Every organization—whether it's a nonprofit organization or a for-profit enterprise—wants to see their website at the top of Google search. Landing a coveted first-page spot would mean a spike in traffic to your site, which could, in turn, lead to a spike in donations.
But how do you get there?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of creating web experiences that search engines like Google want to expose to searchers.
There are anywhere from 100-200+ key indicators that can influence how well a page will "rank". Your audience is searching for solutions that you provide. With SEO, you create content that provides the answers to those questions, exposing your website to more people in Google search results.
SEO, just like social media or email marketing, should play a central role in any content strategy—otherwise, you risk leaving potential donor dollars on the table. Below, we provide an overview of SEO for nonprofits, including steps you can take today to boost your online presence.
Before you start
Remember what is best for your reader, is also best for SEO. Write conversationally, answer the user's question right away and in clear, easy-to-understand language, and don't stuff your page with jargon or too many keywords.
Essential steps to "good" SEO for nonprofits
Google continuously tweaks its algorithm to provide a better online experience for all of us.
1. Make great content
A search engine's ultimate objective is to help a searcher find and answer to a query as fast and confidently as possible. Ensuring that your content is well-written, concise, and easy-to-read is a relatively simple way to improve your search engine rankings.
2. Improve your site speed 🏃
When it comes to improving search engine results, content isn't the only thing that matters.
Google rewards sites that are easy to access and navigate, and a fast-loading page is a key part of that user-friendliness. Always resize images to the spec of your CMS and compress images to under 100kb.
Google's Core Web Vitals states that your site speed is directly correlated to the overall user experience of your website, and therefore will have an impact on your rankings. To improve your site speed, use the PageSpeed Insights tool to discover any performance issues, such as extra-large images (or GIFs), too many plugins (for Wordpress), too many ads, or even too many custom fonts.
2. Do your keyword research 🔍
Sure, you want to get your site on the first page of Google—but for what search term?
It's unrealistic to expect your organization to hit the top 10 results for the word "nonprofit"—the competition is simply too steep.
Instead, it's better to set your sights on longer-tail keywords, such as "volunteer opportunities in Kansas City" or "medical volunteer opportunities near me."
Use the Google Keyword Planner to discover the right keywords for your organization. Then:
- Click "Discover new keywords."
- Enter a phrase you want to target.
- Receive an entire spreadsheet of related keyword phrases. Plus, Google shows you the competition (low, medium, or high) for each phrase, giving you a rough idea of where you have the best chance of getting to a top spot on Google.
3. Develop a consistent, valuable content strategy ✍
Your content marketing plan should prioritize the topics you consider yourself or your organization to be "expert" in. Write from an authoritative place and cover topics that are important to your audience. Follow these other tips:
- Don't worry about word count. Simply try to unpack an important topic in its entirety, whether that's 400 words or 1400.
- Link to sources when you site a stat or quote from an expert.
- Add "alternative text" for all images; which is a brief description of the image that is shown to visitors using screen readers or when an image is broken.
- Add a custom meta description and SEO title for every blog post to entice readers to click on your link.
- Include headings (H2 and H3 tags) to help break up paragraph text and show the reader what's next.
4. Invest in a link building strategy 🔗
Google rewards websites that have high "authority," meaning they're known to publish high-quality content and are trusted by other websites on the internet. One of the first steps in improving your authority is investing in a link building strategy.
Link building is when other websites link to your website. Over time, continuously publishing high-quality, educational content will help you earn backlinks to your nonprofit website. However, there are a few ways you can help speed up the process:
- Invite industry colleagues or thought leaders to write guest blogs for your website. The authors will share their post on their social media channels, helping you earn links to your site.
- Add internal links (links to your own website's content) within every blog post you write. Be sure the anchor text – the words that are linked – adequately indicate where the user is going.
- Reach out to authors who publish round-up posts (e.g., "10 nonprofits accepting volunteers this spring") and politely ask them to mention and link to your organization.
5. Claim your business on Google 🌍
When it comes to search results, Google takes geographical location into account. For example, if your nonprofit is based in Des Moines, Iowa, you are more likely to appear in search results if the person searching lives in Iowa.
One of the easiest ways to boost your local SEO results is to claim your business on Google. With a Google My Business Profile, you can increase your visibility on Google Maps, search, and other Google directories. Plus, it offers additional advantages, including:
- Having your nonprofit location show up in local search results as part of the "places" results (listed before websites, blog posts, and other URLs).
- Publicizing your business hours.
- Offering quick links to your website and an address for your physical location.
Make nonprofit SEO part of your fundraising strategy
SEO helps boost your visibility on Google. If you're ignoring SEO as part of your digital marketing strategy, you could be leaving potential donation dollars on the table.
Fortunately, there are plenty of free SEO tools that can help you move up the ranks in Google.
By launching a keyword research strategy, improving your site speed, publishing high-quality content, and paying attention to local search results, you can help increase traffic to your website.
Remember, when it comes to marketing your nonprofit, no one channel should exist in a silo. You should harness content marketing, SEO, social media outreach, and email campaigns to help you attract and retain new donors. With Givebutter, you get a built-in CRM and marketing automation to help launch your digital marketing strategy and start generating organic awareness to your organization.
Kara McCartney is a web copywriter operating out of Washington, DC. She writes and builds websites for small businesses.