Do Nonprofits Need Search Engine Optimization?

search engine optimizationIf your nonprofit organization has a website, but isn’t utilizing any search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to improve its rank in search queries on Google, Bing, and Yahoo!—you are officially “a step behind” your competition.

In this day and age, you shouldn’t ask whether or not your nonprofit organization needs search engine optimization, as much as you should be asking, “How do I incorporate search engine optimization into my organization’s Web management plan?”

(If you don’t have an online marketing plan that includes a search engine optimization strategy, you should give us a call.)

Chris Silver Smith suggests that nonprofits that enjoy better search engine rankings are likely to gain greater market share in terms of contributions and participation than those that do not rank well (adding up to greater success over time).

Take a moment to consider the search engine results that appear on the first page of a Google search. Does your organization show up on the first page or the fifth? Do you think that today’s Internet user even makes it to the fifth page of a Google search?

Microsoft published a study in 2008 that discussed how people recall, recognize and reuse search results. The study suggests that online searchers recall the brands they viewed on search engine result pages (SERPs) and that the organizations with higher search listing rankings showed a higher likelihood of recall amongst Internet users.

So, if you weren’t planning on incorporating search engine optimization into your online marketing plan, now is the time to reconsider!

What Does this Mean for Your SEO Plan?

According to Marc Koenig, “It’s a lot simpler than it used to be to rank well on the search engine results.” Koenig says, now that Google is trying to reward people who have websites people love, nonprofit organizations striving to navigate the realm of search engine optimization need only focus on two things: Figuring out what your audience wants, and then, creating the most helpful, amazing stuff that you can for that audience.

This means that you don’t have to be an expert in all of the technical aspects of search engine optimization to help improve your nonprofit’s search engine rankings (although, having an understanding of advanced techniques and software has its immediate benefits). Most nonprofit organizations could experience immediate results simply by practicing basic SEO techniques for 30 days and reflecting on the difference in Web traffic.

While her banana slug example may have you scratching your head at first, Ilona Bray, J.D. presents a strong list of basic search engine optimization tips for nonprofit organizations interested in improving their search engine performance.

  • Consider what keywords are important for your nonprofit to use.
  • Put keywords high up in every page or article.
  • Post lots of fresh content.
  • Encourage inbound links.
  • Make sure your content is getting attention on social media.
  • If already analyzing traffic to your site, look for patterns of visitor entries, exits, and more.

One of the most important tips on Bray’s list involves something called “semantic search.” This is a new technique designed to help users find Internet content they will actually be interested in reading and learning more about.

You want to make sure that you know what keywords your potential site visitors are most likely to enter into search engines—or are already using, which you can find out using software that analyzes site traffic.

Get Started with Google Analytics

Speaking of site traffic, if you haven’t already, you’ll want to set up Google Analytics on your website so that your Web Management team can monitor your audience’s behavior. Google Analytics is a free tool that, if used correctly, can help you analyze visitor traffic and paint a complete picture of your audience and their needs—so you should click here to get started with Google Analytics.

If you are looking to hire a Search Engine Optimization Consultant or SEO Strategist in the near future, it is suggested that you get your Google Analytics account set up as soon as possible. Having Google Analytics installed and collecting data for at least a month will help this individual understand what your organization needs by setting a baseline for performance—even if you don’t make an active effort to use any of the basic SEO techniques suggested above.

Google Analytics also includes a Search Engine Optimization Report feature that will help you understand the search terms (a.k.a. “queries”) users typed into the search bar to reach your site, the pages visitors landed on when clicking on search results listing your site, and a variety of other (more technical) aspects of each visitor’s behavior.

While some people may consider researching and creating content for search engine optimization tedious, it is a necessary part of online marketing and definitely belongs in your nonprofit organization online marketing / web management plan. If your nonprofit organization does not have an online marketing plan that includes a search engine optimization strategy, but would like to schedule a phone consultation to discuss affordable support services in this area, please feel free to give us a call.

Suggested Reading

Images courtesy of Uber Social Media and Steve Myszka

Yasheaka Oakley Owens

Yasheaka Oakley Owens is the owner of YOakleyPR, a woman-owned small business that provides public relations, social media, and online marketing support services to small businesses and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware.

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