HomeSEOSEO for Nonprofits: Increasing Visibility and Donations

SEO for Nonprofits: Increasing Visibility and Donations

During the last decade, the number of Internet searches people have performed has grown significantly. In September 1999, there were 3.6 million search engine queries on average per day. By March 2007, daily search engine queries had reached 2.7 billion. Searching has become the second most popular online activity – next to email. And results from searching are instrumental in making consumer decisions. In fact, consumer research has shown that search engine usage is the most effective advertising medium the world has ever known. This means securing a high rank in search results can dramatically increase the amount of traffic to your website. And because there is a clear connection between consumer search and product purchases, this means increased search result rankings can impact your organization in a number of positive ways.

There are several ways to optimize a website for search engines, one of the most effective is through the generation of relevant and focused website content. This involves identifying the most popular and relevant keywords for your organization and then writing and structuring your website content around these keyword phrases. This makes it easier for search engines to locate and index your content. Other methods of website optimization include changing the website’s underlying code and structure, such as using the most relevant Meta tags and titles, and link building. All these methods are designed to increase your website’s relevance to particular keyword phrases and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Higher relevance means higher rankings and ultimately increased visibility to people searching for your targeted keywords.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the process of increasing the amount of visitors to a website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.

Why is SEO important for nonprofits?

A high ranking on the major search engines is one of the most cost-efficient ways for a nonprofit to generate traffic and to enhance its public relations efforts. Public relations in the traditional sense (newspapers, radio and television coverage) can be very expensive and difficult to measure in terms of its effectiveness. When a potential supporter uses a search engine to find an organization working on a particular cause, they are already expressing an interest in that cause. The probability of converting that visitor into a stakeholder is much higher than if they were to happen upon the organization through a traditional public relations effort.

Nonprofits, unlike businesses, have a different set of product variables. Unlike a business, nonprofits must rely on alliances, a strong public image, and a clear mandate in order to secure the support of its stakeholders. In the information age, the Internet is crucial to allowing an organization to inform the public as well as its stakeholders on its cause, the work that it does, and the way in which it fulfills its mission. At the same time, the web has become a very crowded marketplace, where an organization can easily get lost in the abundance of for-profit companies also vying for the public’s attention.

The benefits of SEO for nonprofits

By increasing visibility and ultimately traffic to their website, nonprofits can increase awareness of their mission. This awareness can translate into many things including more donations, a larger network of people to help advocate, volunteer, or provide services, or changes in public policy to name a few. Practically, the more money and support a nonprofit has, the more it can achieve its mission. Visitors coming to a nonprofit website from a search engine are more likely to take desired actions. This can include things like making a donation, signing up for a newsletter, or purchasing a product. Research has shown that many people trust search engines more than any other media when researching products and services. Having top rankings for keywords relevant to your cause can be a powerful branding tool. Visitors are more likely to think of a brand they have repeatedly seen in the search results. This is why so many advertisements and other forms of interruptive marketing are so effective. People are already looking for your product or service. When your website is returned at the top of the search results, they are already interested in what you have to offer.

SEO Strategies for Nonprofits

Keyword optimization involves making the most of the selected keywords on a website. There are a few key places that keywords should be used to maximize effectiveness. If a keyword is used in a header or bolded, the search engine sees this keyword as more important. Therefore, header tags are a good place to use keywords, as long as it is done in a natural way. Another important place is the title tag, as this is the name that a search engine shows as the link to the website. If the title tag for a page has its own unique keyword, then these pages will be differentiated from one another in the search engines’ index. Keyword density is also important because roughly 1-3% density is what is best for search engine optimization. If there is too high of a keyword density, the website could be seen as a spam site and be banned from the search engine.

Successful SEO service for nonprofits requires the targeting of specific and relevant keywords. To do so, the selected keywords should be specific to the nonprofit and what it offers. A good method of choosing the best keywords is through brainstorming. Here, a list of keywords that is relevant to the website and what it offers is produced. Once a good list is compiled, there are many tools and methods to use to test the effectiveness of the keywords. One simple method is to use quotes around the keyword when typing it into a search engine (e.g. “disadvantaged children”). The number of results is the popularity of that keyword. A better method is to use Google’s keyword tool to search the quantity of searches globally or locally for a given keyword, and also the competition that keyword has. Good keywords have a decent search volume, but not a high competition. These are the keywords that you want to target because they will bring traffic to the site.

Keyword research and optimization

Keywords are the foundation of any SEO strategy. Whether paid or unpaid, they allow your website to be found by your target audience. Because of the monetary consequences of keyword choice in paid search, it is recommended that you begin with keyword research for both organic and paid search and develop a prioritized list of targets. For the purposes of this document, we will only be discussing SEO, although it is important to recognize that these high-traffic, relevant keywords can also be used in your SEM campaigns. Completing the keyword research process will also help inform the rest of the SEO strategy by helping to identify content and information needs, set a navigation and site architecture strategy, evaluate technical requirements, and keep stakeholders informed of the SEO process and its impact. Keyword research should be seen as a critical first step in the SEO process. Whether you are building new pages or editing existing content, you should be targeting a list of keywords. This is because search is an active, pull-based channel and the results are only loosely tied to the content on your site. By understanding what a particular audience is looking for, search can provide powerful insights into user behavior and needs. Knowing this, keyword lists should be developed to align landing pages with the information needs of people in various stages of your target audience. A variety of keywords should be targeted based on the information searchers are looking for. For example, branded keywords often have the highest search volume, and although people searching these phrases may already be familiar with your organization, the top result for these searches should still be your website. This is because often the navigational intent of these searches is to find your site, and if they do not find what they are looking for they may become disengaged. However, much of the search volume for most organizations will be in non-branded keywords where people are looking for information or resources but may not know what organization provides them. Often these informational queries are best addressed with landing pages such as blog posts or articles, rather than trying to get the homepage to rank for everything. Finally, don’t forget to optimize for local search. Many organizations provide services in a specific geographic area and attempts to drive traffic beyond that area may be of little value.

On-page optimization techniques

Create an abstract that is between 250-350 words in length. Paragraphs should not exceed 100 words in length and are intended to provide a description of how to optimize your on-page content.

The use of title tags is critical to on-page optimization because it tells the search engine what the page is about. The title tag should consist of the primary keywords for the page and be no longer than 68 characters. Title tags are arguably the most important of the on-page factors and should be looked at in depth. Heading tags used to be more important, but as they have been abused in the past few years, they have lost their importance, but still should be used. They go from H1 to H6 and define what text is a heading. The use of the H1 tag is still relatively important and should contain the page’s primary keyword.

On-page optimization refers to the use of keyword phrases within the actual page content to boost rankings and relevancy in the search engines. This is extremely important to the search engines, and that is why they provide guidelines as to how webmasters can best optimize their pages. Following these guidelines, on-page optimization can have a great effect and can prove to be easy if you use a system.

Off-page optimization techniques

There is a common misconception that the more inbound links you have, the better you will rank. This is not true, and often having lots of links can be detrimental to your rankings. Try to get links from high-quality websites that are related to your website’s topic. Also, getting links from .gov or .edu sites has proven to make a huge impact on your search engine rankings.

Quality not quantity

This requires more effort but is crucial and often the most difficult. When gaining inbound links, ensure that the link is directed to the specific URL you are trying to rank. A common mistake is to get all your links directed at the homepage. By getting deep links, it will show that the content is important throughout your whole website and not just the homepage.

Deep linking

This is the most underutilized and easiest method of off-page optimization. When you get someone to link to your website, get them to use a specific keyword as the anchor text. This will send a clear message to the search engines about what keywords you are trying to rank.

Anchor Text

Off-page optimization is often the most complex and frustrating aspect of search engine optimization. Primarily because off-page optimization is a highly unquantifiable process. In this article, I want to review what I consider to be the most basic, fundamental, and crucial off-page optimization techniques that everyone should be doing. This doesn’t go into great detail but will help to get you started.

Creating SEO-friendly Content

Multimedia Elements Incorporating multimedia is an often overlooked but highly effective method of SEO. It becomes much easier to get a good search engine ranking for multimedia content in the image and video search engines. This can be a good method of gaining extra traffic. It is important to optimize the multimedia content so that it can be found easier by users. Multimedia content will often have its own page, so the file names and the URLs of these pages should include relevant keywords. ALT tags should be used with images and other multimedia elements. This helps Google to understand what the media is and to include it within its various search engines. This can be a good method of gaining extra traffic.

Optimizing meta tags and headings There has been some debate in the SEO community as to whether Meta tags are still a critical requirement for on-page optimization. We believe that Meta tags form the most important attribute area for on-page optimization. Meta tags should be optimized in line with the page content. They should encourage clicks from the search results page and create an accurate summary of the page. The most important Meta tags are the Title tag and the description. It is also useful to include the main keywords within the Meta keyword tag.

Writing compelling and keyword-rich content Google gives significant importance to content within a webpage. Keywords within the text, especially in headings and in the first few sentences of the page, are given more importance. It is important that the main keywords for the page are used within the heading and within the page content. The page should be well themed, and the use of related keywords and phrases will help to raise the relevance of the page with the keywords it is targeting. Don’t overdo the use of keywords. This can have a negative impact. It’s important to include keywords a good number of times within the visible text, but well-written, compelling content will ultimately prove more effective. A good measure is between 5% and 20% where the given keyword is in relation to the overall word count. Repeating the same keywords and phrases can be boring for the reader. Paragraphs that begin with the targeted keyword might be viewed as artificially constructed, so it is best to avoid doing this.

Writing compelling and keyword-rich content

Once the keywords are determined, the next step is to incorporate them into the content of the site. It’s important that this looks natural and that the keywords do not appear forced into the writing. There are, however, a variety of places where keywords can be placed to optimize a search engine ranking.

For a website to rank well in a search engine, the content must be relevant to the topic it’s based on and to the keywords it needs to get ranked for. These keywords are search terms that users enter into a search engine to find relevant sites. The first step to learning how to use content to rank in a search engine is to determine relevant keywords for the site. This is a critical step and important to the success of the site promotion effort. A common mistake when optimizing a website is to aim for a high search engine ranking for generic keywords, but this is unlikely to be successful because the high-ranking sites are already optimized and there are plenty of new sites. It is easier to achieve a top ranking by taking a niche market approach.

The content of the site is important for how search engines interpret the content of a site. Whereas search engine technology continues to advance, academic search engines are getting more and more sophisticated so that they are not exclusively focused on keywords.

Optimizing meta tags and headings

The next step involves using header tags H1 and H2 in a strategic manner. H1 tags are typically used for the main title of a page or post and are the most important header. H2 is used for subsections, and like the title tag should also be keyword-rich and descriptive. It is important not to load header tags with keywords in an effort to increase SEO. Keyword density of primary terms should not exceed 5% when added to existing content. Essentially, keep the header tags focused on accurately and descriptively labeling the content that follows them. Make sure the tags are where they should be in terms of the page’s architecture and/or WordPress Theme. This may require some degree of customization.

There is a fairly simple process nonprofits can employ to ensure that their meta tags and headings are optimized to be their very best for search engines and visitors alike. First, the page title should be placed within the title tags of the document head. Title tags are usually used on search engine results pages, and when the title is also used as the “clickable” link on the results page. It is very important to keep the title tag both keyword-rich and descriptive. One minor pitfall that should be avoided is duplicating the same title tag on every page of the website. The title tag should accurately reflect the content that is on that specific page.

Incorporating multimedia elements

Video is another great way to increase a nonprofit’s visibility. Content from video hosted on a very popular video platform will often show up in universal search results, as Google owns the platform and desires to provide the most useful results. This can be hugely beneficial, given how few nonprofits are actually producing video content. A non-profit benefiting malaria research, for example, could create a whiteboard Friday style video for the most common questions in malaria prevention. The whiteboard animation with the narration from the preventative doctors would be a great way to spread information in an effective and clear manner. Videos can also be used as link bait, and a helpful or informative video is more likely to attract links than an informative article. This can be a useful tool to acquiring new donors.

Embed images with descriptive file names. Search engines have no way to determine the content of images on a website unless they are accompanied by descriptive text located nearby. A nonprofit with an image gallery showcasing a recent trip to Africa might label the image file “img7987.jpg.” This is meaningless to search engines. A more effective approach would be to rename the file something descriptive like “orphans-hugging-in-africa.jpg.” Also, it is important to have alt attribute content on all images; this provides alternative information for an image if a user cannot view it. Lastly, make sure the images are all accessible via internal linking, as the Google Image Labeler and other search engines only index images on pages that are already indexed.

Measuring and Monitoring SEO Success

Success in an SEO campaign can only be determined by comparing statistics from previous and current campaigns. An increase in traffic is a key indication that an SEO campaign is making a positive impact. It is important to track which keywords are driving the most traffic; this allows behavior to be identified and it can be determined which keywords are most effective at attracting visitors to the site. It is possible that an SEO campaign is driving a lot of traffic to the site but it is not converting into sales or returning visitors. It is therefore crucial that there is a measured increase in traffic from the target audience. This can easily be determined by setting up goals in Google Analytics. By setting up a goal, for example: “customer fills out contact form,” it allows us to determine if there is an increase in this behavior. If there is no increase in behavior to determine the success of a campaign, it may be concluded that SEO is not the most effective marketing tool for this site at this time, and resources could be better used in other areas. Setting up redirects for changed URLs, or implementing a new site design can sometimes result in broken or lost links. This will send visitors to a 404 page and is likely to lose their trust and make them leave the site. By monitoring 404 traffic in Google Analytics, the errors can be rectified and traffic can be regained. This will ensure that link equity is not lost.

Tracking website traffic and conversions

Generally, the implementation of a data tracking system is solely dependent on the website and its objectives, though certain programs offer more versatility than others in terms of data analysis. Google Analytics is a very popular free service that is simple to integrate into a website and offers an easy-to-understand comprehensive analysis of many different aspects of website activity. This includes an in-depth analysis of visitors, acquisition, behavior, and conversion trends. Due to its simplicity and cost efficiency, there is a high probability that many nonprofit organizations use Google Analytics to take advantage of tracking their website’s success.

Tracking website traffic is a crucial aspect of determining the success of an SEO effort. Measuring the increase in traffic and search engine rankings is the definitive means of assessing whether an implemented SEO strategy is achieving the desired results. The majority of web hosts provide access to server logs which document the number of visitors to a website, where they were referred from, and detailed information about search engine activity. These statistics are representative of the effectiveness of an SEO strategy and can be used to compare with previous data about the website. This information can then be entered into a search engine of traffic analysis in an attempt to further understand user trends and behavior. These searches can reveal a wealth of information, such as what time of day users are most active and how long they stay on the site. This type of information is essential to further optimize a website and make it more accessible to both users and search engines. High value content can then be configured to receive more exposure or be reworked to keep users on the page for a longer duration.

Analyzing keyword rankings and performance

Keyword performance can be assessed in order to increase the success of the website and improve the chances of visitors converting. It is important to evaluate the current use of keywords and their performance so that you can determine whether it is worthwhile to try to obtain high rankings for particular keywords or to use alternative keywords that may be more effective. Keyword performance and rankings should be monitored for those keywords that are important to the long term objectives of the organisation; for example if the main aim of the website is to increase the awareness of a particular health issue and encourage people to take action, it is important to know whether the website is receiving an increased number of visitors who are genuinely interested in the issue and whether these visitors are more likely to take action related to that issue. This would be monitored by checking whether traffic to the site via search engines increased, and whether those visitors accessed more pages on the website compared to the average visitor (indicating a higher interest level). Similarly, an online store would want to know whether visitors from search engines are more likely to make a purchase.

Utilizing SEO tools and analytics

In order to see the effectiveness of SEO, it must be tested. Search engine marketing by nature is an iterative process; it is a continual cycle of testing, data analysis and implementation. There are two main things that can be tested; individual elements (a change) and the comparative effectiveness between two methodologies (an informed decision). When testing an individual element, there is a need for sufficient control to make the result viable. An experiment would be conducted where the changed element would be tested in an environment and the effect observed. A classic example is the A/B split test of an ad using one ad as the control and the other as a test with data being compared at the end. Testing. In order to achieve valid data, the original sample must be replicated in the exact manner. Any comparisons made on the data must consider the margin of error and tests of statistical significance. The higher the confidence in the data, the further guys can implement an informed decision.

Utilizing SEO tools and analytics represents the last phase of the search process. This is where marketers get to see the fruits of their labor. There are different types of tools that can be used for monitoring search. Most come with some kind of reporting functionality. This is a great opportunity for marketers to tell clients or executives how well their hard earned money is working. Reports should be clear and concise while providing the necessary information to make further decisions. Reports should call attention to the data in an efficient and visually appealing way. Clients are often keen on the ranking of specific keywords and want to know where they rank, positive gains and where they might be losing ground. Keyword analysis can provide an opportunity to monitor the words of competitors as well. It is always beneficial to know which keywords are being successful for competitors and which are not. Finally, the aggregate measure of a search engine is how the consumer ranks the effectiveness of the results. Search is an explicit action with an implicit outcome. What a person clicks on is an indication of what they are seeking. Click through rate is a good measure of how well the results are matching the expectation of the consumer.

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