SEO for Nonprofits: 7 Tips to Help You Rank Better

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As a nonprofit, you’ve got one leg up on cutting through the online noise that businesses have to deal with – your mission connects you with supporters. That doesn’t mean you can completely ignore your website’s SEO, however. Users have so many – too many – choices these days as to how they’re going to donate their time, money, and talent. Making sure your website can find the right people at the right time is more important than ever before. To get your website seen by people who will progress from viewers to supporters, you need to spend some time and effort (and maybe some money) on your SEO.

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. In a nutshell, SEO is the process of curating your organization’s online profile so that you are seen by the people most likely to support you at the right times.

There are a lot of individual tasks that play into “doing SEO” for your website, including:

  • Choosing keywords
  • Creating content
  • On-page optimization
  • Off-page optimization
  • Social media marketing
  • Backlink building
  • And more

Narrowing down the list of things you need to tackle right now and those you can leave for a little while is difficult, especially if you don’t have much experience with online marketing. However, making your organization’s SEO a priority is essential to your ongoing success and growth.

Why Is SEO Important for Nonprofits?

The digital space is incredibly crowded, and people have more choices than ever before on what causes they will support.

If someone is looking to support your exact cause but can’t find your website, they’re going to go somewhere else and you miss out on their support, either monetary or not. That could mean a huge drop in the positive impact your organization is able to make.

Whether you promote children’s literacy or raise money for research for a rare disease, being seen by the right people at the right time is key to your organization’s health.

7 Tips to Boost Your Nonprofit’s SEO

Because SEO consists of so many individual moving parts, knowing what you should focus your efforts on first can be frustrating. And reading online guides to “beginner SEO” don’t really help much, as they can give you the feeling that everything is important.

While tackling most, if not all, of the tasks that are considered SEO is important to giving your organization the best chance at getting seen, there are some things you should focus on first to get moving in the right direction.

Use Social Media

Social media is huge, especially for nonprofit organizations. People love talking about the causes they support, and giving your supporters easy access to posts they can like, comment on, and share with their audience improves your reach.

Post about various aspects of the work you do, not just appeals for donations or volunteers (though those posts are important, too!). 

If you host in-person or online events, share links to pages where people can sign up to attend. Take photos and videos at the event, and then post them to your social media pages afterward. This will help people truly see what goes on at these events, and can drum up interest in future events for you.

Special campaigns or projects you’ve completed make great fodder for social media posts. Everyone likes to see how their donations are being used, and photos and videos give them that.

This post from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, for example, ticks a lot of boxes:

It details what the organization is asking for (people to raise money for the foundation by participating in sporting events), the cause the organization supports (Parkinson’s research), and a link to their website for more information.

Use your imagination and create posts that talk about individual aspects of the work you do, the people you serve (with their permission, of course!), and the volunteers and employees who make all the magic happen. 

Claim & Optimize Listings

There are a variety of sources for “free” listings on the internet, and utilizing them to their fullest potential is to your advantage.

First, claim and optimize your Google My Business listing. If you need help setting this up, check out our blog post, Why a GMB Listing Is So Important for Your Business.

Once you’ve fully claimed your listing, be sure to optimize it with information such as:

  • Your official address
  • Your website
  • Categories and keywords related to your organization
  • Photos 

Additionally, try to find other databases where you can get your organization listed, such as GuideStar, CANDID, Citizen Audit, Charity Navigator, Idealist, and BBB Charity Reports Index. These give you important backlinks to your website (which we’ll talk about in more detail later), and can get you visitors from individuals simply scrolling through these websites.

Important: On every directory listing you claim, ensure that your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) are consistent across all listings. If you find somewhere they aren’t, submit a request to have the information changed. 

Choose the Right Keywords

All good SEO, regardless if it’s for a business, a nonprofit, or a hobby blog, starts with choosing the right keywords for your audience.

Keywords are the words and phrases that people type into search engines when they’re looking for something online. They can be informational (“what is multiple sclerosis”), navigational (“multiple sclerosis society”), or transactional (“how to donate for multiple sclerosis”).

Sit down and think about the words and phrases people might use to look for your organization, or for information on the work you do. Write down a list of these options, and use them to create content on your website and optimize pages (more on that later!).

Create Great Content

No website is going to get the traffic it needs without great content. And, as a nonprofit, you’ve likely got tons you can say to draw people in.

One thing to keep in mind when creating content for your website is to abide by the concept of E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It’s a measure by which Google evaluates the content on a website and plays into how well a website ranks.

You can make sure you’re following the E-A-T principle by:

  • Keeping your content up to date
  • Ensuring it is factually accurate
  • And recruiting experts or guest writers to create content

Before you ever sit down and write a word, it’s important to plan out the content you want to create. You can do this by keeping those important keywords in mind, as they’ll help guide you toward the information you want to convey to visitors.

Some things to keep in mind when creating your content strategy and deciding what pages and posts to write:

  • Use audience data to define core topics: While you may think that your audience wants to see all the internal details of what it takes to run your nonprofit, if the data doesn’t back that up, it’s not worth spending your time and resources on it.
  • Categorize your content: This is called “clustering” and can help you start to rank really well for specific keywords or groups of keywords. Group your content together by category as you’re planning it, and you can see holes emerging where you need more content.
  • Produce evergreen content: Time-sensitive content, such as news items or event recaps, is great. But evergreen content – content that doesn’t have a specific date where it’s relevant – is going to serve your SEO well for a long time. 
  • Create an editorial calendar: Writing without a plan makes it much easier to push things to the wayside when you get busy. Before you begin writing, create a calendar that lists out all the content you want written, and when you want it written by, so you can stay on track.
  • Maximize channel distribution: Publishing a blog on your website is great, but it’s a huge waste if you don’t promote it through other channels. Using your social media sites to announce the new blog post is a great way to get it in front of new people, boosting its reach.

You don’t need to go overboard and publish new content every day, or even every week, if you don’t have the time and resources to devote to it. Instead, it’s much better for your SEO to take your time and create well-written, informative content that you publish a little less regularly.

Follow On-Page Best Practices

On-page SEO elements help Google understand your content and the keywords you want your site to rank for.

These tasks happen directly on your website and impact how Google crawls its pages. Here are some elements of on-page SEO that you need to get a handle on for your website:

  • Title tags: This is the clickable text that appears in the search engine results page (SERPs) and at the top of your internet browser. When optimizing these title tags, try to use the page’s main keyword without making it stilted. Keep your title tags between 55 and 60 characters.
  • Meta description: The meta description is the short paragraph that appears under the title tag in the SERPs. Use your keyword in a natural way, and include some kind of action in the description to encourage people to click. Keep meta descriptions between 120 and 155 characters.
  • Headings: Your content needs a clear structure to be easily understood by search engines. To do this, make use of headings (H1, H2, etc.) that include keywords and relevant navigation information for your reader. In addition, be sure you’re using the titles properly, with your primary heading at the top of the page with an H1 tag, and supportive headings with H2 and H3 tags.
  • ALT text: Google cannot see the images you put on your pages, so you need to use the alternative text, or ALT text, to explain what the image is about. This text appears when a user isn’t able to view an image, and they’re also used by site readers for visually impaired visitors.
  • Internal links: Linking your content together helps Google understand how all the pages relate to one another. Try to include links to relevant pages on your website, such as your homepage if you mention your brand name, a relevant blog post, or a page for donations if you mention funding.
  • Anchor text: Anchor text is the specific words linked to another page. Search engines read the anchor text to determine if the content of the linked page matches what the link says it will be about. 

You can tackle these tasks on your own, but you may feel more comfortable having someone with some SEO experience handle them.

Check Your User Experience

All your efforts at SEO will be in vain if your website doesn’t support a seamless, pleasant user experience.

Here are some important things to check to ensure users are getting the best experience possible on your website:

  • Navigation: Your website needs to be easy to navigate and have a clear structure to it. If users can’t find the link to make a donation or volunteer, they’re going to go somewhere else.
  • Loading time: Users expect websites to load fast, under 2 seconds in most cases. Check your website’s loading speed and see if certain elements – large image files, for example – are slowing things down and fix the problems.
  • Chunk content: People do still read information on websites, but a long paragraph of text can be overwhelming to the eye, especially on a mobile device. Break up your content into smaller paragraphs whenever possible, and make use of bullet points, headings, and lists to add visual interest to your content.

While these may seem like small things, especially compared to choosing the right keywords or writing great content, these user experience tasks are crucial to your website’s success. Whether or not users have a positive experience on your site determines how much time they spend there, which impacts how well you eventually rank in the SERPs.

Build Relevant Backlinks

Backlink building is a controversial topic in the SEO world, with shady dealers trying everything they can to game the system.

However, as a nonprofit, building backlinks is all about showing your connections to other related nonprofits, the people and places you help, and your community.

There are plenty of ways to get backlinks (links from other websites that direct back to your website) as a nonprofit. Each of these links helps your website’s performance in search, increasing your reach.

Some common sources of backlinks for nonprofit sites include:

  • News articles specifically about your organization
  • Quotes in news articles on other topics
  • Event listings for workshops, events, sponsorships, etc.
  • Guest posts on other blogs or websites
  • Creating articles that are cited by other websites
  • Collaborating with other organizations
  • Creating infographics that are shared
  • Appearing on (or hosting) webinars and podcasts

Many of these links will occur naturally as you conduct business. However, you may have to specifically search for opportunities such as collaborations, guest blogging, or podcast appearances, to collect those backlinks.

SEO Services for Nonprofit Organizations

As a nonprofit, you spend a lot of time focusing on the important work you do. Why spend your time worrying about your website? At 270net Technologies, we have the knowledge and experience necessary to improve your nonprofit website’s SEO to bring you more donors and volunteers, allowing you to make a greater impact. Contact us today for a quote!

Nonprofits We’ve Worked With