by Beth Johnson, Communication Manager, Salsa
Beyond paying for ads, you can draw supporters to your nonprofit by creating content that shows up on their radars, so to speak. You do this first of all by creating good content and reusing, recycling, and repeating it in as many formats and places online as you can. If you want to take your efforts a step further, you can employ some basic search engine optimization (SEO) and social media optimization (SMO) strategies to make your content appear more often and more prominently in people’s web searches and social media feeds. And as a nonprofit, you have some unique considerations to keep in mind, which I highlight in this section as well.
Basic principles to follow
First and foremost, you need a website. If you don’t have one, stop reading this section right now and get a web development agency to help you. You can find a great list of organizations that specialize in nonprofit websites at www.salsalabs.com/partner-directory. If you do have a website, congrats — you’re halfway there!
Although many strategists throw around SEO terms that can make your head spin, don’t worry, it’s really not rocket science. In fact, there are several simple things you can do to improve your site’s SEO:
- Choose URLs wisely. Whenever possible, URLs should have keywords that match the keywords you’re targeting and content on each set page.
- Make sure that every page in your site has a unique, relevant title in the page’s html title tags. For example, don’t just list yourwebsite name or even “About Us”; instead, use “About [Name of Organization].” This text appears in search engine results and helps tell both the search engine and users what the page is about.
- Use the description meta tag. By giving each page in your website a unique, useful, 150-character-or-less description of the page content, you make it easier for a user to decide whether to click through. The description usually is shown right below the page title in search results.
- Use heading tags in your content. Heading tags (h1 to h6) are great ways to organize your content and provide search engines (not to mention users who are reading your content) clues about the key points in your content. If your organization uses a CMS, you’ve probably seen a drop-down list that starts off with “Format” and then lists a few things including heading 1, heading 2, and so on. Use it. If it doesn’t size or color the text the way you want, have your web developer style them. Don’t use the font size or font color buttons — you’ll waste an excellent opportunity to improve your SEO.
- Use meta keywords in your content. A meta keyword doesn’t appear on your page but gives search engines brief information about the content on your page. Ideally, you should have 1 to 10 meta keywords. Separate them with commas when inserting them into the code. A keyword can be more than one word; for example, mountain bikes would be one keyword. Mountain, bikes would be two. Mountain bikes, road bike would be two. Meta keywords aren’t taken into consideration by Google but are used to index your site by Yahoo, Bing, Ask and some of the other search engines. It isn’t too time intensive and is worth doing.
- Use descriptive link text. When you’re adding a link, don’t just link words like “click here.” Instead, link something like “click here to read this article about....” This text tells both search engines and users something about the page being linked to.
- Get indexed by search engines. In order to do this, follow a few steps:
- Head over to www.dmoz.org and put your URL, page name, and description into the correct category.
- Visit www.zoominfo.com/Search/AddNewCompany.aspx and enter your organization’s info again.
- If you have a physical location, go to Google’s local business center found at www.google.com/placesforbusiness.
- Visit www.freewebsubmission.com and provide your info all the way at the bottom.
It also has a list of different directories to add your organization to as well — some are free, and others come with a fee.
- Seriously consider starting a blog. If you don’t have a blog, start one. A blog shouldn’t be a direct fundraising pitch; instead, it should be keyword rich. A single blog for what was a low ranking keyword could easily move your organization to the top results.
- Update your content regularly. Search engines love fresh content. While you don’t necessarily have to constantly create new pages or blog posts (though it’s great if you can), updating the pages you have with fresh information or adding new pieces can help a great deal.
Now are you feeling better about integrating SEO and SMO into your strategy? The best advice I can give is to roll up your sleeves, get a little dirty and test these things out. One of the easiest ways to learn this stuff is just to do it. Good luck (not that you need it).
To learn more download our free ebook, The Essential Guide to Growing Your Online Support for Nonprofits. This new guide helps you connect and engage with current donors, volunteers and activists, and tells you how to reach out to new supporters using the online tools and content you’ve probably already got in place. It covers things like storytelling and choosing the best message for each medium, but also goes into things you might not know a lot about yet, like SEO, SEM and leveraging text messaging.