Your nonprofit may have put up a website, thinking that new members, donors or clients will just find it. But it doesn’t work that way. You need to put out relevant, engaging content and have your website optimized for search engines, so your organization can climb the ranks of Google. Let’s take a look at how your site’s SEO affects your organization.
What Is SEO?
First, let’s explain what SEO (search engine optimization) is. SEO determines where a website falls in the lineup of the millions of pages in Google, Bing or other search engine when someone searches for a brand, service or product. If someone types in keywords that pertain to your nonprofit’s service, for example, your website might appear on the first page or the 10th. SEO is what decides that.
There are a lot of factors that affect your site’s SEO. They can be achieved organically (meaning with your own efforts or not paying to rank higher) or via paid methods (Google AdWords, for example). The organic methods involve:
- the site in general,
- page hierarchy and content,
- and more.
Regardless of method, good SEO practices can help bring in new donors, members or clients on a regular basis. The contrary is also true: poor SEO practices can result in not reaching prospective donors, members or clients at best. At worst, your website could be blocked or penalized by Google.
How Can You Improve Your Nonprofit’s SEO?
Below are some ways you can organically help your site’s SEO.
Speak the Language of Your Audience.
Start by making sure that each of your pages speaks to your audience in the words they use when communicating in their world and with your organization. That way, when they do a search, they are more likely to come across a page on your site. If and when they do, they will find it relevant, which means they are likely to stay (good for your SEO), or they will leave. If they immediately leave (referred to as a page’s bounce rate), it means they did not find the content relevant to what they were searching for. Whether they stay or leave immediately, Google notices this.
Write for Your Audience, Not Search Engines.
Make sure that the copy on the page makes sense for your audience. Don’t simply use a bunch of keywords in the copy if they won’t make sense or sound natural to the reader.
Also, don’t think you will outsmart Google by stuffing the page with irrelevant keywords. If you do, your site could be blacklisted by Google, meaning it won’t show up in search results.
When you keep your audience engaged, they stay to read your content. They are also more likely to share pages from your site via social media or e-mail. This not only helps to get your content in front of others who may not be aware of your organization but could potentially help your SEO.
When you continually add fresh content to your site, visitors have a reason to come back more often. On the other hand, if your site looks stale—like it never gets updated—it can leave a bad impression. It’s not just about adding new content but updating the copyright year, making sure there are no broken hyperlinks or links to images, ensuring the staff page and contact information are up to date, etc.
Make Sure It’s Mobile Friendly.
In April 2015, Google announced that mobile-friendly websites would rank better than non–mobile-friendly ones. If your site is a responsive website, then it is mobile friendly. Your site may not be responsive but have a mobile-friendly version. You can check to see if your site is mobile friendly or not.
Having a responsive or mobile-friendly website is good not only for SEO. It makes for a better experience for your visitors, meaning they are more likely to stay on your site and to return. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, your visitors have to pinch and pan to navigate the site, read the copy or click on buttons. They can stay and be frustrated or they will just leave. Neither is good.
How Can You Assess Your Site’s SEO?
Make sure you have Google Analytics installed on your website so it can start tracking your visitors and how they interact with your site: where they enter, where they leave, how long they spend there, what they download, etc. You also want to have a Google Search Console account to help you monitor those analytics.