What is SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a guideline to encourage search engines to consider ranking your nonprofit website higher in searches. Google crawls (reviews) your site periodically to see if you are following these guidelines, compares this to other websites that fit the same search criteria, and then ranks them all accordingly.
So what are Google’s guidelines? Because Google changes the search engine algorithm hundreds of times a year, it’s almost impossible to keep up with every single detail. Following these guidelines does not mean that you’re automatically going to rank number one or that you’ll immediately see an increase in traffic to your site. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees with SEO. If you are approached by someone trying to sell you an SEO guarantee, run the other way!
The good news, however, is there are five key areas you can focus on to improve your SEO and give your nonprofit website a better chance of ranking higher in search results. By following these recommendations below, your nonprofit website will fit Google’s guidelines better and you should see an improvement over time.
But first, let’s go over why SEO is so important to every nonprofit organization, including yours.
Why does SEO Matter to Your Nonprofit?
Chances are, your nonprofit depends on its website as its main presence online. When you improve your website’s SEO, it will be easier for potential supporters, donors, and volunteers to find you, allows your nonprofit to reach a wider audience, and helps raise awareness about your mission, programs, and impact.
When your nonprofit website ranks higher in search results, it builds credibility and trust among users, creating a positive user experience that encourages interaction, donations, and long-term relationships with supporters.
And perhaps most importantly, SEO is a cost-effective marketing strategy for nonprofits with limited budgets. By investing time and effort into implementing SEO best practices, your nonprofit can achieve long-term benefits and sustainable growth without the need for continuous advertising expenses!
Now that you understand the importance of improving your website’s SEO, let’s dig into how to do it.
Key Item 1 – Write evergreen, long-form content to engage your audience.
Evergreen content is incredibly valuable because it doesn’t become outdated for quite some time, meaning you don’t have to worry about upkeep. It will bring consistent traffic to your site, keeping your nonprofit in the public eye for longer. Avoid trending topics, dates, or phrases like “recently” or “a few days ago” to give this content a longer shelf life.
Content that stands the test of time needs to be relevant to your audience, often solving a problem for your ideal user. Evergreen content can get pretty in-depth, which is totally A-OK. In fact, it’s ideally at least 1,000 words long. For lengthy content like this, break it up into bite-size chunks so it’s easy to read on desktop and mobile devices.
When we talk about evergreen content for nonprofits, we are usually referring to blog posts, but it can also include:
- How-to guides
- Special reports
- Videos with transcripts
Evergreen content shows Google your site is a quality site and that your content is quality content!
On the other side of the same coin is fresh content.
Key Item 2 - Update your website with regular fresh content.
Fresh content is different from long-form evergreen content. This can include shorter content, images, press releases, news articles, event announcements, and more. This content is meant to keep your site current and let Google know your site is alive and kicking, so it will continue to allow it to show up in search results.
With long-form content, you’re building quality. Regular, fresh content focuses on quantity.
Some experts suggest using a social media feed on your website. However, social feed plugins tend to break often, which causes broken links and could lead to Google downranking your site. We recommend sharing articles from your site on your social media platforms rather than the other way around.
Key Item 3 - Use keywords throughout your content.
Your content management system (the software used to create and manage your website), likely gives you a chance to add a crucial keyword when placing new content on a page. If your website is built with the WordPress CMS, for example, there are SEO plugins that will guide you in where to place your keyword(s) for the biggest improvement in your SEO.
These places include the headline/title of your page, body copy, meta tags (also called title tags), and meta descriptions on each page of your website. Meta tags and descriptions are only in the background of your website and are not visible to users, but are still important to meet Google’s guidelines.
Having your main keyword show up in all those locations improves the SEO on your site, making it more likely that people looking for you online will find you on the first page of search results.
Google Analytics gives you information on your users and how they interact with your site.
Google Search Console gives you information on how your website shows up in searches and gives you some control over what links users will see in search results.
Key Item 4 - Use Google Search Console as your secret weapon.
Google has a ton of free tools you can use to improve your website. Most people have heard of Google Analytics, but a tool many website owners don’t know about or use nearly enough is Google Search Console.
Google Analytics is your connection to information about your website and your visitors, which is great. But Google Search Console is your connection to Google itself.
It not only shows you how your website appears in searches, but it also has tools that can help you improve your SEO. This can trigger Google to crawl your site sooner, meaning it will show up in search results sooner. It’s a virtual connection to Google that is a must-have for any website owner.
Another benefit of being connected to Google Search Console is that it will let you know if you have broken links. Fixing broken links will help your nonprofit website stay active and high on Google’s quality list.
Key Item 5 - Improve your site’s visibility in local search results.
Local SEO focuses on improving your nonprofit website’s visibility in local search results. It enhances your online presence within a specific geographic area, making it easier for potential local supporters to find your site.
Some things you can do to improve your local SEO include:
- Claim or create your nonprofit’s Google My Business (GMB) listing. Provide accurate and up-to-date information, including name, address, phone number, website URL, operating hours, and a brief description of the organization. Select the most relevant categories for your nonprofit. Upload high-quality images. Regularly check your GMB insights to understand how people are finding and interacting with your listing.
- Create profiles on online directories and platforms such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, Bing Places, local chambers of commerce, and nonprofit directories like Society for Nonprofits. Ensure that your name, address, and phone number are consistent across all directories.
- Publish content on your website about local events your nonprofit hosts or participates in. Build relationships with other local organizations, businesses, and community influencers to potentially earn backlinks to your nonprofit’s website.
- Incorporate locally relevant keywords in your website’s content to help search engines understand your nonprofit’s geographic focus. Local keywords are keywords that contain location-specific phrases; for example, we might use “Kingsport,” “Tri-Cities,” or “Southwest Virginia.” This way, your website is more likely to appear in relevant local searches.
Acing your nonprofit website’s SEO takes work, but it’s certainly worth it in the long run. Follow the tips above, and you’ll start seeing your site rank higher in search results, leading to increased visibility and engagement for your nonprofit!