Mental Health Charities SEO Sector Deep Dive

Emma Bennett

Head of SEO

If you'd like a PDF copy of this report please email us at [email protected]
A hand reaching for the sky -

Please note that this article refers to suicide, self-harm and other mental health issues.

Mental Health charities across the UK provide vital support to people who are experiencing—or are affected by—mental illness. These charities vary in size, and often specialise in areas of expertise such as suicide prevention or children’s mental health. As part of this audit, we wanted to understand how these charities were serving user searches, and what the opportunities were for increasing organic traffic. The charities we looked at were:

Reflections on our data

The Domain Authority (broadly defined as an indicator of the overall “strength” of a domain) of charities in this sub sector averaged 65/100. This average was significantly brought up by the two charities with the strongest organic search presence, which were Samaritans and Mind, both with a Domain Authority of 75.

The standout figure from our audit of this nonprofit sub-sector was the number of referring domains that link to these websites, which has a big impact on a domain’s ability to rank well in search. For the six mental health charities, the average number of referring domains was 20,480. This is the highest of all the sub-sectors we audited as part of this project, by a significant margin; for context, the average number of referring domains pointing at websites in our Cancer Research and Support sub-sector was 17,598. The high number of referring domains within the Mental Health category can be largely attributed to the enormous backlink profile of Mind, which has almost 50,000 backlinks, the highest of all of the 52 charities within this analysis.

Core Web Vitals (metrics that Google considers important in a webpage’s overall user experience) are also high in this sector compared to other sectors (second, overall), which means an extra level of competitive edge is needed to rank. There is some variation across the individual Mental Health charities, and in this area of SEO, the highest scorers are not Mind and Samaritans (who actually have some of the lowest scores of the group). The winning charity for Core Web Vitals was YoungMinds. Place2Be had the lowest score of 23/100.

Sector Super Tip #1

Tip: If you’re working at a nonprofit in this space, you will need a strong backlink profile to compete amongst the competition. Where competition is too high, focus on lower volume, niche queries. Ranking for lower volume queries will cumulatively build traffic, rather than going for the highest volume and most competitive keywords.

Sector Super Tip #2

Core Web Vitals are useful metrics for Google, but also for users too. They ensure a fast load time and a less distracting page experience, but require input from developers to get right. Larger charities may have the benefit of more resources, but they also have the potential barrier of larger sites and legacy code to improve. Smaller or newer charities have the potential to gain an edge within this area. CWVs are now a small part of Google’s core algorithm.

Unique challenges for this sector

Mental health charities face a range of specific search-related challenges. They sit in a unique position between providing medical, pharmaceutical and legal information, and meeting urgent needs for people in crisis.

Medical and pharmaceutical search results are unique in that they are generally considered ‘Your Money or Your Life’ (YMYL) content by Google. Ranking in these types of search results require an extremely high demonstrable level of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust (E-A-T) and competition within the search results is strong.

Search competitors within a medical search engine results page (SERP) often include the NHS, government organisations, major charities (often non-UK based) and other large healthcare sites such as WebMD and Healthline.

Content needs to meet user needs by signposting appropriately and increasing traffic to the right pages at the right time. For mental health charities with specific audiences, such as YoungMinds (who predominantly support young people), there is the additional challenge of reaching a “niche” audience. When young people search in Google, they don’t necessarily always indicate how old they are (they often won’t qualify their search as in ‘depression in teenagers) which can make keyword research that bit more difficult.

Sector Super Tip #3

Search engines often deliver personalised results to their users and a search engine will likely know the age range of the user based on their searches and account information. Optimising your content hub with audience terms eg ‘mental health for young people’ will mean that if a user searches without an identifying term,

Finding the right way to structure informational support content on the site is crucial for ranking well within search, and many of the charities within the mental health space have found creative ways to deliver high quality information to the right people. Largely, this is in the form of well organised content hubs around key topics or audiences, including mental health conditions, feelings, medications, young people and legal rights.

Content Hubs for Medical and Legal Information

Content hubs vary across the mental health space in the way they are segmented, but the general page types we identified were:

  • Condition pages, eg Depression, Anger, Bipolar Disorder, Hoarding
  • Feelings or Symptoms pages, eg. Sleep Problems, Loneliness, Hallucinating, Feeling Sad
  • Treatment or support pages, eg. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindfulness, Talking Therapies, Electroconvulsive Therapy
  • Medication pages eg. Citalopram, Sertraline, Antidepressants, Antipsychotics
  • Legal Advice eg. Mental Health Laws, Section 117, Appropriate Adults
  • By Audience eg. Young People’s Hub, Veterans, Mental Health in Prisons

These types of pages are often competing with the NHS and other highly authoritative medical sites and are providing critically important information to users. Legal advice content is competing with the government, the police and legal practitioners. Google recognises the responsibility in these situations to provide trustworthy information, and will reward content that is well researched and signals expertise, authoritativeness and trust (E-A-T).

Despite this, we found that a number of the mental health charities within this sub-sector often rank in top positions despite this competition. YoungMinds rank well for their medication pages, and have multiple position one rankings for high volume, competitive terms such as ‘aripiprazole’ (24,000 searches per month), ‘atomoxetine’ (10,000 searches) and ‘does sertraline make you tired’ (2400 searches).

Search engine results page showing Atomoxetine featured snippet SERP Result - Featured Snippet | Atomoxetine
Search engine results page showing Atomoxetine listings SERP Results | Atomoxetine

We found that YoungMinds had more than 70 of these featured snippets specifically for medication terms within medical and pharmaceutical search engine results pages, outranking competition such as government, NHS, WebMD and healthline.

On their medication pages, they provide highly informative and well structured information, which meets the needs of the searcher. As with all good content hubs, they link consistently between all of their pages so users, and Google, can find all of the information. The unique thing about these medical pages is that they provide a clear notice that the content has been reviewed by an expert:

YoungMinds' College of Mental Health Pharmacy partnership logo YoungMinds' College of Mental Health Pharmacy partnership

YoungMinds have a partnership with the College of Mental Health Pharmacy, and link out to their website to demonstrate credentials. The ‘About this information’ section also includes the date it was last checked, which in this case was March 2020.

Mind also ranks highly for extremely competitive terms and includes a similar section about their content quality at the end of their informational pages. This section covers the date of last revision, contact details for the publishing team and the ‘PIF TICK’.

Mind's Trusted Information Creator credentials Mind's Trusted Information Creator credentials showcased

The PIF TICK is a UK-wide quality mark for trusted health information, and by linking out to this, Mind demonstrates their content has been checked by a medical professional.

Sector Super Tip #4

If you are providing medical information, you need to clearly demonstrate a commitment to content quality and expert authorship. Include author biographies on all content that include the credentials and qualifications of the person writing the content. Consider a partnership with an external organisation such as the PIF TICK to demonstrate expertise.

Rethink includes references and further sources on all their medication pages, which is another way to signal content quality and trustworthiness. Rethink ranks in position 1 for ‘section 117’ (2,000 searches per month), above multiple NHS sites and They provide comprehensive, clear and well structured information on the subject, whilst also demonstrating that they are an authoritative source of information.

Sector Super Tip #5

Always include references within your content to authoritative sources, such as medical journals or research. Be sure to link out to this content: Google wants to see this kind of external connection, and it can help position your domain as authoritative.

Visibility for People in Distress

As well as providing evergreen content on mental health conditions, symptoms and support, these charities often need to be visible for people at moments of extreme distress. Searches from people in distress are typically time sensitive, personal and written in the first person, for example: ‘i am struggling’, ‘i can't cope anymore’, ‘i have had enough of life’ or ‘i need help’. These types of searches require appropriate content that is optimised for these queries, but can be difficult to incorporate into the copy on the page.

Samaritans has done this very successfully with their ‘I want to kill myself’ page, which includes the language used by people searching. This is done with the title, but also the subheadings on the page, which are formed as common questions from people who use Samaritans’ service.

Sector Super Tip #6

Use your keyword research to understand what terms people use when they are seeking help through Google. When producing content, include this terminology within the page and make the information as clear as possible. You'll invariable see differences between how users search, and how you refer to things internally, so try and focus on the language your users are actually using when Googling issues relating to your content.

In addition to this, for terms related to suicide, Samaritans have a long standing relationship with Google to include a large rich result at the top of the results page:

Samaritans' featured snippet listing Samaritans' featured snippet listing

This box includes the telephone number of Samaritans, a link to their website and also the SHOUT text service. This intervention was set up in 2010 and Matt Britten of Google explained that the hope for the partnership was “by adding a highly visible link on searches relating to suicide, Google can help guide those who are vulnerable, distressed or suicidal to the renowned expertise and support service offered by Samaritans."

This type of partnership with Google is rare but is an example of the nonprofit sector linking up with the private sector to provide an intervention for people when they need it most.

Sector Super Tip #7

At Torchbox one of our core values is 'make things better' and whilst that often means making charity rankings better, in some unique occasions, such as this one, ensuring people get the help they need quickly takes precedence. Rather than trying to outrank your “competitors” in this space, it’s critical that you question whether that's actually in the best interests of the searcher. Focus efforts on keyword groups where you can provide unique value.

The SEO value of online shops

Of the six charities we investigated for this sector review, four of them had an online shop selling merchandise to raise funds, including Christmas Cards, T-shirts, Flowers and self care boxes. Mind, Samaritans and Rethink all use a subdomain to house their online shops. Broadly, this is detrimental from an SEO perspective: subdomains are treated as unique domains by Google, so any authority built up by each charity’s www is not passed on or shared with the shop. subdomain, and vice versa. A better approach is taken by YoungMinds, who uses a subfolder approach (eg. This means that the shop can benefit from the authority gained by the main www domain, which will impact on the Shop’s rankings.

In general, the online shops across all charities rank poorly compared to other informational pages on their www sites. The Mind online shop had a small number of valuable branded keywords on page one, such as ‘mind pin badge’, ‘mind charity christmas cards’ and ‘mind charity t shirt’. YoungMinds held a small number of non-branded terms such as ‘mental health t shirts uk’ however, the number of rankings across the board was low.

Organic search can be a major traffic driver for online shops, where product and category pages are optimised for specific keywords. Online shops are a fundraising asset that could be utilised better within this sector—none of the charities in this sector are currently exploiting the organic potential of their shop offering.

Sector Super Tip #8

For products in an online shop, ensure product pages include schema markup for ‘Product’ and all of the recommended properties such as Organization, Description, Image, Price and Aggregate Rating. Using schema markup in this way will mean your products are eligible for rich results such as price, availability and review ratings directly within the SERP.

YouTube Channels

All of the mental health charities that we reviewed had a YouTube channel that contained multiple uploads, with many videos gaining large numbers of views. Video is an important asset for this sub-sector as experiences of mental illness are highly personal and everyone has a different story.

Video packs and YouTube channel results featured regularly on the search engine results pages for both branded and non-branded queries, making YouTube an important asset for both users and search engines.

Optimising video titles to include keywords is an important tactic, and Mind does this really well on their ‘Talking about [mental health condition]’ videos.

Sector Super Tip #9

When uploading Youtube videos, include a descriptive, concise title containing important keywords at the start of the title, no more than 60 characters in length. Create a unique description (at least 250 words) for every video and include a custom thumbnail of 1280 x 720 pixels.

Mind also encourages user generated content in the form of blogs and video blogs (vlogs), which are uploaded to their site and YouTube channel. A good example of this is ‘Living with PMDD | Laura's Mental Health Story’ which has had over 52,000 views.

Mind YouTube results Mind's YouTube results

In addition to optimising titles and descriptions, ranking well on YouTube depends heavily on the amount of engagement on your videos, and audience retention - getting your viewers to watch all the way through to the end and take actions.

Samaritans make great use of YouTube features, including grouping their videos into playlists such as ‘listening tips’ and ‘our latest research’, and creating custom thumbnails. In the example below we’ve highlighted examples of playlists, descriptive video titles and use of subtitles which are all recommended tactics.

Samaritans' YouTube results Samaritans' YouTube results

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