is no learning curve. We know the unique nuances of this industry, which databases and directories are worth your resources and how to use them to your advantage in your digital marketing strategy. Contact us to learn how our brand experts and digital marketing services can help you improve your strategy, and stay tuned for updates on how the Policy Lab moves forward with this consequential decision.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What Does the End of Net Neutrality Mean for Digital Marketing and SEO?

net neutrality digital marketing

There’s been a flurry of public opposition following the FCC’s vote to repeal net neutrality, an Obama-era policy that requires the internet to treat all traffic equally.

As a company that specializes in digital marketing strategy for small businesses, Webconsuls is particularly invested in this topic. We help small companies leverage their budget to build a digital presence, and we rely on an open, fair playing field to do so.

Consumers are familiar with the doomsday scenarios such as having to pay to do a Google search or stream the entire season of “Stranger Things” in one sitting, but what are the implications for small businesses and online marketing?

What Is Net Neutrality? 

There are internet service providers (ISPs): Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, etc. These companies want control over how their services are used. Then, there are companies that need the internet for their services. These range from major media companies like Google, Facebook and Netflix, to small businesses. They don’t want ISPs to prioritize specific data over other data.

Under net neutrality, ISPs must treat all data equally and not charge differently by user, website, platform, content, application, device, etc. With these rules in place, ISPs can’t block, slow down or charge for access to individual websites and online content.

The policy ensures that both massive media companies and small companies can share information and sell their services on a fair and level playing field, without restrictions imposed by ISPs.

Net Neutrality: The Consumer Perspective 

There are a bunch of different models that hypothesize how non-neutrality might unfold for consumers. Some worry that the internet could become a “pay to play” scheme: consumers would have basic access to a select number of websites, and would have to pay more for more websites, improved connection, faster download times and streaming.

What Are the Implications for Small Businesses? 

Digital marketing and free internet are inextricably linked. Net neutrality facilitates healthy competition between businesses of all sizes and industries, and there’s a real demand for digital marketing services, like SEO, PPC and content marketing, that drive web traffic.

When the internet is accessible to everyone, everyone gets a fair shot. Small businesses can compete with larger businesses without having to pay an ISP.

With non-neutrality, the tools used to control traffic--like organic SEO, PPC and content marketing--might not apply anymore. The “pay to play” scheme could apply to businesses too, which could have serious consequences for small businesses. Businesses could have to pay ISPs for a plan that allows them to reach consumers who aren’t paying for full-access plans, dipping into their marketing budgets.

A small business, even one that’s successful, probably doesn’t have millions of dollars to pay for a seat at the table. But larger businesses can afford to shell out the big bucks for preferential treatment from ISPs and outspend their competition.

What’s Next? 

There’s still a lot we don’t know, and it's difficult to predict what will happen because the repeal won’t become official for a few months, and congress can still overrule FCC authority to keep net neutrality in place.

Worst case scenario: The internet becomes a pay to play scheme, à la Portugal, for consumers and businesses.

Now more than ever, ISPs are under a scrutinizing spotlight and they don’t want to ruffle any feathers. If the repeal passes, consumers and businesses might not notice any changes to their internet service or traffic, but stay tuned and adaptable. Just because we won’t experience changes initially doesn’t mean we never will.

We’re venturing into uncharted territory, and it’s hard to tell how companies will proceed if the repeal is passed. For example, Google started as a search engine and content company. With Google Fiber, they’re now also an ISP. Comcast and AT&T, both ISPs, own NBCUniversal and DirecTV, respectively. Without net neutrality, it’s uncertain what these big players will do.

Until then, there are a few things you can do to stop the repeal from becoming law. Battle for the Net lets you see where your state’s members of Congress stand on net neutrality. They make it pretty easy to write or call your members of Congress, and they also have a map of scheduled community meetings, town halls and protests near you. If you own a small business, you have a unique perspective. Share it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About Making a Facebook Cover Video

In recent years, Facebook has zeroed in on video, which is the way an increasing number of users prefer to consume content. For marketers, video content is a goldmine. 64% of consumers report that watching a branded marketing video on Facebook has influenced a purchase decision within the last month.

Facebook is always releasing innovative new ways for brands to better engage with users. Cover videos are one of those innovations, and they’re only available on Facebook Pages. By putting dynamic creative content front and center on the Page cover, Facebook is hoping to fuel even more audience interaction.

Facebook cover videos were released in May 2017, and it’s been a pretty lengthy rollout. After getting off to a somewhat rocky start, Facebook seems to have gotten a handle on the quirks of cover videos. Over time, this feature has become more reliable and will continue to grow more reliable as time goes on.

Thinking about uploading a Facebook cover video to your Page? Below are practical tips on how to make and upload a video and optimize it for your audience.

Facebook Cover Video Requirements
Before you start editing a video, make sure it meets Facebook’s technical requirements:

  • MP4 or MOV format is recommended
  • 20-90 seconds long
  • At least 820 x 462 resolution

You may have existing video content in your business’s library. If not, stock video websites such as VideoHive and Pond5 offer affordable options. Video editing software like HitFilm and Filmora are easy to use and can help you create a final product that looks professional.

We recommend uploading video content with at least 1280 x 720 resolution, which will ensure that the video looks equally good on mobile and desktop. Desktop has a greater aspect ratio than mobile. Although an 820 x 462 resolution video may display perfectly on mobile, on desktop it will be cut off or display with the dreaded black bars to comply with desktop’s 16:9 aspect ratio.

How to Upload a Facebook Cover Video

  1. Access Facebook from your computer, not your phone. The cover video feature isn’t currently available via the mobile app.
  2. Click “Add a Cover” and select “Upload photo/video.”
  3. After the video is uploaded, reposition if you’d like. Click “Next.”
  4. Click the arrows to choose a thumbnail to serve as the cover image. Most users will see the cover video with no problem, but low bandwidth could prevent it from loading.
  5. Turn on the button that says “Automatically replay video in a loop” to make sure the content keeps playing.
  6. Click “Publish” to take your cover video live.

How to Optimize Your Facebook Cover Video
Your Facebook cover video is just one more way to drive engagement with your brand. Make your cover video pop by keeping these optimization tips in mind:
  • Less is more. Busy, fast-paced videos with a lot of jerky edits are more distracting and just plain annoying than they are engaging. When in doubt, keep it simple. Cinemagraphs, which are images that combine still and dynamic elements, are a great solution. They’re attention-grabbing and known to increase dwell times and click-through rates.
  • Cover videos are cropped to 820 x 462 on desktop and mobile. Part of your cover video will likely be cropped out, so make sure any text or important parts of an image are centralized to avoid being cut out.
  • Your video should make sense without sound. Just like the rest of video content on Facebook, video is automatically muted.
  • Cover videos loop automatically. Make sure you have a smooth transition between the end and the beginning of the video. Make the transition less choppy by adding your logo or a title.

Make Your Cover Video Work For You
You don’t have to be a Scorsese or Spielberg to create a Facebook cover video that drives engagement, but if your video editing chops aren’t up to par, Webconsuls can help.

Our video production services are the perfect solution for business owners who want to keep their marketing strategy current but don’t have time to assemble a worthwhile cover video. Contact Webconsuls to learn more about our video production services and how we can help you create a cover video that speaks to your brand and increases user engagement.