Three simple SEO tips for nonprofits
SEO (search engine optimization) is not just another TLA (three letter acronym) that nonprofits can ignore with impunity.
Many nonprofits are put off by the challenges, pitfalls, and potential costs of all things technical. SEO does sound technical — and is to an extent — but it needn’t be daunting. In its simplest form, SEO is what you as a content creator can do to make sure your message reaches its intended audience. It means writing to be found, as well as writing to be read.
This means a bit of pandering to the way search engines work, refraining from overcomplicating your copy, and including search-friendly keywords and phrases to help catapult your site to the top of the search results.
Never forget, as important as your work may be, the algorithms used to serve up search results don’t really care how much or whom your nonprofit is helping. It is up to you to show the algorithms that you have the content that internet searchers are seeking.
Nonprofits can use some of the same techniques commercial advertisers use to get business leads with no additional expense.
Here are a few SEO tips to get the most out of your content so that is shows up better in search results.
Create content for readers
Boring content is never searched for, just occasionally stumbled upon. Unfortunately it can nevertheless outperform beautiful writing. Don’t write too flamboyantly or phrase things in a way that nobody else would (at least, not too often). Write something that web users will want to read, and don’t assume you know what that is. Look to similar sites for tips (Amnesty International’s copy is generally first-rate) and get to grips with Google Adwords, which supplies all the tools you’ll need to optimize your site.
Don’t just write passionately about your “mission.” Writing content for a nonprofit often means holding your readers’ attention until they’re ready to support your cause, whether financially or otherwise. It needs to hit a nerve. Find out what’s hot, then reframe your message or mission statement along those lines.
TIP: Even if you’re not using Google Adwords to advertise, you can still make the most of Analytics, Webmaster tools, and Keyword Planner to find the most popular words, phrases, and topics being searched for. Use these to enhance your standing in Google’s rankings.
Create content regularly
Keeping your content fresh is another important aspect of successful SEO. Stale content, the equivalent of a static site, will do nothing to improve your standing in search results.
Regular updates using the same or similar keywords will keep Google’s algorithms interested in your domain.
TIP: You can use those keywords you discovered in your Adwords research over and over in new content-like blog posts. Publish new blog posts regularly. Some research shows that Mondays and Thursdays are the best days. However, the rule above applies here too. If your regular readers want to see new blog posts on Wednesday or Sunday, then that’s when you should update.
Also, be sure to use your keywords in press releases and any documents you might release through other online channels.
Create catchy headlines
The job isn’t done simply because your content’s showing up on that prime piece of search engine real-estate (page one, preferably near the top)! If you want those clicks, you’ve still got to catch the reader’s attention.
Perhaps SEO’s most difficult trick is balancing it well with your creativity and imagination. Overuse will make your content boring and generic. Using the most commonly searched phrase for your headline might drive it up the rankings, but there’s a lot to compete with out there. Rework the keywords to be as attention-grabbing as possible. Whether you choose to be witty, dramatic, or emotional, however, never sacrifice clarity. Remember, getting a million hits means nothing if you’re attracting the wrong audience.
TIP: Examine the results on a Google search page, and become familiar with how many words show up on each line of both the headline and the synopsis. Craft your post’s headline and meta description so that the keywords your readers are looking for show up in those first few lines.
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These are just three of the many SEO best practices nonprofits can use to boost traffic to your websites and get your important message in front of readers. Perhaps more importantly, these techniques are simple enough to teach to volunteers and other staffers who many not be qualified geeks. Mastering these will open the door to more advanced SEO techniques as well. Go ahead, make those Google search algorithms work as hard for you as they are for other organizations.