Nonprofits achieve their objectives by collaborating with strategic partners and pooling resources from donors. Even though their goal is the collective good, they have to compete with other organizations in the crowded web space.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a technique for increasing a nonprofit’s online visibility by improving its website's ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). A smart SEO strategy for your nonprofit can help achieve crucial objectives, such as helping more beneficiaries, hiring outstanding staff, or attracting more donors and volunteers.
According to 2021 research, 95% of individuals rarely go past the first page of search results - which implies that if your information isn't listed in the top 10 results, people are unlikely to find it. While SEO takes time and dedication, it is well worth the effort. Here we've summarized eight ways that SEO helps nonprofits.
The Impact of SEO on Nonprofits
1. Builds public credibility
Could there be anything worse than a potential supporter navigating to your website only to get a warning message that the site isn’t safe? On July 1, 2019, Google began designating websites that lack an SSL certificate as “Not Safe,” and 30% of NGO and charity websites worldwide were taken by surprise. These organizations could have avoided penalties associated with site security by adding an HTTPS domain distinction.
Paying attention to your website’s SEO keeps you abreast of changes and ensures that messages like this will never appear on your website and cause you to lose the public’s trust.
2. Increases visitors to your website
Your organization's search engine rank greatly influences the number of visitors your website receives. The first website to appear in search results receives a disproportionate number of clicks, with sizable shares also going to the second and third option. Only a small percentage of individuals go past the first page of search results. According to Backlinko, only 0.81% of Google users clicked on a link from the second page in a 4 million search data survey. This means that you should aim to be on the first results page for keywords that are important to your mission.
3. Assists in raising awareness
Individuals who are passionate about a social problem or a cause are likely to use search engines to learn more about it. Having your site featured among the top results can help your nonprofit gain more visibility and attract relevant, high-quality traffic. SEO for nonprofits is one of the most effective ways to disseminate your mission's message when combined with the correct content and calls to action on your websites. On average, SEO drives 1000%+ more traffic than organic social media.
4. Grows online donations
Donations made online are crucial to fundraising. Strong SEO ensures that donors can find you. For instance, microsites can help donors find your events and special giving campaigns. Combine appropriate keywords with technical fixes for an easy-to-follow donor experience that optimizes donations. The effectiveness of your site's fundraising efforts will improve!
5. Gives smaller organizations traction
SEO is about content and usefulness to the end user, not about your organization's size or money. This allows smaller organizations to make a name for themselves. Use proper keywords to achieve a higher ranking and increase visibility. Don't guess what they are–do your homework. Freemium tools like Moz, SEMrush, Ahrefs or Uber Suggest allow you to identify which keywords your audience actually uses in their web searches.
Imagine that you are a school for children with specialized needs. Your organization might have switched from the term "special education" to "specialized learning" to reduce stigma. However, SEMrush reports that each month 260 individuals search for “specialized learning” while 12,100 individuals search for “special education.” It's okay to keep employing specialized learning as a keyword; but you’ll also want to use special education as a modifier. You can educate website visitors about the language once they've found you and become interested in your organization. Of course, you’ll also need to combine your research on the frequency of search terms with information about how much content is already ranking for those searches to develop a strategy with impact.
6. Garners attention locally
When your organization has a local emphasis, why concentrate on something as worldwide as online search ranking? Search engine results consider geographic information. So when you improve your SEO, your nonprofit will rank higher in searches that contain your city, such as "pet rescue St. Louis," as well as searches by a user in your city that are more generic, such as "pet rescue." You can boost your regional rankings on Google Search, a practice known as “local SEO,” by completing a Google Business Profile, adding a Google map image to your site, and Yelp reviews.
7. Builds your reputation
Strong SEO includes regularly adding and improving your website content. This is an opportunity for your organization to demonstrate its evolving strategy and thought leadership. Updating the public increases your nonprofit's credibility, and it's fun to chat about accomplishments. Publishing expert material links you to others working in your field.
You can utilize sites like Answer the Public to discover what questions people have been asking in Google. Once you have an understanding of your community’s concerns, you can develop material for them and other audiences with similar interests.
Some ideas include educational activities for parents to do with children. You can also comment on current events that are relevant to your purpose, or spotlight your programs on awareness days related to your mission. Share your knowledge, and don’t forget to request a link back to your website at the end of your article. Links to and from your site improve SEO for nonprofits.
8. Makes your other campaigns more effective
Like any other marketing tactic, SEO performs best for nonprofits as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. SEO has the potential to improve the effectiveness of everything your organization does online. Your ongoing actions will be more appealing and productive if you focus on keywords to match yourself with possible supporters and use them throughout your website and social media profiles.
How to Know If Your SEO Needs Help
Common causes of poor SEO performance include a lack of mobile responsiveness, slow site speed, outdated content, or a low link profile. To detect these and other possible issues, run your site through a SEO tool. If you don’t have access to paid SEO software, we’ve created a free SEO tool specifically for nonprofits. Once you have a generalized rating, the next step is to investigate where the problems lie and decide what needs to be prioritized by conducting an SEO audit. From there you’ll have an actionable list covering both technical fixes (requires coding) and on-page and off-page improvements, which are content and link-based, no coding required.
How to Improve A Poor Rating
Test Your Mobile Friendliness
A report released by Statista revealed that approximately 4.3b unique users accessed the web using mobile devices in 2020— which is 90% of global internet users. It's one of the reasons why Google penalizes sites that are not mobile responsive. Some NGOs have websites that are not appropriately mobile friendly, since requirements for mobile have continued to evolve. A good way to check whether this could be negatively impacting your SEO is to test how mobile-friendly your website is.
Optimize Your Content
Content is half the battle for good SEO. One of the top objectives of search engines is to serve the most current and relevant information to internet users. As such, search engines continuously crawl websites and rank pages accordingly. Here are a few aspects that Google’s search algorithm uses:
- It favors content pieces that are longer than 1000 words
- Content with keywords and long-tail keywords in the right density
- Content with sufficient internal and external links
- Content with rich formats like images or infographics
Information should be updated on a fairly regular basis, informative, and engaging for your audience. Assuming that your organization is putting useful information out there, then what might be preventing you from ranking could be technical or off-page SEO problems, like not having enough links pointing to your website or not structuring the html correctly using tags like <h1>. A great tool for efficiently reviewing your website content to see where problems may lay is the Yoast SEO widget.
Yoast provides suggestions on what you can implement to optimize your content. You’ll want to spend some dedicated time learning SEO best practices, such as structured headers, readable content, and backlinking.
You can also utilize Google Analytics to understand how website traffic is interacting with your content. For example, content with a high bounce rate can indicate low-quality content that doesn't fulfill user intent.
Work on the Technical SEO
Technical SEO puts good content on the path to success. The role of technical SEO is to make the crawling and indexing process smooth, which is essential in attaining high search rankings.
Technical SEO for nonprofits also improves the experience of your website visitors. If you don’t have someone who codes in house, you’ll need to work with a developer to polish the ailing aspects of your site. Developers use Merkle or Schema Mark-up tools to improve indexability and auditing tools to investigate technical SEO problems including the site map, robot.txt and mobile responsiveness.
Some of the most critical areas to improve include:
- Website Speed - The speed of a site affects User Experience, so Google penalizes slow sites. Pages that open or respond slowly will rank dismally in search results despite having premium quality content. You can use tools like Google Page Insights, GTMetrix or Pingdom to test your website's speed. Improvements usually involve optimizing site images, enabling a browser cache, or using CDN.
- Crawl Errors - Check the robot.txt file to identify anything that might keep search bots from accessing the site. You can use the Google search console to identify errors and fix them promptly.
- Redundant Content - Competing and duplicate content are not ideal because respectively they dilute search rank and can lead a search engine to rank the wrong page or to block pages altogether. Use a free SEO tool to identify and fix duplicate content. In instances where repetition is unavoidable and you want both pages to appear in search results, you can use canonical URLs.
The reasons listed in this article are only some of the many benefits to improving your nonprofit's SEO. There are plenty more, but the essential thing to remember is that SEO boosts visibility and attracts high-quality traffic for your nonprofit as you work towards your objectives. If you have more questions about WordPress edits or other SEO-related services, please reach out. We're happy to discuss!