SEO for Nonprofits


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You’ve got an awesome website. You worked hard to come up with great content, you’ve uploaded pictures that tug heartstrings, and all of your friends and family assure you that it’s the best website ever.

Now you just have to get other people to look at it.

And that’s where SEO comes in.

SEO, or “search engine optimization,” is the process of making your website visible to different search engines. The more visible your website is, the higher it will rank in search results, and people will be more likely to see and click on a link to your site. That’s why SEO for nonprofits is such a big deal — you want to get potential donors on your page!

There are tons of ways you can make your page visible to search engines. But the first, most important step to good SEO practices is to understand that clarity and simplicity are key.

Seth Wilson, the online marketing manager for marketing agency CNP, explains why clarity is so important. “When you’re working on SEO, you have to remember that it’s not people reading your website,” he says. Wilson goes on to say that it’s the search engines that are actually “reading” your site. Search engines will “crawl” your page looking for information about what your nonprofit does, and it uses that information to rank your site for applicable search terms. With that in mind, here are some tips you can use to make sure those search engines get the right information:

1. Spell It Out

Take a look at the copy on your website. Is it easy to tell what your nonprofit does? Is it written out in clear, easy-to-understand language? That will make the biggest difference in your page’s SEO.

Pretend you’re a nonprofit that provides eyeglasses to underprivileged students. Does your website actually say “We provide eyeglasses to underprivileged students?” Or do you just imply your mission by including photos of kids wearing their new glasses after visiting your facility? Those pictures are an amazing way to appeal to your donors (who doesn’t love adorable pictures of smiling kids?) but the crawlers that are checking your website can’t infer your mission from pictures. They need text. Spell it out for them!

2. Set Your Bait

Including strong keywords in your website’s copy is wonderful “bait” for the crawlers that go over your page. Think about the keywords that you would search to get to your page and include it in the text on your page. You might search “glasses for kids,” “glasses charity,” your nonprofit’s name, etc. Include those in your copy!

Not sure what keywords to use? Try this trick: in Google, type in a search term you think would be appropriate for your charity. Scroll down to the bottom of the first results page and look at the section that suggests related search terms. You’ll be able to see other common keywords people are searching and decide if you want to include them on your page. Be aware that over-stuffing your copy with keywords is a waste of time. You’ll make your copy annoying for real-life page visitors and can tick off the search engines who might think you’re cheating. Stick to clear copy with good keywords.

3. Link Up

Linking to other websites on your page and encouraging others to link to your page will boost your visibility. There are a million ways to do this. If you’ve got a blog, link to past blog posts. Link to your page on different social media channels. Encourage donors and volunteers to share your page with their friends and family. Write guest posts for other blogs. Ask media sources to link to your page if they write about you. Link to other nonprofits, news sources, or volunteer pages. Use your imagination!

Here’s another tip: when you link to sites outside your own, set the link to open those pages in a new tab. That way people will stay on your page and can easily come back to exploring your site.

4. Keep It Current

If there’s no activity on your page, search engines aren’t going to be super excited about linking to you. Periodically update your website so search engines don’t think your page is abandoned! One of the best ways to add new content on a regular basis is to keep a blog for your nonprofit. If you don’t want to build and maintain a blog, though, there are other ways to add new content. Tweak the text in your copy! Add new pictures! Maintain a “Press” page and update it when you’re in the paper or featured on other sites! Rewrite your “About Us” page! Whatever you do, just do it on a regular basis. You want to show search engines that your page is active, not abandoned.

Want to learn more? Check out Seth Wilson’s article about SEO for some other ideas. It’s full of great advice!

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