Consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, up 44.0% compared to 2019. According to Digital Commerce 360, e-commerce hasn’t seen this level of growth since 1999. While many companies pulled digital ad budgets at the beginning of pandemic, there were many in the food and beverage space that dove head first into online advertising, specifically, PPC. 

In a very short amount of time, I saw the digital ad space flood with new ads. Food marketers tested everything from grocery delivery services to meal subscriptions to enticing consumers new wellness products. Even ranchers tested selling ¼, ½ and whole animals directly to consumers. 

Understanding Search Behavior

When it comes to search behavior, I’m always fascinated by what people are looking for. Their intent, their needs, the questions they use to find what they want fascinate me as the actions they take show what they really value and want. 

As pandemic-driven search behavior unfolded, I began to see several patterns emerge as people started to learn to sew your own clothes, cook homestyle meals, make sourdough and grow their own food. In less than a year, we saw lifestyles on the fringe become mainstream and struggling food models become profitable.

Want to see for yourself? 

Simply spend some time on Google Search Trends or play with it interactively. 

In terms of campaign tactics being used by food companies, the largest increase I saw in terms of utilizing SEM were campaigns designed to drive brand awareness and testing meaningful, revenue driven conversions. 

These Three Food Areas Are Going All In on Google Ads

The three areas of food that seemed to invest the most time, energy and budget into SEM initiatives were food subscriptions, D2C meat sales, and supplements/wellness products. When it comes to Google Ads, both meat and supplements have some red tape around them when it comes to adhering to Google’s ad policies. In this post, I’m  going to break down wellness  products and supplements. 

What You Need to Know About Advertising Supplements and Wellness Products

Google’s ad policies surround healthcare and medicines, while straightforward, have some interesting stipulations depending on the country ads are being served in. When it comes to supplements and wellness products, Google ad policies drill down into specific supplement names and types, as well as a few specific herbs found within certain formulations, that are not allowed. The policies specifically prohibit herbal and dietary supplements with active pharmaceutical or dangerous ingredients. 

Three Rules to Take Into Consideration So Your Supplement Ads Aren’t Disapproved

If you read the ad policies closely, here are three things that you want to take into consideration when building your ad copy and your landing, website, and product pages. Google ad policies specifically state that they will disapprove ads that contain the following: 

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  1. Products that make false or misleading health claims or sites whose primary purpose is to sell products that claim to be as effective as anabolic steroids, prescription weight-loss drugs, controlled substances and prescription erectile dysfunction drugs.
  2. Non-government approved or non-prescription products that are marketed in a way that implies that they’re safe or effective for use in preventing, curing, or treating a particular disease or ailment.
  3. Shopping ads may disallow the promotion of any dietary supplement, drug, or other product that’s been the subject of any government or regulatory action or warning.

See the entire list of what promotion is allowed in the United States. 

Promoting Online Holistic Pharmacies & E-Commerce Sites

When it comes to what can be advertised, in the United States, no certification is required for the promotion of over-the-counter medications, but Google restricts the promotion of online pharmacies. According to their ad policies:

To determine whether an advertiser is promoting an online pharmacy, we consider a number of factors such as the content of your ads and site or app, as well as the products or services that you offer.

For user safety and other reasons, we err on the side of caution in applying this policy, especially for landing pages that link or refer to content that in any way appears to be the online sale of medicines, whether prescription or over-the-counter medicine. 

If your e-commerce site falls into this classification, most likely you will need to get certified as an online pharmacy by Google, depending on the type of products you want to sell through search, display and/or shopping ads. If you’re an e-commerce site that sells products that raise some questions to policy compliance in Google’s eyes, you may have to request a manual review of the products and site for shopping ads.

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And once you’re certified, Google has provided a list of active ingredients/prescription drugs terms that you should NOT target in ad text, landing pages, keywords, or source code of a webpage are listed here

But I’ve Seen Ads That Violate This Laundry List of Policies –– How Do They Do That?

Yes, I’m sure you’ve seen ads that violate these policies. Let’s face it, where there’s a will there’s a way. The bottom line is that it comes down to how ads are worded. 

When I was researching this article series, I was served an ad by an Australian company named Tropeaka, which sells supplements and protein powder. Check out their creative wording the ad below on YouTube about supplements (their ad landing page linked here).

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When I really dig into Tropeaka’s site, I definitely found some grey areas when it comes to compliance with ad policies. But without a deep human read, they are easy to miss. 

Added Bonus: Digging Deeper

For those of you that really want to geek out and go down the rabbit hole, here’s a Reddit thread on Google Ads and supplements. What I found interesting is that marketers are saying Google Ads hands down worked better than Facebook Ads, and in D2C they suggested Google Shopping Ads are definitely more effective in particular. In six years working with Google and Facebook ads, I’ve always found the return on Google Ads in the B2B space to be much more impactful than Facebook.

So it’s great to see some correlation in between the B2B and D2C. There’s also a few ‘truth in advertising’ that I found interesting, and also gives examples of companies and what they’re doing. This one has an interesting way to talk about the term ‘immunity boosting’ but circumventing issues like fake health claims against coronavirus. Again,  it’s all about that wording.

Wait?! Where’s the CTA? 

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