This not-for-profit is revolutionising Google Ads and SEO for suicide prevention

Trigger warning: This article contains discussions about suicide. Support is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

In a world where the internet is often the first place people turn to for help, one Black Dog Institute researcher is leveraging popular marketing strategies to reach people in their darkest moments. 

Dr. Sandersan Onie and his team are harnessing the power of Google Ads and SEO – tools commonly used by marketers to increase visibility and drive sales – to tackle one of the most pressing public health issues: suicide prevention. 

The innovative, always-on campaign targets specific distress-related keywords to ensure that people who are contemplating suicide are confronted with ads offering help and hope at the top of their search results. 


These ads lead to the Hope Exchange, a meticulously designed landing page that provides not just hotlines but also stories from individuals who have been affected by suicide. 

Since its launch, the campaign has seen remarkable success, achieving a click-through rate of 4-5%, which is significantly higher than the industry average of 3.15%. Even more encouragingly, the conversion rate soared to 21%. 

On the campaign, Dr. Onie told Mumbrella: “This work is a very small step in making sure people across Australia get the information they need when they need it.”

Buoyed by its achievements, The Hope Exchange Project has expanded to the US and Indonesia. The team hope it will eventually become a global force in suicide prevention. 

Notably, the impact of the campaign has been particularly profound in Dr. Onie’s home country of Indonesia, where mental health resources are scarce, and the stigma around suicide remains high. Here, the engagement rate rocketed to an incredible 82%, highlighting the critical unmet need for intervention.

Recently, the research team also tested the waters on the popular public forum Reddit. Despite initial scepticism, the platform proved to be effective in reaching people who might not actively seek mental health support. 

Funded by Reddit in collaboration with media agencies Wavemaker Australia and Folk, results showed substantial engagement from non-mental health-specific subreddits, with almost 50,000 Australians clicking on a suicide prevention ad in the first 14 days. 

Reflecting on the campaign, Dr Onie said: “When a Google ad pops up, you know exactly what you typed in to get it, but when you are on Reddit and suddenly see an ad asking if you are thinking of ending your life, you might be taken aback.

That’s why I thought it wouldn’t work, but it ended up having an incredibly massive reach across Australia.”

The Hope Exchange project draws on the expertise of 21 people who have attempted or been affected by suicide, as well as Dr. Onie’s own battles with depression and suicidality.   

These contributors have shaped every aspect of the campaign, from the selection of keywords to the content on the Hope Exchange landing page.  

Founded in 1985, the Black Dog Institute stands as Australia’s only medical research institute. The not-for-profit aims to investigate mental health across the lifespan to create a mentally healthier world for everyone.

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