Amy Merrill, the co-founder and digital director of Plan C, told The 19th that one reason is that post-Roe, the group is “paying a lot more attention to the ecosystem”: keywords, how people use search. They’re also putting heavy investments in informational Google ads.
“We’re actively thinking about the future of search and what people are looking for and how tools like Google will respond or iterate as well,” Merrill said. She added that there has already been a documented shift in search trends, away from things like “abortion clinic near me” to “medication abortion” and “managing abortion.”
Power to Decide, the campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy, launched their AbortionFinder.org resource two years ago. Lauren Kernan, the director of content and UX strategy for the company, said that because of their site’s newness, it’s already an uphill battle when it comes to SEO.
“We don’t have the same established site authority as other big-name sites in the space, and we have had to build up our search equity over time with search engines like Google,” she said.
Kernan said that the AbortionFinder.org social accounts also often get reported to the host platforms, leading these accounts to “go dark for a period of time” while under review, which further sets back their ability to simply be found easily online.
“When a social account is deactivated or temporarily disabled, links back to AbortionFinder.org disappear as well. This drop in backlinks can also drop our SEO rankings, because backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors when it comes to search.”
Another complicating factor is that the way people consume information does not always go hand-in-hand with what content is prioritized by SEO, Kernan said. “Long-form content traditionally ranks better on search engines, but users looking for abortion information may be stressed out and overwhelmed, looking for brief, simple, clear information that is easy to scan. Long-form content is not the right fit for these users.”
In the days following the Dobbs ruling, Meta — Facebook’s parent company — faced criticism for taking down posts made by individual users about accessing medication abortion online from both Facebook and Instagram. A spokesperson for Meta told The 19th the company wants their “platforms to be a place where people can access reliable information about health services.”
While the Meta spokesperson says the company allows posts and ads promoting health care services like abortion as well as discussion and debate around them, “all content about abortion, regardless of political perspective, must follow our rules” — including regulations around prescription drug content. While Meta allows discussion related to mifepristone and misoprostol, including making search results of hashtags using these terms available to users, the company restricts “search terms for mifepristone and misoprostol in our commerce products to prevent abuse.” The company also continues to “prohibit the direct sale of prescription drugs [like misoprostol and mifepristone] anywhere on Meta’s platforms.”
Jessica Ensley, the digital outreach and opposition research director for the reproductive justice group ReproAction, told The 19th that her organization has seen “quite a big boost in engagement across platforms and through organic searches” post-Dobbs. Traffic has especially been up on the organization’s pages related to self-managed abortion resources and their Fake Clinic Database, a resource the group constantly updates to track the locations of crisis pregnancy centers. The group’s focus on SEO is greater now than ever.