If you’ve read any blog posts on marketing these days, you must have heard about SEO. While it might seem like just another digital marketing buzzword, SEO is a must for almost any organization operating in the modern world, including for nonprofits.
So, what is SEO?
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” It’s the process of making changes to your website design and content in order to help it appear in the search engines. This helps you get traffic from the “organic” or “natural” search results on search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
If you’re confused or intimidated by the prospect of becoming discoverable online and everything that entails, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. In the article below, we will be sharing tons of insightful and actionable SEO tips and tricks with you.
Search engines are one of the primary ways people use to find your nonprofit website. And finding your website means finding your organization, information about your services, events, and your donation page.
Search Engine Optimization refers to the process of employing a variety of strategies and techniques to rank highly in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) — including Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines to increase the number of website visitors.
And a high-ranking placement matters.
It’s estimated that three out of four clicks from internet searches go to the top five positions on Google. And with nine out of ten (91%) clicks from Google Search going to the results on the first page, the value of SEO is clear.
With more and more people choosing to give online, ranking highly is crucial to an organization’s success. Whether your goal is to raise awareness about an issue, increase online donations, or incite volunteering sign-ups, a good SEO strategy can help you get there.
SEO doesn’t ‘discriminate’ based on your legal status. It doesn’t care if you’re a for-profit or a nonprofit organization. SEO for nonprofits, in that regard, isn’t that different from SEO for other businesses.
Search engines have two major functions: crawling and building an index, and providing search users with a ranked list of the websites they’ve determined are the most relevant.
When a person performs an online search, the search engine scours billions of documents (pages, pdfs, jpg, and more) and does two things: first, it returns only those results that are relevant or useful to the searcher’s query; second, it ranks those results.
For example, search engines will aim to deliver relevant results to searchers by trying to understand what the site is about through keywords, and will also display more user-friendly sites.
There are more than 200 factors that affect your site ranking, but here are the Top 10 Google ranking factors in 2021 that every nonprofit must consider:
Search intent is the core of any search engine. Search intent (or user intent) is nothing but the goal of the user when searching for a query.
If you provide your visitors with what they want, it is more likely that Google will prefer your page on the top of the search results.
Your primary goal should be to give your visitors what they want. That is exactly what all search engines like Google, Yahoo & Bing are typically looking for.
For example: Let’s suppose your nonprofit is into Wildlife Conservation, & you come across the search term “wildlife conservation statistics”. People searching for this query are looking for wildlife conservation statistics that are updated for 2021.
There might be many journalists who are searching for this query so that they can cover these statistics in their news, journals, or magazines.
So if you write an in-depth article by sharing “Wildlife Conservation Statistics for 2021”, this will positively impact your blog post and it will start ranking. The more people click on your article & read it, the more likely it is that your article will stay on the top.
Also imagine, if any journalist likes your article, they are more likely to link back to your article & attribute it. Another win.
There are many factors that go into consideration for ranking. But this is one primary reason for ranking higher on SERPs.
Here are some tips to master the art of satisfying search intent:
If you are ignoring the page speed of your website, you are in big trouble. Google has officially announced that page speed is a definitive ranking factor in Google Search.
Here’s the official announcement.
We would highly recommend reading this article by Matthew Woodward (SEO Expert) on 6 Free Ways To Increase Website Speed (and search traffic!)
He has some really actionable tips and best practices that will help to improve your nonprofit website’s speed.
Here are some tips to get started:
Google officially announced on November 10, 2020, that the page experience ranking factor will be rolled out in May 2021.
This page experience ranking factors include Core web vitals such as Loading (LCP), Interactivity (FID), Visual Stability (CLS).
Don’t be scared of these technical terms. It just means that your website must have a good page experience on Desktop as well as on mobile.
Google has shared their official guide to improving page experience. Do give a read here
Here are some practical tips so that you can improve your page experience for your website:
Here are the metrics google mentioned in their documentation:
Keywords are ideas and topics that define what your content is about. In terms of SEO, they’re the words and phrases that searchers enter into search engines, also called “search queries” (e.g. homeless shelter Phoenix or animals charity Oxford). It’s important to use the language your audience uses because you might be currently describing your organization in slightly different ways.
Find your keywords by talking to your customers, frequenting forums and community groups, and doing your own keyword research with a tool like Keyword Explorer. Create your keywords list based on this research.
Content is the king. Especially when it comes to SEO. While using shortcuts and tricks like keyword stuffing and cloaking (examples of black hat SEO) might lead to short-term results, they are frowned upon and not sustainable.
Search engines are getting smarter every day – they want to show the most relevant results to their customers, so they’re constantly altering the way they rank sites.
The only way to sustainably optimize your site is by creating winning content. Create valuable, shareable, relevant content that adds value to your customers and answers their queries.
Search engine rankings are also determined by other sites that link to your site. The more the other websites link to yours, the higher you will rank. However, links by trusted websites that rank highly themselves are taken into consideration more.
Backlinks are a so-called ‘off-page’ factor that impacts SEO. This is how Google determines whether you have a legitimate site that visitors can trust. Trust is becoming an increasingly important factor in a site’s Google ranking.
Just like with keywords, you don’t want to overdo it with backlinks. Spamming sites with your links can get your site banned from the search engines.
Mobile optimization is becoming an increasingly important factor in SEO. Mobile optimization takes a look at site design, site structure, page speed, and more.
58% of all searches in Google are now done from a mobile device.
And this is what Google said:
“Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”
Google’s Mobile-first Index ranks the search results based only on the mobile version of the page.
Mobile optimization, keyword research, great content, and backlinks are definitely the cornerstone of SEO. However, there are tons of other smaller things that can help your nonprofit website ranking.
Search engines’ algorithms change rapidly, so even when you try your best to stay on top of SEO for nonprofits, there is always something new to learn, tweak or try out. You don’t have to be an SEO expert to improve how many people find your organization through search, so work on it as much as your resources allow you to.
Always, and above all, focus on the human audience that will be clicking on and reading your website content, and not on the search engines. If you focus on creating the best content possible on a website that’s easy to read and navigate while also following the search engine’s rules for optimization, you will be well on your way to building a successful online presence for your nonprofit organization.
Keep in mind that search engine optimization takes time to work its magic. It may take months to enjoy the results of your hard work, but once you do – all the efforts will pay off!