When you google your nonprofit, what do you find? Does your organization pop up at the top of the search engine results page for mission-focused searches, or do you have to dig through ten pages of obscure results before you see the first mention of your organization?
If you’ve ever had the disappointing experience of realizing your nonprofit isn’t very visible online, you’re not alone. Many nonprofits, especially those that are newer or smaller, experience this same hurdle in getting their organization’s mission to the forefront of the internet.
Luckily, with the help of search engine optimization (SEO), you can make wise web design and content management decisions that will increase the chances of your website being found. This in turn will increase the likelihood that more and more people will discover your mission, events, campaigns, and educational resources.
If you’re new to the world of SEO or even new to having a nonprofit website, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Should you rethink the copy on your homepage? Take a second pass at how headers are classified on your donation page? Update your “About Us” page with the most recent accessibility guidance in mind?
There’s no need to get overwhelmed. Instead of biting off more than you can chew, try starting with just one part of your website first: your blog!
This post will help you get started by providing you with four tips for optimizing your nonprofit blog for SEO:
- Create new blog content on the regular.
- Target relevant keywords.
- Pay attention to header classification.
- Grow your organization’s online visibility through link building.
As you embark on your SEO journey, remember that this process will require some patience. Cornershop Creative’s guide to SEO for nonprofits puts it this way: “The truth is that SEO requires strategy, consistency, and time to start driving traffic to your website.”
Even though getting results from SEO will take some time, it’s well worth the effort for increased traffic to your site and more awareness for your work. Let’s get started!
1. Create new blog content on the regular.
A regularly-updated blog can be one of the best assets to your nonprofit’s SEO efforts. Why? Blogs naturally invite the consistent creation of new content, and search engines tend to reward websites that offer up-to-date and relevant content, as they’re most useful for users.
Not a blogging expert? No problem! To write effective content, you’ll just need to know your audience (your supporter base) and what they want to read about (topics around your mission, beneficiaries, initiatives, upcoming events, volunteer program, etc.).
Once you know what you’re writing about and who you’re writing for, you can apply these nonprofit blogging tips:
- Write short paragraphs. Your website visitors are looking for easily-digestible content, not Moby Dick. Try to limit paragraphs to 3-4 sentences.
- Incorporate calls-to-action. Calls-to-action (CTAs) encourage readers to act after reading the information in a blog post. Adding in CTAs as links or buttons with links can encourage your supporters to take action and do things like donate, subscribe, or register.
- User headers, bullet points, and numbered lists. On top of writing short paragraphs, headers, bullet points, and numbered lists can make your blog post easily skimmable and help important information stick out.
- Add visuals. According to Cornershop Creative’s roundup of the best nonprofit websites, imagery is essential for making your website stand out. Make sure the images you use on your blog are of high-quality and actually contribute to the post instead of just regurgitating information or acting as decor.
The most important thing to remember when blogging is that you’re writing blog posts that real people will read. Even though you want to create content that is optimized for search engines, real users should be top-of-mind. Write for people, not robots!
2. Target relevant keywords.
Keywords are simply the words or phrases that a user might type into a search engine to find information they’re looking for. And they are the bread and butter of SEO.
The best performing pages for specific keywords are displayed higher up in the search engine results page. For example, if you’ve ever typed “animal shelter” into Google, Google likely returned your search with dozens of different animal rescue sites and locations, with the most popular pages at the top of the list.
Similarly, you want your nonprofit to be found when people search for it or for words or phrases related to your mission. Using relevant keywords throughout your website, including in your blog posts, can help with that!
When choosing keywords to target, aim for words and phrases that you know your audience will be searching for and that are specific to your nonprofit and relevant to your cause. This will help you avoid competing with highly authoritative pages that are already ranking in the top spots on the results pages for more general nonprofit terms.
For example, a nonprofit wanting to promote a matching gifts campaign may not want to target “matching gifts.” Other authoritative websites are already ranking for this keyword, including websites that sell matching gifts tools or websites that provide educational information about what matching gifts are.
Instead you might want to include the name of your organization with the keyword (“RainbowPets matching gifts campaign), or your location (“nonprofits in Ohio with matching gifts campaigns”). Your chances of ranking for these more specific and targeted keywords will be much higher.
Once you’ve chosen your keyword, ensure that you’re using that word or phrase four or more times within the content and including it in the title and meta description in order to optimize the post content.
3. Pay attention to header classification.
Headers are a little thing that can make a big difference in blog posts. They’re essential for helping search engine crawlers to understand your blog content and index it so it can rank on results pages.
Here’s how to use headers correctly:
- Only use one H1 heading. This should be the title of the page.
- Continue adding headers in sequentially-descending order. Main sections should begin with an H2, and subtopics within those sections should begin with an H3 (and so on).
- Use the keyword you’re targeting in header text. This is particularly important in the H1 for the page. You should also look for natural ways to use the keyword (and variations of the keyword) in H2s and H3s.
Headers aren’t just essential for SEO purposes. They also provide a better user experience for everyone who lands on your blog posts! They break up the text on the page and organize ideas into sections and subsections, providing a clear road map for understanding the content, especially for users navigating content using assistive technologies like screen readers.
4. Grow your organization’s online visibility through link building.
Link equity (also known as link authority or link juice) is the idea that when a high-quality site links to your website, that link passes on some SEO value and authority, sort of like a “vote of confidence” for your website.
This is why you’ll want to seek out opportunities to build links back to your own website and to provide those links for other websites.
Here are some ideas for building links back to your web content:
- Work within the boundaries set by Google and other search engines. Don’t try to game the system and exploit weaknesses in a search engine’s algorithm instead of providing content that is useful for humans. Instead, seek out natural link-building opportunities. It’s a more long-term approach to link building, but a far more ethical and effective way to help your website rank.
- Form connections within your industry and swap links. This is where the golden rule comes into play with your SEO strategy—if you want a website to link back to your site, you should be willing to do the same thing in return! Reach out to colleagues in your industry and come up with natural ways (such as guest blogging or getting added to a referrals list) to swap links to pages on your site.
- Be an active social media participant. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a well-established nonprofit trendsetter or a once-in-a-while poster. Make an effort to show that your nonprofit is active online by sharing your blog’s content on social media. While links on social media won’t help you directly with building authority for your website (they’re nofollow links by default), circulating your content on social media platforms can help you connect with people who might link to your website down the road.
As you’re working to grow your site’s visibility through link building, focus on securing links to your most important pages. Specifically, when it comes to building links back to your blog, select your most educational, high-value blog posts to seek out linking opportunities for.
Creating a search-engine-optimized website can feel like a daunting task, especially if you’re new to the world of nonprofit website design or SEO. But by starting with one part of your website, like your blog, you’ll be able to start implementing the right SEO strategies and best practices that will help you eventually optimize your entire site. This in turn will help more people find your nonprofit and get involved. Good luck!