Many people feel intimidated when approaching Search Engine Optimization (SEO). They think it’s super-technical or requires a huge budget. But the truth is that SEO is not brain surgery. Search Engine Optimization doesn’t require an expert to do. The only things that are really necessary are time, the willingness to learn and a tad of patience.
Does your nonprofit have a website that would benefit from an increase in targeted traffic? Would you like to rank higher in search engines? Would you like to increase your online fund-raising and brand visibility? Don’t sweat i! Do-it-yourselfers can do as good of a job as professionals when it comes to SEO. After all, you know your organization — and all its nooks and crannies — better than anybody.
Let’s be clear: SEO takes some time. There are no short cuts or quick fixes. Good results almost always takes many months. But don’t despair. If you follow the 10 tips below, you’ll be paving the way for your nonprofit. Although the tips below are a mix of on-page and off-page optimization techniques, they work together to increase your nonprofit’s ranking in organic search results.
1. Clarify your goals. Good SEO requires concrete, laser-focused goals. Spend sometime clicking around your website. Think in terms of:
a. Presentation (is your information up-to-date? Are your forms asking the right questions?)
b. Functionality (Can people make donations online? Do you have a strong brand identity?)
c. What do you want your visitors to do on your website? It is your party. You decide what you want your guests to do: make a donation, view a certain page on the site, subscribe to your mailing list, etc.
2. Audience. Who is the target audience for your website? Surely it includes potential donors. But don’t forget that it may also include members of the press, employees at your organization, current and past beneficiaries seeking support. Describe your target audience(s) with as much detail as possible.
3. Keyword selection is key. Keywords are the heart of any SEO campaign. Organizations who are on top of their SEO game have a list of top-priority keywords that they use on their site with reasonable repetition.
4. Pay attention to Meta tags. They are what we called “invisible text” because metadata is not displayed on the page, but is added to your html code to be analyzed by SEO robots. Meta elements are typically used to specify page description, keywords and images.
a. Page title. Most search engines assign great importance to page titles when indexing content. Writers who use descriptive headlines can become magnet for SEO attention.
b. Friendly titles. If your nonprofit is using a CMS platform, make sure that it does not assign content ID numbers to page titles.
5. Clear and compelling content. I cannot say it enough: content is king. Content should be fresh, interesting and directed to your users. Your content needs to be formatted so robots can read it. This means HTML text, not graphical text, which search engines can’t read.
In addition, within your page body, there are 5 important elements from a SEO perspective:
a. Anchor text (also called linking text). Text that is clickable on a webpage. Aim to anchor text that contains your page’s targeted keywords. This can help you boost your page rank.
b. Breadcrumb trail. It gives users a way to keep track of their location within your site. Usually, breadcrumbs appear horizontally across the top of a web page, usually below title bars or headers.
c. Heading tags. After the title tag, the headline tag is the next most important SEO on page element. Although HTML supports up to six levels of heading tags, typically I don’t recommend using more than the h1 and h2 tags on a given page.
d. Body text. Use no more than 450-600 words in total on each page. Use bold and italics to pick out keywords on the page. This helps search engines as well as humans readers to identify your key text. Do not use the underline tag on your page as it confuses users expecting to find a link.
e. Image ALT tags. As we discussed before, robots cannot read graphics. Make sure that all your images have an ALT tag that describes the image clearly.
f. Internal links (also known as cross-linking). Greater SEO value is given to internal links. Have keyword-rich navigation within your own site (in addition to the breadcrumb trail).
6. Inbound links. SEO considers inbound links to be the gold standard for content quality. Think of links as online recommendations.
7. Create and file a sitemap. It allows robots (and users) to quickly and easily find and index your content. Sitemaps help with usability and site navigation.
8. Make SEO-friendly URLs. Use keywords in your URLs and file names.
9. Optimize other assets found on your website, including documents (.doc, .pdf), spreadsheets (.xls), presentations (.ppt), videos (.avi) and pictures (.jpg, gif, .png).
10. Track and evaluate your SEO efforts periodically. How will you know you’re successful if you have no way of measuring what you’ve done? Sign up for Google’s webmaster Central and Google Analytics to learn more about how the search engines see your site, inbound links, source of traffics, etc. Measure, analyze and adjust your strategy as needed.