Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research is one of the world’s foremost cancer research organizations. The work they pioneer has literally saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of cancer survivors. Fred Hutch’s stories should be known by millions but, even after significant investment and the intense efforts of a top-notch writing team – including popular medical bloggers, former research professionals and award-winning science journalists – their website content was failing to attract a meaningful audience.

Despite a library of authoritative, detailed and exceptionally well written articles by highly qualified medical experts, most of this content attracted very little traffic. As part of our development of a global digital strategy for Fred Hutch, Wheelhouse DMG identified a novel way to promote the compelling stories Fred Hutch has to tell, to attract a more substantial audience – with the goal that others who are dealing with cancer might be helped.

Our Work

Wheelhouse DMG performed a series of content analyses for Fred Hutch, gaining a clear understanding of their competitive landscape. We assessed how everything from taxonomy to UX to the rapid evolution of Google’s search ranking algorithm might be causing Fred Hutch’s organic traffic to lag. As we reviewed our full content strategy audit, we discovered actionable insights hidden in plain sight: in the search engine results pages themselves.

Wheelhouse DMG’s analysis showed that, just as in the offline world, Fred Hutch had tremendous online authority for cancer-related content. Given this leadership position and resulting authority, our strategy focused on a new and rapidly expanding element in search results called “Featured Snippets”.

Originally developed for news content, a Featured Snippet presents a succinct response to a search query at the top of search results. In effect, a Featured Snippet is Google’s attempt to answer a question for a user before they even click on one of the search results. Given that a Featured Snippet appears at the very top of search results – even above the first organic result – it’s impact on site performance can be profound, driving exponential increases in traffic (see example of a Featured Snippet below).

By focusing on the overlap between relevant queries to Fred Hutch’s business goals, content that could be optimized and edited to win Snippets, and search engine results pages where Google was either currently serving Featured Snippets or likely would be soon given trends, Wheelhouse DMG strategists identified the highest value opportunities to achieve Featured Snippets for Fred Hutch. Our content specialists then carefully restructured and optimized target pages in order achieve Featured Snippet placement.

This time-consuming work required both a keen, strategic focus and a light touch to ensure the scientific and medical value of this content was never diminished in any way. Each article required discrete and painstaking competitive research and thoughtful, line-by-line optimization.

Wheelhouse and Fred Hutch worked closely together, building trust, rapport and consistent lines of feedback to make sure that the experts who masterfully produced this content were at ease with Wheelhouse’s proposed adjustments.

The Results

In short order, the work completed by Wheelhouse began to bear fruit. Wheelhouse achieved dozens of Featured Snippets for targeted content, which led to dramatic increases in site traffic. For example, the chart below shows traffic growth for just one of the pages Wheelhouse targeted for optimization. In less than 90 days, traffic to this page increased by more than 1,300 percent, making it second only to the site’s homepage in its ability to attract organic traffic. This is but one example of more than 180 Featured Snippets achieved for this site. In total, Fred Hutch has risen to the top of search results for over 27,000 average monthly searches. Wheelhouse continues to work with Fred Hutch, developing and shepherding digital strategy in the organization, including providing analytics strategy, architecture, implementation, reporting and analysis, and managing paid search and paid social advertising for key initiatives. We also continue to support content marketing. In fact, as part of that work, we taught the Fred Hutch writing team how to integrate Featured Snippet opportunity identification and optimization with their own workstream. Cumulative Impact As with all digital strategy work, it is in the cumulative impact of this work that its value can best be seen. There is perhaps no clearer indication of the value of Wheelhouse DMG's work than our impact on fundraising for Fred Hutch where, for example, our work contributed to:


Increase in gifts from new donors (with online giving accounting for 89% of this increase.)


Increase in the value of
gifts associated with
paid social advertising.


Increase in
gifts associated with
paid search

Snippet Growth

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