Google your organization's name. Hopefully your homepage is the top result. Now Google the name of your city and your top service line. Are you still on top? Or visible without scrolling down? Or even on the first page of results? Unfortunately for many organizations, the answer to at least one of those questions will be "no." But this situation can be rectified by paying close attention to Search Engine Optimization—better known as SEO.
SEO is the process of improving website visibility in search engines through unpaid, or "organic," search results. Many factors contribute to SEO, such as front-end information like the website's content and links, as well as back-end information like webpage keywords, category tags, and the site's structure.
Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH, began an SEO program in 2009. The hospital had previously been paying for online ads, a.k.a. Search Engine Marketing (SEM), for several years with a very limited budget.
"When it came [time] to justify an increase each year to get visitors around key service lines, we quickly realized that the ‘pay to play' game was something we could not compete in as a nonprofit pediatric hospital," says Stephanie Cannon, the organization's director of web communications and e-business.
So Nationwide Children's put together a plan to improve its organic search engine results. Working with a consultant, Elizabeth Scott, head of Raven New Media, the organization embarked on an SEO improvement program that focused on four main areas: keywords, staff investment, content and links, and analytics.