Bhutan's national hospital - officialy JDWNRH - is one of the capital's landmarks, and very much part of daily life here in Thimphu. Go to the hospital, and you're likely to run into someone you know. From the infamous "cough and cold" to more serious conditions, people arrive for treatment at the country's flagship medical facility.
A few days ago I had to find information about the hospital, and so naturally turned to all-mightly Google to locate the hospital's homepage. Google usually does a fantastic job with such searches. Surprisingly, this turned out to be quite a challenge.
I started with "thimphu hospital" and "bhutan hospital", which, one would presume, are the most obvious keywords. Although the hospital's Wikipedia entry came in first, the hospital's homepage itself was not in the top 10 links or even the top 50, for that matter. Amazing. In fact, many results pointed to websites belonging to tour operators. I moved on to "thimphu referral hospital" and "bhutan referral hospital". Still no luck. Does it make sense that a Kuensel article mentioning the hospital will pop up before the official website? Not really, but it did.
Only when searching for "bhutan national referral hospital" was Google finally partially successful; a link to a webpage describing the Orthopedic Unit came up: www.jdwnrh.gov.bt/departments/orthopedic.php. But the content seemed out of date, with missing pictures and no way to navigate back to the home page. I went to the browser's address bar, deleted the trailing path (/departments/orthopedic.php), and finally arrived at the homepage: www.jdwnrh.gov.bt
Why is Google having such a hard time finding this homepage? Clear and simple: The hospital's website is not optimized for search engines. For example, how can Google know that this hospital is in Thimphu, Bhutan? Although it is displayed prominently in the top banner, the Google search engine cannot read images.
In the case of JDWNRH, the fact that the website is not search-engine-optimized is not crucial: prospective patients in Bhutan will not choose a hospital based on its web presence and design. But the art and science of Search Engine Optimization - making a website more visible to search engines - can make or break other kinds of organizations and businesses. Tour operators in Bhutan are especially sensitive to search results. When prospective tourists search Google for "bhutan travel" or "travel in bhutan", showing up in the top 10 results often translates into more business.