Everyone wants to get noticed for the good work that they do—and nonprofits are no different. It can often be difficult to even get your message in front of interested people, let alone capture that interest and get them to take action. Mastering concepts like keyword research, writing content that meets your searcher’s intent, auditing your competitors’ websites to learn from their successes and failures, and utilizing free tools will help your organization implement and refine your marketing strategy. Using these proven strategies and tools, your nonprofit can maximize its visibility and keep people on your site once they arrive.
Maximize your SEO
Start with keyword research
Keywords are the terms or phrases that internet users search for goods, services, or answers to questions using Google or other search engines. Organizations that use the keywords in their website’s content will often rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs). In many cases, choosing what keywords are important for your organization is quite intuitive.
For example, if your non-profit organization helps locate and provide child care assistance to single parents, your website content likely contains phrases such as “child care assistance,” “single parents,” or “locate child care.” Your organization is likely going to rank for search engine queries containing these keywords; however, depending on how competitive this service is, so will many other local and national organizations. Competition for broad keywords like the ones above can be quite fierce. Organizations with a comprehensive keyword and search engine optimization (SEO) strategy are more likely to perform well across a broad spectrum of search engine queries.
Understand search volume and conversion
Among other factors, competition for keywords is often dependent upon how general or specific they are. More general keyword phrases, like “child care assistance,” tend to have high search volume and higher levels of competition. These types of keywords (those which make up one to three words) are known as short-tail keywords. Incorporating a short-tail keyword as part of your SEO strategy may lead to thousands of impressions (also known as the number of appearances in SERPs) with a low conversion rate (meaning how many times a person clicks on a SERP link to your website).
Conversely, long-tail keywords are highly specific and tend to have lower search volume and competition. For example, a long-tail keyword for the non-profit described above might be “child care assistance near Johnston, IA”. There will be a much lower search volume for this query but fewer organizations will be competing for rankings. Although an organization optimized for this keyword may only receive a hundred impressions, those impressions are more likely to lead to actual visits to the site because they represent a narrowed and specific search intent (more on that below).
One Step Further: Writing for Featured Snippets
One way to improve your SEO and keyword strategy is to optimize your site for Featured Snippets. Featured Snippets are content that Google pulls directly from a website which Google’s bots believe best answer a commonly searched query. These snippets are so valuable because they bypass the normal ranking results and are listed before even the top-ranked site. This means that even a lower-ranked site can be listed above a higher-ranked site because of the strength of their content. Often, featured snippets are triggered by question queries, as seen in the screenshot below.
Establish search intent
One of the keys to successfully improving your SEO is to understand what people are searching for and what questions they are asking about your nonprofit’s speciality. This goes further than keyword research and gets more at the issue of why a given user is searching for something; what are they expecting to find? Are searchers wanting to know how they can get involved with or make a donation to your nonprofit? Are they wanting to know how your services/products can help them with their problems? Do searchers want to identify differences between you and your competitors before making a decision? Keyword research can help you answer these questions.
Google’s search algorithms are highly sophisticated and often able to determine a searcher’s intent through artificial intelligence (AI). There are four basic user intentions for internet searches:
- Information – searchers with this intent want to know more about something or how to do something. This type of query might look like: “How do I…?” or “What is a…?”
- Navigation – People with this intent recall the name of a site they want to visit but can’t recall the URL. This type of query might look like: “Salvation Army” or “Animal Rescue League”
- Commercial investigation – Users with this intent want to make a purchase in the near future but want to narrow down their choices or be convinced that one product/service is better than another. This type of query might look like: “Salvation Army vs. Goodwill”
- Transaction – People with this intent know exactly which product/service they want and want to get to that product page as quickly as possible. This type of query might look like: “homeless shelters near me” or “local food banks”
Once you’ve determined the searcher’s intent, you can begin to answer their questions. If they want to know what sets your organization apart from the competition, provide them with those answers. If they want to know what services your organization provides to people in their situation, prioritize making that clear in your content.
Competitor Website Audit
Does a competitor rank higher than you for certain keywords? Don’t let that discourage you. Instead, learn from what they are doing right and make adjustments to your strategy. Observing how your competitors engage with users can be a great way to learn how to stand out from the crowd and better serve the people you want to serve.
Start by finding similar nonprofits in your own market or even other locations. Visit their sites and take some time to really observe what they are doing. Then, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are they posting about?
- Are they posting any new blogs or content on their social media that’s relevant?
- What is their web presence like?
- Is there anything you like or dislike about their website?
- Is their website content easy to use?
- Does their branding stand out?
- What calls to action does your competitor use?
- What kinds of actions do they lead visitors to take?
In answering these questions, you may find ways that you can improve your website to provide more relevant information, a better user experience, or better direct visitors through your website.
Remember you can learn from your competitor’s strategy, but you should never copy their content.
Now that you have the fundamentals at hand, you are ready to optimize your content to attract and engage visitors.
Add Custom Titles & Descriptions
Adding custom titles and descriptions will help searchers better understand what each page is about. The trick is to provide a keyword-rich description for site crawlers while also telling your users a little more about that page’s content.
Use Clear Heading Structure
Creating a logical structure for your content will help your visitors find what they’re looking for. This is best accomplished through the use of headings and subheadings.
Create Keyword-Rich Content
When writing new content to add to your website, make sure your content pages have enough context for users and search engines to understand what you do, where you do it, and who you serve. Use keyword-rich content that provides value to visitors and demonstrates your expertise on the subject. This encompasses strong ‘evergreen’ content (such as the content on your service pages), but it is also beneficial to utilize blogs as an SEO strategy as well.
Leveraging Free Marketing Tools
Though there are many resources available to help you get your organization’s marketing off the ground, we always encourage organizations to begin with the free digital marketing tools available to everyone. These tools provide an efficient way to launch your marketing efforts without expending your budget.
Google Business Profile
This tool allows you to notify Google that your organization exists. By claiming your free profile, you can make your organization’s address, website URL, phone number, and hours of operation publicly available in Google searches. This will allow searchers to locate your organization on Google Maps, get directions, and leave reviews. This is an easy first step in an organization’s digital marketing journey.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) can help elevate an organization’s marketing efforts to the next level. GSC provides tools and reports to monitor, measure, and maintain search traffic and performance on your website while giving you some control over how your site shows up in search results.
Using Google Analytics is often the best way to learn from your visitor’s behavior once they’ve arrived at your website. To set up this tool, you place a tracking code within the code head of your site for every webpage. This tracking code helps Google collect information about your website visitors, which pages they visit, how long they stay on each page, what aspects of your website they engage with the most, and so much more. You can then use this data to improve your website so that you can better provide what your visitors want.
If you plan to incorporate Facebook Ads into your marketing strategy, you will want to include both the Facebook Pixel and Facebook Ads Manager. These two free tools provide data and insights into the performance of your paid Facebook ads and can help you customize your efforts to better target the audiences most likely to take action upon seeing your ads.
LinkedIn is another great way to reach your target audiences. You can increase your organic reach by providing high-quality content in the form of blogs. Doing so will not only increase your visibility, but is also likely to attract the attention of donors and volunteers who share your organization’s interests.
If your organization has the budget, you may want to consider allocating some of it towards LinkedIn Ads. LinkedIn’s reputation as the social media “Where Business Is Done” means that people take its ads more seriously. LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager has all the tools you need to expand your organization’s visibility and increase your conversion rates.
Though the process of creating strong relevant content isn’t always easy, it is the most efficient way to get accurate information about your organization out there and take your digital marketing efforts to the next level. By following the strategies outlined above, your online content will be seen by more relevant users who will be more likely to click through to your site and stay there once they’ve arrived. If your organization would like help developing an SEO strategy, researching keywords, or creating content, our team of search engine optimization specialists is here to help.