Success in achieving the mission of nonprofits and NGOs depends, in part, on attracting and retaining resources often provided by supporters. At the same time, budgetary constraints often limit the money available to invest in marketing activities and demand that organizations are efficient in these efforts. One important and cost-effective factor is drawing visitors to your website, and converting them to supporters by having good Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Successful SEO requires a bit of technical savvy, and cultivating relationships in both the digital and real worlds. Nonprofits and NGOs however, do not need to hire an expensive SEO company to push their site higher in Google’s search results.
A key component for good SEO is defining who you are, and describing it on your site, so that your organization will be recognized and indexed by search engines. This can be achieved by building alliances and getting mentioned on other sites so that their links to your site will raise your search ranking. Tips like these will improve your organization’s visibility and impact.
At Tectonica, we come from the nonprofit world and specialize in sites for NGOs and progressive political movements. Through the years we’ve learned valuable SEO lessons. Every organization can benefit from these solid strategies we've picked up along the way.
1. Develop a Solid Marketing Plan
A solid marketing strategy is essential for nonprofits and NGOs, for many reasons, including SEO. Many nonprofits hear “marketing” and worry that it will make them look too corporate. In reality, nonprofits benefit greatly from marketing - which is far more than just advertising; properly executed, it encompasses all of your outreach, PR, and communication activities. Marketing is also a dialogue with your extended community, and an opportunity to reach out to potential supporters who can help you achieve sustainability and grow.
A solid marketing strategy will include SEO basics, and encourage a real world discussion of your organization - the more online mentions you receive, the higher you will be ranked in search engines. Developing a digital strategy as part of your overall communications plan requires engaging online media, creating fresh content such as blog posts, and continuing a dialogue on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
2. Keyword Planning is Key
To boost your ranking on search engines, develop relevant content for your pages, including keywords that attract visitors and reflect your mission, vision, values and goals.
When planning future content, think of words or keyphrases that are general and specific at the same time, i.e. general enough that you know people will look for them, yet specific enough to describe what you do, and how you differ from other organizations. For example, “homeless shelter” might be too general, while “homeless shelter Mission Street San Francisco” might be overly specific. Try to use phrases that people will search on google, but at the same time help them find you. “women’s homeless shelter San Francisco” might be a better key phrase than the previous two.
As a nonprofit, also make sure to include conversion words such as "donate", "volunteer" or "sign up". These words, as part of larger keyphrases, improve the chances that people wanting to engage will find you. Pay attention to your vision but avoid overused buzz words or acronyms. Finally, advertise your tax free status on your homepage and other relevant pages, such as your Donation page or your About Us page. This can help bring in potential donors - especially those looking where to give year-end donations for tax purposes.
3. Use Social Media
Social media, such as Facebook shares and google +1s, are among the most important factors that will push your page to a higher position. Fortunately, nonprofits have many opportunities to create photo moments, and promote clips or sound bites that are thought provoking, controversial or that appeal to a supporter’s compassion or sense of justice. Be sure to tell the story of the work you are doing everyday in your organization and you will build a following.*
Volunteer events, for example, are excellent opportunities to promote social media sharing among your supporter’s friends, family and acquaintances. Share the right image, photo, or article at the right time and you may be able to create a large discussion which will generate massive social media chatter and inbound links.
*Always be sure to get written permission for photos before posting - especially if you work in a healthcare field protected by health privacy laws.
4. Harness the Following of Key Influencers With Blog Posting
Consider creating a blog as an instrument of your digital strategy. Post regularly, and invite opinion leaders, famous activists or academics to contribute as guest authors. Like discussion forums, articles from established authorities may attract a lively following as well as gain multiple inbound links to your site.
5. Take Your Web Presence to the Next Level by Working with Web Developers
Most full-service web design studios will have developers on staff who can take your SEO to the next level. The best option is a studio that has knowledge of your area of work and can coordinate all the aspects of SEO from keyword content, SEO-optimized HTML code, and additional technologies available to developers.
Out there on the web exist various tools and technologies that web developers can exploit to boost your site’s ranking. From various plugins and html markup extensions to show more detailed results on google pages, to various tools that help you identify which pages of your website are receiving the most traffic, developers can truly help boost your web rankings by identifying areas for improvement and customizing how you appear on google.
6. Choose Your Content Management System (CMS) Wisely
When setting up your website it is important to choose wisely what CMS you will use and how it will impact SEO. While Wordpress, Drupal and other systems have some amazing SEO plug-ins, most nonprofits will benefit greatly from a system like NationBuilder - which will make easy the coordination of the entirety of SEO efforts - from social media activity, supporter recruitment, content management on the website, meta descriptions of pages and more. NationBuilder is a fully integrated service built for the needs of nonprofits.
The value of SEO
SEO is an evolving process whose rules continually change to adapt to people’s behavior on the internet and web innovations. Although its principles are in constant flux, SEO remains a critical component for any organization’s marketing and outreach.
Always make it easy for supporters to find you. Write quality, fresh content, choose keywords and keyphrases wisely, and find a way for other sites to connect with you. With these actions, you’ll enhance your organization’s web presence, improve your search ranking and expand your membership.