The Swedish Cancer Society’s website has always had a relatively high visibility on Google. Thanks to a strong brand and well-produced content, visitors have found their way to the site through search engines, without any larger effort on the organization’s part. Instead, the focus was on paid traffic and campaigns.

When the SEO project was initiated, there were also several challenges related to the technical platform. It was hard, sometimes impossible, to make even the most simple – but necessary – improvements.

Six success factors for a great SEO project

Of course, circumstances will vary between different websites and organizations, but hopefully some aspects of this project can serve as inspiration. Here are the Swedish Cancer Society’s success factors for a great SEO project.

1. A strong team with support from the organization

SEO is not difficult in itself. Once you’ve understood the principle, you can see that it follows a pretty clear logic. The challenge with SEO is often something else: convincing managers, product owners, developers, etc., that it is worthwhile performing the improvement efforts needed to achieve results. Getting support from the top of the organization is necessary and it is also important to have people in the team driving the matter internally. In the case of the Swedish Cancer Society, this was crucial for the final outcome.

2. Short lead times from idea to execution

Being able to identify an issue and getting it fixed within a few days – or even hours – is a huge asset. This means you can quickly see the results of work done, which incites those involved to make further improvements.

“One of the most gratifying parts of this project is that there is so much drive for development and improvement within the Swedish Cancer Society. They are willing to try out new things. It is rare to move so swiftly from an idea to a decision and I think this is a very important success factor,” says Hugo Kollind, senior SEO consultant at Knowit Experience.

3. Continuously seeking contact with media outlets that mention the Swedish Cancer Society

The Swedish Cancer Society is one of Sweden’s best-known brands and the marketing activities they perform generally result in their being mentioned in various media outlets.

In the past, the organization was satisfied with being mentioned – the goal was achieved. Now, it sees all mentions as a chance to get a link from a website with high credibility and processes in place to make use of them and transform them into links that create both direct traffic and greater authority in the eyes of Google.

“We were aware that our activities got attention, but did not understand the power that could be unleashed by attracting links and thus increasing our visibility in Google. This was something of a shift. We had to change how we worked with being mentioned in the media, as we understood that this could provide us with added value, beyond simply attracting attention,” says Maria Douglas Mungenast, content manager for the Swedish Cancer Society’s site.

The Swedish Cancer Society once had the bad habit of throwing away valuable pages on the website. Of course, this was not done on purpose, but it was not uncommon that campaign pages which attracted links from some of Sweden’s largest websites were closed down entirely after the end of the campaigns.

“In the past, we sometimes erased pages without being aware of the links from the partners and other reliable websites that might lead to those pages, which could have contributed to increased visibility. Luckily, we could repair the damage and, most importantly, set a routine for future campaigns. Now, we have heightened awareness of this and make use of every link we get,” says Maria Douglas Mungenast.

“Of course, being mentioned in the media is highly valuable, but if we can also transform it into a link, it will provide value for much longer, sometimes for several years.”

- Hugo Kollind, senior SEO consultant, Knowit Experience

4. Search term research is key to understanding a user’s problems

To promote an understanding of how content needed to be improved, it was necessary to understand which search terms the target groups used to search for cancer-related information on Google.

Further, we needed to understand the intentions behind the searches, which were not always obvious. Once we had those things in place, we could adapt the contents to get better, clearer answers to the users’ questions.

An important part of this process has also been creating reports to show the positions of important search terms for various parts of the website. By regularly following the positions of individual search questions, we were able to identify areas where the contents did not live up to the requirements and quickly fix this.

“Thanks to the search term reports, we can quickly see if a search term plateaus or is stuck at a low position, which enables us to take action where it is needed best.”

Often, these have been quite simple adjustments. For instance, this can involve answering a frequently asked question in a clearer way or adding images and illustrations when this can provide clearer answers than text.

5. Creating new pages in areas with high demand

Sometimes, adjusting the existing contents was not enough. When demand is high in an area that is relatively complex, creating new content is necessary. This is often a better solution than adding more content to pre-existing pages. With new content, the possibility of delving deeper into the subject is greater, to answer visitors’ questions in detail and meet their needs.

One good example of this is the pages with sample images of various types of skin cancer. After some research into search behaviors on the topic, we could adapt editorial materials based on demand, and most importantly: show the kind of images that could provide answers to the top-of-mind question: “Is my birth mark skin cancer?” Today, the organization’s site is number 1 on almost all the search terms it wants visibility for.

6. A desire to improve the website from a technical perspective

When the SEO project started, the website was far from optimal in an SEO perspective.

A lot of things were wrong. There is still quite a lot to improve, but the difference now, compared with before we started the project, is huge. Today, all the conditions are right. Thanks to shorter load times and a better structure, we can give visitors a better on-site experience than before.

The results – an increase in organic search traffic with over 113% in two years

Doubling your search traffic from a low level is easy. Doing it from a high level is, however, very difficult. To do this, you need most stars to align. It’s not enough that we think the content is good. Google – and most importantly: the users – must agree.

Furthermore, we get a somewhat stricter treatment from Google, as the content published here may impact on people’s health. In other words, we must always contribute with content that is reliable and helps people in the best possible way.

“We understand that the content we create is important for many people. Both those who have cancer themselves, and their friends and family. What we write and show on our websites has a direct impact on people’s lives and health. This is a responsibility we take very seriously. This makes it especially gratifying to see that both our users and Google now see us as Sweden’s most reliable source for information on cancer. Our visibility is proof positive of this,” says Maria Douglas Mungenast.

“It is incredibly rewarding to see that all our efforts have finally had results. During one period, in connection with one of Google’s updates, we saw a clear dip in both visibility and traffic. We were stuck. To put it bluntly, they felt that there were other parties with higher credibility than us. This pushed us to get even better at pretty much everything and during the latest updates, we have enjoyed the fruits of that labor,” says Hugo Kollind.

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Urban Nyblom
Business Director, Knowit Experience Stockholm
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