By Maryanne Dersch, a speaker, coach, and creator of the Superstar Fundraising Academy. She is also the author of Courageous Communication: How Codependence Is Making Your Nonprofit Brand Boring and What to Do About It.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) increases your organization’s visibility in organic (not paid) search results, making your organization easier to find and driving people to your website. Many nonprofits don’t put time and energy into SEO because they don’t understand the benefits. Here are six reasons why SEO is worth the time and effort.
1) You can compete with the big guys without a big budget.
SEO doesn’t discriminate on size or budget. It cares about keywords. The way to get a higher ranking is to use the right keywords… not words your organization uses but words people use in searches. These can be very different. Don’t guess on keywords. Do the research. Sites like SEMRush or Google Ads Keyword Planner will tell you the keywords most used in web searches.
Say your organization stopped using “special education” and uses “specialized learning” instead to decrease the stigma around special education. According to SEMrush, 260 people a month searched specialized learning and 12,100 searched special education. It is okay to keep using specialized learning, just use special education in keywords. Once they find you and are engaged, you can teach them your language. Lead with keywords and people will follow.
2) You can build reputation and reach.
One way to grow your online presence and your nonprofit’s reputation is through thought leadership. It is great to talk about your successes, outcomes and financial health. What creates more awareness and connects you to people who share your mission is expert content.
Your organization is an expert in your field. If you serve kids with special education needs, create articles on special education. You can also comment about news stories that relate to your mission. Share expertise on your website and on other websites or blogs to raise your rankings. Make sure you ask for a link back to your website at the end of the article. Links from your site and to your site raise SEO rankings.
When the college admissions scandal broke, College Bound, an organization that helps low-income students secure college scholarships, they leveraged their expertise on admissions to share their story and build their online reach.
You can use sites like Answer the Public to learn what people are asking in Google to better understand the concerns of your donors and create content for them and to attract people like them.
3) SEO makes it easy for donors to find you in search results.
According to Charity Navigator, online giving increased 23 percent in 2017 and monthly online giving grew 40 percent. Making it easy for donors to find our website is crucial to fundraising. If they search your name incorrectly or partially, you can still be easy to find. Plus, it is a bonus sense of pride for them to see an organization they support ranked highly.
How to Boost Your Nonprofit’s SEO
- Use keywords in image titles. Instead of uploading an image with an assigned name, rename the image with your keywords. Change those random letters and numbers to your keywords (special-education1, special-education2, etc.) Do this for any image, PDF or video you upload.
- Use the “mullet” philosophy when writing website and blog headlines. Mullets, the iconic 80s hairstyle, are known as business in the front, party in the back. Use your keywords in front (the business), and the rest of the headline (the party) in the back. Special education: 5 ways to advocate for your child at school.
- Upload presentations to Google Slides. Google loves when you use its products. If you have presentations, upload them and then do that with each new presentation.
- Use more video. YouTube is the second most popular search engine, and also owned by Google. Create videos on your expert content and upload these to your YouTube channel. Remember to rename the video in your keywords and add the keywords in the description and hashtags. Videos don’t have to be perfect, they do need to contain relevant content. Using video on social media will also boost reach.
4) You will have a constant stream of potential supporters.
SEO can help people who don’t know you and have an affinity for your cause find you. When you understand what keywords are searched and use them, you can attract people to your organization. These are people who self-selected as interested in your mission, so they are likely prospects. This is how you keep new donors, volunteers or program participants flowing into your organization.
5) SEO can help you get local attention.
Why focus on something as global as search engine rankings when your organization has a local focus? Search engines include geographic information in the results. Your organization will rank better for searches that include your area like “dog rescue St. Louis,” and rank without an area mention, like “dog rescue.” A Google Business Profile with reviews, a Google map image on your website, and Yelp can boost local rankings.
6) Your current social media efforts will be more effective.
Like any marketing strategy, SEO is not a silver bullet and works best when part of an integrated marketing plan. It can make everything your organization is doing on your website and social media more effective. Focusing on keywords to make you more aligned with potential supporters and using them across all social media platforms and on your website will make your current efforts more engaging and productive.
Does your nonprofit do amazing work, yet you don’t get the attention you need or deserve to attract supporters and those much-needed funds?
Are you so worried about what everyone will think that you don’t always stand up for what you believe in?
Courageous Communication will teach you how to stop trying to be everything to everyone and to develop a strong organizational personality, so you can attract like-minded supporters and raise more money. Courageous communications isn’t a strategy or a tool. It represents a shift in your organization’s culture, a shift from worrying about what could happen to being confident in your value, expertise, and vision.