Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She’s a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion, and is writing a book based on her personal blog, ConversionDiary.com. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their five young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. You can follow her on Twitter at @conversiondiary.
There are so many good things going on in the pro-life world right now. Forty Days for Life is in full swing, and Simcha Fisher recently posted a roundup of encouraging news like the closing of abortion facilities, investigations into Planned Parenthood, states fighting back about abortion funding, and poll results showing that the public is increasingly uncomfortable with abortion. The pro-life movement is making great strides right now. However, there is one area where the fight for life is not going well at all, and it happens to be one of the most important arenas for evangelizing the culture: the online world.
Web developer Craig Berry recently did an analysis of how Catholic websites do in terms of their appearance on the major search engines, and he gave the Church a failing grade (for example, only one Catholic site came up in the first page of results for the term church). Last year, Matthew Warner did something similar, with an equally concerning outcome. Inspired by this idea, I decided to conduct my own analysis of how well pro-life sites are doing in terms of search engine optimization (commonly referred to as SEO). The results were sobering.
Below is a chart that shows how many pro-life vs. pro-abortion sites came up in Google search results for key terms related to abortion. In calculating the “pro-abortion” number, I didn’t count sites such as Wikipedia that simply offered information (even though many of those seemed biased toward the pro-choice position); this is the number of websites that openly encouraged women to consider having abortions. Since Google customizes search results for each individual, different people might see a slightly different set of pages, but I had friends check these terms and the ratio of pro-life to pro-abortion sites remained about the same.
And the advertisements were no better. Take a look at the ratio of ads that came up for these same terms:
To put it bluntly: The pro-life movement is getting crushed in the SEO war, and women and their unborn children are the casualties. I’m guessing that one of the first places women turn when they learn of an unexpected pregnancy is the internet. And, as you can see, they are bombarded with sites that dehumanize their unborn children and paint abortion as a simple, easy option that will make their problems go away.
There needs to be a concerted effort in the pro-life movement to get our websites do better in online search results. It wouldn’t even be that difficult: When my husband and I started a business a few years ago, I was able to get our site to come up on page one of Google for multiple key terms, without spending any money. All it takes is some basic technical knowledge, a little bit of research, and the time to revamp your site to make it search engine friendly. I know that many pro-life organizations are already running on limited resources, but creating search engine optimized sites should be as high on the priority list as possible. Because the online world is the new battleground in the fight for unborn life.