“But we have such great stories.”
I hear this all the time and it’s true — so many nonprofits have amazing stories of hope, inspiration, and triumph, and yet they just can’t seem to attract new people to read their stories. But why not?
The first time I had this conversation with a nonprofit organization, I rambled on and on about the importance of SEO and keywords (this was a few years ago) and then paused. Every word out of my mouth might as well have been in a different language.
They had no idea what I was talking about and not only were they confused, but they thought SEO was so complex it wasn’t even worth their time. Eventually, after a very thorough and lengthy conversation, they had a better understanding of SEO and the importance of keywords in their content and on their website pages.
Fast forward about two years and here they are…
You’re seeing that correctly; that’s about 30,000 sessions per month from Organic Search (Google). It isn’t easy (otherwise everyone would be doing it) but it is certainly worth it!
Maybe you’re in the same camp as the client I just referred to. You’ve heard of the importance of SEO, but with so many tasks on your overflowing plate, you just haven’t been able to prioritize it yet. The good news is that there are some key, simple steps you can take today to drive more traffic to your site. And in a world where digital advertising is getting harder and harder — organic reach is plummeting and cost-per-click is sky-rocketing — SEO is a way to increase quality traffic to your nonprofit’s website for FREE!
There are hundreds of ways to grow organic rankings, but let’s start with the basics of SEO strategy so that you can generate some easy wins around key ranking factors. I’ve put together a list of four SEO tips for nonprofits that you can implement today, in order to grow your search results tomorrow.
1. Conduct an SEO Audit
This sounds like a daunting task, but it can actually be 100% automated. All you need to do is enter your website URL. I recommend a tool like Neil Patel’s SEO Analyzer, which is free and allows you to add up to three competitors. This tool will give your website an overall grade, show the page speed at which your site loads, and even locate errors and warnings that are negatively impacting your domain authority.
The reason an SEO audit is so valuable is that many of these errors and warnings will show you where you have dead pages, which completely ruin the pathways on your website and cripple the user experience. This is especially true for new visitors to your website who may be brand new to your organization and mission and are looking to learn more about you.
2. Redirect Dead Links
If you run the audit and find that you have dead links, meaning they link to web pages that have an error message, the first step is to redirect that page to an existing one that has relevant information. This is much easier than having to create pages for every broken link on the website, as there could be tens, if not hundreds, of them.
An example of this is a broken link to an old fundraising campaign you ran but has since expired. Redirecting that page to a new fundraising campaign is one solution. Or if you have quality content around the previous campaign — think impact report or summary blog post — that would be the best, most relevant destination for the user.
3. Create Content for SEO
In the nonprofit space, content marketing often gets pushed to the side or is done half-heartedly, but this is actually an area that can dramatically increase your organic search traffic by helping you move up the search engine results. When creating content — blog posts, pillar pages, or just informational web pages — conducting keyword research should be a vital component of your strategy. Instead of creating a content piece just for content’s sake, wouldn’t you rather have an asset that drives new users to your website after they Google related search terms?
The above example shows a Google search for “native american thanksgiving” and the first result is a blog post by Native Hope that was written with keyword research at the forefront, including the implementation of those keywords into title tags and section headings. In addition to the keywords, Native Hope also began link building by adding hyperlinks in each section to other relevant content so that site visitors could learn more about what Native Hope does and hopes to accomplish.
This is a great example of optimizing your website to gain organic search traction on a non-branded (no mention of Native Hope in the search term) phrase and then creating content pathways to content and donor-centric website pages.
4. Augment Existing Pages for SEO
SEO for nonprofits can be tough when it comes to title tags and meta descriptions because you have so many pages with relatively similar information, where the only real difference might be the different country or region in which you’re serving.
If you aren’t careful with the page titles and their descriptions, you could be creating duplicates, which is frowned upon and damaging to your search rankings. In order to prevent this, be more descriptive with your titles and descriptions, and if you can, use those keywords to raise your domain authority.
This blog post by the Divine Word Missionaries team ranks for “connection between peace and justice” even though the word “connection” isn’t directly in the title. In our work to optimize DWM’s content, we saw some initial traction on this keyword phrase. We then tweaked their meta description to include the word “connection” and since then, have shot up the results listing and SERP and currently rank #2 for this keyword phrase. The significance of relevant and keyword-rich meta descriptions can easily be overlooked but can often make the difference between your resource being on the first page and being on the second, or third.
How to make SEO for nonprofits easy and repeatable
These four SEO tips for nonprofits are just a starting point for many nonprofit marketers, but maintaining SEO best practices is a never-ending checklist. Even after you’ve made all these changes and updated your website, new web pages will be created, new content will be needed, and thus more SEO audits will need to be conducted — landing you at the beginning of the SEO cycle again.
While the never-ending cycle may feel deflating, remember that every time you go through it, you’re greatly strengthening the authority of your nonprofit’s website while bringing in new prospective donors you may not have found otherwise. Best of all, you’re taking advantage of a free tactic. In an increasingly competitive market, where budgets are being cut by the thousands, you can’t afford to waste the free opportunities presented to you.
Get Outside Help with SEO (for free!)
I know how busy most nonprofit professionals are, and I'm willing to provide some free advice if you’re interested in learning more about how your nonprofit can grow its organic reach. Send me an email at email@example.com and we can schedule a call. I would be happy to evaluate your nonprofit’s website and provide you with a few strategic recommendations to get you started!
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