Cancer Research UK is the world’s largest cancer charity, dedicated to saving lives through research. Their vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured, from the most common types to those that affect just a few people.
In the 1970s, less than a quarter of people with cancer survived. But, over the last 40 years survival has doubled. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress and, by 2034, see three-quarters of people surviving the disease for 10 years or more.
Cancer Research UK is committed to finding ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. But they also provide, balanced, accurate cancer information, for both people affected by cancer and for the wider public.
One of the sources of information is their website (www.cancerresearchuk.org), containing 7,500 pages of information about virtually every aspect of cancer, written by a team of nurses, and regularly reviewed by both patients and experienced clinicians. The ‘About Cancer’ section of their website (www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer) accounts for a significant proportion of its traffic.
The traffic to the website changed in recent months, with the main area affected being the ‘About Cancer’ section. To ascertain the cause, Cancer Research UK performed in-depth research into a wide range of areas, utilising a number of industry tools to formulate their findings.
After the detailed investigation, the cause was still unclear leading Hiten Vaghmaria, Business Owner of About Cancer at Cancer Research UK, to approach Artefact UK. He sought an agency skilled at data analysis and SEO to investigate their data further and look at other sources of information that they had not considered, in order to identify the cause.
Artefact broke the project into four stages:
A review of investigation so far and understanding of the key issues identified by the Cancer Research UK team.
- Metrics Review
Reviewing site performance metrics with agency tools to look for additional signal flags.
- Deep Analysis
Technical and content analysis of the About Cancer section to identify potential traffic issues.
List of recommended actions and priorities to address the traffic loss to the site.
A discovery workshop provided an opportunity for Artefact to understand the steps taken during the extensive research by Nancy Scott, Organic Search Lead, and her team. This allowed Jenny Sims, SEO Manager, and Alex Smith, Analytics & Insight Manager, the opportunity to understand past research and formulate a plan for further investigation.
A metrics review investigated the findings so far, aiming to discover anomalies and areas for further research. The second step utilised our suite of measurement tools to provide additional data sources for key organic metrics to see how these compare with the investigation to date. This included investigations such as:
- Organic share of voice, sampled rankings for key queries and coverage of rich SERP features using Stat Search Analytics
- SearchMetrics suite for performance analysis and competitor comparison
- Pingdom Tools and Fiddler Web Debugging Proxy for deeper site speed analysis
- Screaming Frog for top level content auditing and crawl assessment
- Artefact internal data warehouse, used to provide (anonymized) sector-specific performance and trend data
A deep technical assessment of the About Cancer section followed, along with key elements from the wider Cancer Research UK website. Our consultants worked to determine elements which were likely to be affecting organic traffic potential. This included a code and critical content level evaluation of the website.
Our data analysts, led by Alex Smith, worked extensively on analysing server log files, to investigate any potential crawl issues occurring on site. Transforming the files using a Python script, the data was loaded into Google BiqQuery to allow in-depth review, before being displayed in an interactive dashboard using Google Data Studio.
Our data experts were able to pinpoint issues with crawling, experienced by both Google bot and Bing bot.
The Google bot consistently got stuck within the find-a-shop section of the website, with 25% of its page requests being within this section.
Similarly, the Bing bot struggled to reach deeper pages on the site, getting stuck within top level pages in the clinical trial search and cancer-chat forum.
We recommended a number of steps to improve crawlability for all bots within the Cancer Research UK website.
Our team of SEO experts noticed that whilst organic impressions via mobile and tablet had increased over time, the CTR had declined significantly. During this time, there had been a large increase in SERP features:
- Answer Box up 83%
- People Also Ask up 56%
- Knowledge Graph up 7.5%
Cancer Research UK owned an extremely small portion of these featured. Only 570 Answer Boxes belonged to Cancer Research UK, whilst 10,526 were delivered by others. 16,359 People Also Ask responses were unowned by Cancer Research UK, who provided no answers at present. With Knowledge Graph, 1,483 were delivered by others, with Cancer Research UK providing none.
The results were similar for Desktop devices, with impressions remaining high but CTR declining. The increase in People Also Ask features was even greater here than on desktop, up 71%. There was a similar scenario of ownership of these SERP features by Cancer Research UK.
Jenny Sims and her team produced a range of recommendations to improve the availability of information to Google, allowing them to feature more prominently within Featured Snippets.