By Laura Bucher, Storyteller at Donor Perfect – a top-rated donor management system and fundraising platform for nonprofits.
SEO (search engine optimization) refers to the process that makes it easier to help users find your website with a quick internet search. The better your SEO, the higher your website will appear in, say, Google’s search results, which means more visibility and more traffic to your website.
For most of us, the mechanics of SEO can seem really complicated. The good news is, having optimal SEO can be achieved without having to purchase an expensive tool or consultant. As a matter of fact, you can improve your SEO on your own just by understanding the basics.
1) Content is King
Clear, well-written content that answers questions and engages the reader is key for SEO. Put yourself in the mindset of a potential donor or volunteer and think of how they would search online for a nonprofit with a mission like yours.
Be sure to incorporate synonyms for relevant phrases that relate to your mission. For example, don’t limit your phrasing to “social services,” remember to say “human services,” too. Instead of only using the term “homeless,” you should also use “unhoused” and any other synonym a searcher might use when referring to homelessness. Google is very good at parsing content, but variations including number, parts of speech, and alternate spellings help, too.
Additionally, use pictures and lists to make your content more visually appealing and easier to read.
2) Technical Details Matter, Too
Check with your team’s designated web expert to evaluate your website regarding basic technical standards.
Page Titles – Each page should have a unique, relevant title within the <title></title> HTML tag. Work with your webmaster to check that your titles are unique and describe the content on the page.
Image Alt Tags – If your website uses pictures to tell a story, help search engines understand this story by using “alt” attributes on your images. Your webmaster can help with this. Look at each image on a page and write a short, accurate description.
For example: “Habitat for Humanity volunteers building an a-frame in Mobile, Alabama” or “Infographic describing 2019 Habitat for Humanity of Alabama’s budget expenditures.”
Organize Your Content – Aid search engines in deciphering your content by using a clear outline structure, almost like you would for an essay. Good SEO content needs a clear title, a good introduction, and well-written supporting content, lists, tables, and images related to the central theme.
A well-organized page should have heading tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc) that separate distinct sections of your content and help outline your content, the same way you would in an essay. If you have a list, use the HTML for ordered (<ol>) or unordered (<ul>) lists to create bullet points that Google finds easy to index and users find easier to absorb.
Non-SEO fixes matter for SEO, too – ScreamingFrog SEO Spider is a low-cost tool that can go through your website and determine if anything is broken. Broken links, broken images, slow load times, database errors, and other non-SEO issues can impact your search engine results.
3) Leverage Your Networks
Encourage your supporters to share your content on social media or mention it in their blogs. If you have local business partners, write about those relationships in your blog or link to them from a partner’s page and encourage them to do the same. All major search engines consider your site’s “reputation” when deciding whether or not your results should show up in the top slots of their search feeds. The more websites link to your site and the more your site is linked through social media, the more confidence Google gains in knowing that people trust you.
4) Don’t Buy Snake Oil
Beware of SEO scams. Anybody promising immediate high rankings is trying to take advantage of you. While the highest quality work can be expensive, reputable SEO firms set realistic expectations. If you decide to engage a trusted SEO firm, try to leverage your status as a nonprofit for some pro-bono, in-kind donations, or see if they will do a free audit.
Pro Tip: TechSoup offers low-cost resources to nonprofits, including consultation for website improvements.
5) Apply for a Google Grant
While Google carefully guards their search engine algorithm, they do offer in-kind grants for nonprofits (up to $10,000 per month) for their paid search (Google ads) platform. While paid search isn’t exactly SEO, getting a Google Grant for your nonprofit may allow you to appear higher in the search listings with an ad. Managing paid search is still quite an undertaking and will likely require someone with experience or time to learn, but the free search engine presence is well worth the time it takes to complete a grant application.
SEO Basics Are Just the Beginning
Incorporating these basic SEO principles into your website will significantly improve the visibility of your organization and expand the reach of your mission. For information about best practices for your nonprofit website, check out 7 Marketing Tips for Fundraisers from a Marketing Team.
Once you’ve acquired new donors via traffic to your website, keep them engaged with all the wonderful work you’re doing through your new donor welcome series. Want to give your welcome series a boost? Get your free copy of The New Donor Welcome Series Email Template Kit to simplify your next steps!