Everyone is talking about SEO these days. In case you don’t know, SEO is Search Engine Optimization. That means optimizing your website so it can be easily indexed by search engine algorithms (Google et al).
Let’s say you were a business selling cupcakes. You’d want to make sure that when the googlebots crawl your site, cupcakes is in the page copy and descriptions. You might also have blog posts that talk about how to make cupcakes or best cupcake recipes. Strategic SEO content will make it clear that your site offers relevant information and should be shown to anyone searching for cupcakes.
Effective SEO – for a nonprofit or a business – is much more than just adding keywords. Creating a strong presence for your organization is an ongoing process that requires time, research, and long-term commitment. It starts with a well-designed website that truly tells your story, gives the public valuable information, and inspires action.
Get Your Nonprofit SEO in Position
Obviously, SEO will affect your search placement and you should have a basic understanding of the various ways to increase visibility. Solid SEO for your nonprofit will ensure you rank high enough to be found by anyone looking for what you offer.
For example, you run a small organization that gives bicycles to needy kids. Maybe there are five similar organizations in your area. You want to be high enough on the SERP (search engine results page) to be found by 1) Local parents looking for a free bike for their child, 2) Individuals in the community who have a bike they want to donate, 3) Retirees interested in volunteer opportunities, and 4) Anyone anywhere who’s looking for a charity to give money to.
To meet these goals, you’ll need to do some basic site-wide SEO. To start with, you’ll want to include relevant keywords and phrases (i.e., free bikes for kids, donate a bike) in your page titles, descriptions, alt text, and copy. There are a number of sites where you can search for related keywords and incorporate the ones that are appropriate. For the best results, you should optimize every page. If you don’t know your way around meta data and have no experience writing SEO content, hire a professional to do the job for you.
Before you even think about SEO for your nonprofit website, take a serious look at your site and make improvements where they’re needed. Maybe have a pro give you an assessment. You might even need a complete redesign.
Believe me, nothing will frustrate your potential supporters more than finding you in a search, clicking on your URL and landing on a cluttered website with typos, low quality images, and a donate button that sends them off to PayPal land.
Above All, Look Legit
As a charity organization, you serve as a middleman between those who want to give and those who want to receive. You have to appeal to potential donors and volunteers as well as give reassurance to those in need of assistance. Both require trust and, depending on your website design and content, you either look legitimate and trustworthy or you don’t.
It’s true, in today’s ever-expanding internet of things, people have higher expectations. They will immediately label your organization as sketchy if your site doesn’t meet certain standards. Give them clean, responsive design; concise, well-written copy; compelling images and videos; and an easy-peasy way to donate.
Having a website that isn’t responsive will have a negative effect on your search placement and you’ll find yourself on the low end of the SERP totem pole.
Years ago, having a poorly constructed, amateurish nonprofit website would work in your favor. People would feel compassion for your charity and want to donate; if for no other reason than to help you pay for a professional website.
In contrast, people today will say, “Their website doesn’t load properly on my phone. I don’t feel safe giving them my credit card number.” In one click, they’ll be gone forever.
Cultivate Your Content
A robust website with valuable content will increase the impact of your organization. Your success depends on how much you give to visitors. Let’s use the bike charity as an example. Valuable content would be a heartwarming blog post featuring a video clip of a happy 9-year-old riding his new bike. The story would demonstrate the positive impact you are making. People would connect emotionally and feel good – that’s value.
To effectively market and grow your organization, you have to consistently tell folks about the work you’re doing. Keep them coming back to your website by updating it with your latest successes and upcoming events. Regular updates will also summon the googlebots to crawl your site. You’ll rank higher if you keep things fresh.
Never Say You Can’t Afford It
Maybe you’re thinking, “We’re a grass roots organization. We can’t afford a better website or SEO.” That mentality will keep you stuck in scarcity mode, struggling to fulfill your mission.
Imagine this: You invest $2,500 in a basic website with donation integration and outstanding content. With strategic SEO, you’ll be in a position to make that $2,500 back within 30 days. On the flip side, you are probably losing $2,500 a month in donations because your current site is scaring potential donors away. Sure, they love the idea of what you’re doing, but they don’t trust you and won’t give you any money.
Also remember, with a high-quality website, it’s easier to attract grant opportunities, philanthropists, and media interest. All of which would have a substantial impact on the growth of your organization.
Shine Your Light
No matter how small your nonprofit is, look at your website in the same way that a for-profit business would. Marketing is vital to your success and appearance matters. Even if your volunteers are overwhelmed and there never seems to be enough cash coming in, you still need to look like a winner. Image is everything.
Think about the good that you do and the heart you put into your work. Your website should illuminate that. You want the world to see the difference you are making. You want people to feel compelled to join you in your efforts.
Every nonprofit depends on financial support. Put yourself in a position to receive the support you deserve. With support, your outreach and impact will grow. As will your volunteer roster and reputation.
So, is Nonprofit SEO Important or Not?
Yes, SEO is important for your nonprofit website. It will increase awareness of your organization and put you in front of those who can either 1) benefit from your outreach, or 2) provide much-needed support for your mission. But, before you jump on the SEO bandwagon, make sure your website is up to snuff.
Your website should satisfy the visitor’s intellectual curiosity, demonstrate the passion in your mission, and provide an emotional jolt to take action.
If you’d like to find out more about SEO content or need help with putting together your nonprofit’s SEO plan, contact me.
Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash