SEO Strategies to Boost Patient Resource Traffic [Part 2]

Making people aware of your resources is one of the most crucial steps your nonprofit can take to create a better patient user experience.

After all, if no one knows about your resources, you can’t help them.

In today’s digital age, most patients will find your website via organic search.

So, developing a good SEO strategy is usually at the top of the list for most health nonprofits.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the concepts and strategies that nonprofits in the health space use to generate awareness via search.

We’ll outline how to approach competitive medical keywords, discover what content you should be writing, and ways nonprofits in the health space leverage Google AdGrants.

Let’s dive right in.

Foundational SEO concepts

Most decision-makers at nonprofits don’t have years of SEO experience.

(That’s probably why you’re reading this article.)

It’s not necessary to learn everything about SEO, but it is helpful to understand some of the basics.

Otherwise, you won’t have enough context to understand why your nonprofit might adopt a particular SEO strategy.

We’ll give you a quick primer below, and then get into the strategy.

On-page vs. off-page vs. technical SEO

There are three main types of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical.

  • On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing your website’s content and structure for Google’s crawlers. This includes optimizing titles, meta descriptions, images, and other elements that appear on your page.
  • Off-page SEO is the process of optimizing your website’s external signals. This includes developing links back to your site, publishing high-quality content, and earning mentions from other websites.
  • Technical SEO is the practice of optimizing your website’s technical infrastructure. This includes ensuring that your website loads quickly, has a valid sitemap, and doesn’t have any crawl errors.

Most nonprofits think about SEO from a technical perspective only.

In other words, “optimizing for SEO” means updating their website’s infrastructure.

However, a good SEO strategy encompasses not just technical SEO but also on-page and off-page SEO.

We’ll talk more about this later.

Search intent

When it comes to SEO, not all traffic is created equal.

In order to generate awareness for your nonprofit, you need to understand the different goals people have when they use search engines.

This is referred to as “search intent.”

There are three types of search intent: informational, navigational, and transactional.

  • Informational search intent is when a person is looking for information about a specific topic. For example, a person might search for “breast cancer symptoms” in order to learn more about the disease.
  • Navigational search intent is when a person is looking for a specific website or product. For example, a person might search for “mayo clinic” in order to navigate to Mayo Clinic’s website.
  • Transactional search intent (for a nonprofit) is when a person is looking to give money. For example, a person might search for “donate st jude” in order to make a donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Most nonprofit websites generate traffic from informational search intent.

However, a good SEO strategy will consider all types of search intent and ensure your site gets traffic from each of them.

Target keywords

As you develop your SEO strategy, you need to understand your target audience’s search behavior.

What are they looking for?

What questions are they asking?

For example, if you’re a nonprofit that provides mental health services, your target audience might be searching for terms like “mental health help” or “psychology help.”

However, they might also be searching for terms like “depression help” or “anxiety treatment.”

Your nonprofit’s website should target many of these keywords and phrases.

But not all keywords are the same. Some keywords have higher traffic and are more competitive than others.

And in the medical space, nonprofits face stiff competition from sites such as WebMD, Healthline, Mayo Clinic, and more.

So, to improve your SEO, you should target keywords that are realistic for your organization’s size and budget.

(There are also strategies to get traffic from those competitive terms, which we’ll cover below.)

Four SEO Strategies for Health Nonprofits

With our SEO primer out of the way, let’s get into four different strategies health nonprofits use to generate traffic from Google.

#1: Build on the foundation of technical SEO

As we mentioned earlier, technical SEO is the practice of optimizing your website’s technical infrastructure.

It makes sense to start here first because technical SEO fixes usually impact every page on the site.

These fixes can generate a big impact in a short amount of time and create a solid foundation on which to add future SEO improvements.

Aleyda Solis illustrates this in her Pyramid of SEO Needs diagram:

While there are many factors that go into technical SEO, we recommend starting with these three:

  1. Site speed: Make sure your website loads quickly. Google recommends a page load time of two seconds or less. You can check your site’s speed with tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
  2. Mobile-friendliness: More and more people are using their phones to search the internet. In fact, Google now uses mobile-first indexing for all new websites. This means that your website’s mobile version is now used as your primary site. You can check if your website is mobile-friendly with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
  3. User experience: Make sure your website is easy to use. This includes things like having a clear navigation, well-written content, and visual elements that help users understand your message.

If you can improve these three factors, you’ll be well on your way to improving your website’s traffic from Google.

#2: Target keywords with high traffic and low competition

Earlier, we mentioned that nonprofits face stiff competition from major health sites when it comes to SEO.

One way to get around this is to target keywords that have high traffic but low competition.

These are usually long-tail keywords, which are specific phrases that people use when they’re close to taking an action.

For example, if you’re a nonprofit that provides mental health services, someone might search for “mental health help near me.”

To find these keywords, you can use a tool like Google Keyword Planner.

Just enter a seed keyword (like “mental health”) and look at the results.

Google Keyword Planner will show you how many people are searching for that keyword each month.

It will also show you how much competition there is for that keyword.

You can then use this information to target keywords that have high traffic but low competition.

Focus on optimizing specific pages on your website around these keywords. You should also make a plan to write new content that targets these keywords.

This will help you get more traffic from Google without having to spend a lot of time and money on SEO.

#3: Build authority with backlinks

Another way to improve your SEO is to build authority with backlinks.

A backlink is a link from another website to yours.

When someone links to your website, it’s like they’re giving you a vote of confidence. It tells Google that your site is relevant and trustworthy.

And the more votes (backlinks) you have, the more likely you are to rank high in Google.

There are a few ways to get backlinks:

One is to reach out to other websites and ask them to link to your site. You can do this with other nonprofits in your issue space and link to each other’s resources.

Another is to create content that’s so good that people naturally want to link to it. Consider soliciting input, advice, and quotes from people or organizations you want to link to your site.

If these high-value sources contribute to your content, they are more likely to link to it.

And a third is to use tools like Google Search Console’s links reportGoogle’s links report lets you see who is linking to your website.

You can then reach out to these websites and ask them to link to additional pages on your site. This is a great way to get high-quality backlinks from trusted websites.

Building authority with backlinks will take time, but it’s a great way to improve your SEO.

#4: Use AdGrants to buy your way to the top

Nonprofits have a secret weapon when it comes to search traffic: Google AdGrants.

After all, most people jockeying for attention on Google aren’t given $120,000 (or more) per year in free advertising.

Unfortunately, most nonprofits squander this opportunity with poorly targeted ads.

You can deploy AdGrants to target different search intents. For example, some organizations choose to focus on transactional intent to capture donations from searches such as “donate mental health” or “donate [organization name].”

However, you can also use AdGrants to buy your way to the top of competitive medical searches, such as for symptoms that are difficult to rank for.

For example, if you find it difficult to rank for “chronic migraine”, you can use your AdGrants money to buy the #1 or #2 spot for that search.

This is most effective if the ad is paired with a lead capture form so you can get a visitor’s content information to keep in touch with them. (You can read more about this strategy in our 3-part series on TechSoup.)


Nonprofit SEO can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. It’s the top awareness channel in the health space.

In this article, we’ve outlined four ways to improve your nonprofit’s SEO:

  1. Building a technical SEO foundation.
  2. Targeting keywords with high traffic and low difficulty.
  3. Building authority with backlinks.
  4. Using AdGrants to buy your way to the top of Google search results.

In part 3 of this series, we’ll outline how to write content that keeps patients on your site once they’ve arrived from Google.

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