Hearing Loss & Visual Impairment SEO Sector Deep Dive

Jess Mackereth

SEO Analyst

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Colour image of an eye -

In the UK nonprofit sector, there are a wide range of amazing charities offering support to people who are affected by either visual or auditory impairment. As part of this audit, we wanted to understand and identify opportunities for the organic health of some of the key charities supporting service users. The charities we looked at were:

Reflections on our data

Across a majority of the six metrics we’ve used to represent the organic health of nonprofit websites, the Hearing and Visual Impairment sub-sector is behind.

The Domain Authority (broadly defined as an indicator of the overall “strength” of a domain) of charities in this sub-sector averaged 59/100; for comparison, the Environmental sub-sector’s average DA of 69 trumps the competition. This is by far and away the lowest average DA across all of the sectors we looked at. Related to this, the standout figure from our audit of this sector was the number of referring domains that point to these websites, which has a big impact on a domain’s authority. Across the five charities we looked at, there were an average of 6,239 referring domains—this compares to over an average of over 20,480 referring to charity websites falling under the Mental Health umbrella. Monthly organic traffic is estimated at around 26,000, half that of the next nearest sub-sector (Children’s Charities)

Sector Super Tip #1

If you’re working at a nonprofit in this space, there’s an opportunity to review your backlinks against those of other competitors to see what kinds of domains are linking out to those other domains and not yours. Your PR and comms team should be involved in any active outreach to gain valuable links to increase your DA, and it’s worth monitoring any unlinked mentions you might have on other websites to see what opportunities already exist from websites who are warm to you. There is a huge opportunity here given how low the average is across this sector in comparison to other sub-sectors.

Core Web Vital Skills (metrics that Google considers important in a webpage’s overall user experience) are broadly low in this sector compared to other sectors, but what’s interesting is how wide the range of scores for these metrics are: Sightsavers score 68/100 (the 4th highest score of all of the charities we audited for this project) while some of the other charities in this sector scored as low as 19. This gives charities an opportunity to gain an edge over their competitors.

Sector Super Tip #2

Core Web Vitals are set to become an increasingly important element of SEO over the coming months, so if this is something you’ve seen as outside your remit, get the conversation started internally to improve these. There’s an opportunity to stand out against other charities in this sector.

Common Content

The charities within this sub-sector share a mission to provide support and information to users, whilst also encouraging donations to fund that support. As such, whilst there are key differences (visual impairment charities and auditory impairment charities are not competing for the same traffic) from a top level perspective, these charities typically provide three types of content:

  • Early diagnosis/awareness information for people trying to better understand signs, symptoms and treatments.
  • Content designed to provide information regarding the support and benefits that are available to people impacted by visual/hearing impairment.
  • Income-led content that serves to deliver against organisation objectives rooted in revenue (legacy giving, mass participation, challenge events).

Each charity achieves its aims through a mixture of educational content on specific hearing and vision conditions, and supporter-focused content (e.g. available disability benefits).

Sightsavers differ slightly from the other charities in this sub-sector: they operate in an international aid capacity in countries outside of the UK, rather than focus on support to people in the UK with visual impairment. Their content is focused on advocacy and campaigning overseas.

Content Hubs as Traffic Drivers

RNIB and RNID have more extensive content hubs on their site than other charities, which is likely correlated, in part, to higher traffic arriving on both of those sites.

An example of this is RNIB’s ‘eye conditions’ content hub that currently holds 125 non-branded rankings in positions 1-3, including high volume queries such as ‘charles bonnet syndrome’ (12,000 monthly searches) and ‘posterior vitreous detachment’ (4,000 searches).

The content within this hub is well structured and contains an index that links to different sections of the page:

Screenshot of RNIB's pages on age-related macular degeneration with a quick links contents menu RNIB's AMD page with 'quick links' menu

These links make it easier for users to navigate through the page, and it also clearly indicates to search engines what is included within the information. In the case of RNIB, Google is pulling in these subheadings directly into the search results as sitelinks:

Screenshot of an RNIB search result with sitelinks for 'vitamins for macular degeneration' Result with sitelinks for 'vitamins for macular degeneration'

Another example of this happening is for the high volume query ‘charles bonnet syndrome’ where RNIB is ranking in position three. These links allow users to navigate directly to the section they are looking for, and enriches the search result:

Screenshot of an RNIB search result with sitelinks for 'charles bonnet syndrome' Result with sitelinks for 'charles bonnet syndrome'

In addition to results with sitelinks, RNIB has gained 25 featured snippets for the eye conditions content hub, including the snippet for ‘Photophobia’:

Screenshot of an RNIB search result with featured snippet for 'photophobia' Result with featured snippet for 'photophobia'

This keyword has 7,200 searches per month and RNIB ranks above both WebMD and Healthline, which is by no means an easy feat due to their extensive medical content and high quality backlink profiles.

RNID has had similar success with their ‘technology and products’ section, which is well structured and well linked-to across all of the pages. This section has topical pages on technology subjects such as:

  • Alarms
  • Landline phones
  • Smoke alarms
  • Doorbells
  • TV, Radio and Music

By creating this content hub, RNID has gained rankings in position 1-3 for keywords such as (with monthly searches):

  • phones for hard of hearing (2100)
  • doorbell for deaf (500)
  • deaf alarm clock (250)
  • doorbell for hard of hearing (150)
  • smoke alarms for the deaf (70)

This contrasts with RSBC whose content is less well-optimised for SEO and specific user queries: common eye conditions are all housed on one page, for instance, which makes it significantly harder for Google to rank this page for different queries.

A way to expand RSBC’s page into a content hub would be to create a condition page for each of those listed on common eye conditions and optimise those for the individual search terms for each condition.

As RSBC is an expert organisation for children, it would be a good idea to optimise condition pages for ‘children’ or ‘childhood’ related queries, such as ‘childhood glaucoma’ (200 monthly searches) or ‘cataracts in children’ (100 searches per month).

Currently RSBC is not ranking for either of these terms on the first page, whereas Sightsavers and the GOSH hospital site rank for ‘cataracts in children’. This is an opportunity for RSBC to utilise their expertise in childhood blindness to capture new audiences via organic search.

Sector Super Tip #3

FAQ pages and grouped content might be more efficient and easier to build and maintain, but it makes Google’s life incredibly difficult, because its bots can’t easily ascertain from typical signals what a page is about if it’s about 20-30 different things. If you have these on your site, consider regrouping these conditions, or (better still) housing them on standalone pages and building up your content around each one.

Keyword Rankings

This sub-sector has a critical issue with its non-branded rankings (e.g. Google searches that don’t include a reference to the charity name). The average no. of position 1 non-branded keywords these sites rank for is just 174 non-branded keywords—the lowest across all sectors. This will be severely limiting these charities’ ability to grow their supporter bases, and it’s a major area of opportunity for these charities. Those that engage with and embrace it may well see transformational levels of traffic arrive on site.

Charities within this sector typically perform well for service user-focused content. For example, the RNID is ranking well for benefits e.g. ‘benefits for hearing impaired’/ ‘deaf benefits’ but ranking bottom of page one for medical-related keywords such as ‘sudden deafness’ / ‘glue ear tinnitus’ / ‘ear wax deafness’. In addition, Sightsavers is ranking toward the bottom of page one for the keyword ‘trachoma’ and in position 12 for ‘cataracts’, despite having content on their site for each of these areas. For a charity of the size of Sightsavers, this is a real surprise: we found that the site holds just 30 position 1 rankings for non-branded keywords. As part of this audit we debated how to group Sightsavers—on the one hand they work in the field of visual impairment; on the other, they operate in an international aid capacity. Wherever we group them, they have a significant issue with their non-branded terms, and they rank for nearly no keywords in either group.

Typically, for medical-related keywords, you’ll see the NHS/WHO/Healthline appearing above charity content. For many of these keywords, a medical knowledge graph will be appearing to the right of the SERPS, featuring data from the NHS. The exception to this is for the RNIB, who have strong organic performance for a wide range of medical-related keywords, where they are ranking in position one for high volume keywords and often have a featured snippet appearing as well.

Sector Super Tip #4

When you’re thinking about how to create a content strategy that competes in a medical SERP where the NHS and other medical organisations rank well, try and return to your organisational objectives. Your charity is not trying to achieve the same thing as the NHS, so trying to “compete” or outrank that website is often a deadend, particularly on diagnosis-centred terms containing “treatment” and “diagnosis”. Instead, find the “long-tail niche” for user queries that the NHS aren’t trying to answer. None of the charities we reviewed hold a first page ranking for a term like “advice for flying with a visual impairment”, as an example.

Despite this point, there’s still a real opportunity here on these big “head” terms. Take the SERP below, which is from a UK-based search on “what causes deafness”.

Screenshot showing Google search result for the query "what causes deafness" SERP result for query "what causes deafness"

Here is a term where no UK charity ranks in the top results. While you would expect to see the NHS appearing for this term, it’s disappointing that all of the charities we audited are outranked by both US and Australian medical healthcare websites. These are terms that we believe charities could make inroads into with their rankings, if they can present content to Google that’s seen as more relevant to searchers in the UK. The picture is the same for a term like “types of deafness”—RNIB appear low down on page 1, outranked by Johns Hopkins Medicine, and other US-based websites.


Keywords where image packs are appearing (image results within the main Google results page) are typically related to conditions (‘types of deafness’/’refractive errors’), symptoms (‘why are my eyes so sensitive to light’) and general educational queries (‘how does the eye focus’/’how the ear works’). We noticed a number of opportunities for charities to improve their visibility on image search. For example RNID does not have image content on their Types of Deafness section and therefore aren’t appearing in the image pack for keywords related to different types of deafness. A quick win here would be to provide visual explainers around how the ear works in relation to deafness.

Screenshot showing Google search result for the query "types of deafness" Embedded image pack result

Navigation and IA

How a site is structured is often understood to be a matter of UX. But it’s a critical facet of good SEO, sending signals to Google about the relevance and importance of content within a site’s hierarchy. The navigation for all the charities in this sector differs; some sites like RSBC have very flat structures (information is structured in such a way as to remove any indicator of importance through hierarchy) and others are utilising tertiary navigation (content organised into folders within subfolders to indicate content importance).

NDCS include a large number of links within their site navigation bar at the top of each page, which could be overwhelming for a user and confusing for Google as the crawler will be unsure which pages are most important on the site. 3 out of 5 charities are utilising breadcrumbs, which can improve the user journey and allow Google to crawl and index the site with ease. There may be opportunities to improve the Information Architecture of these charities’ sites, to enhance the user experience and improve internal linking for SEO benefit.

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