For non-profits, much has been written about the importance of an efficient and effective website, that vital and all-encompassing portal connecting cause to cash, values to volunteers and so much more. And as such, a good deal of preaching occurs from industry gurus as to how best to optimize this virtual face-to-the-world, making it not only attractive and alluring to visitors but easily “findable” by search engines as well.
Therefore, if a non-profit hasn’t already been bombarded by advice on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and taken steps to incorporate this component into their media strategy, their website is likely failing in a big way. After all, today the web search when people seek out information, and your organization is no exception.
Unfortunately, SEO is still misunderstood and the term often co-opted by less-than-scrupulous companies and individuals who prey on NPOs with the promise of increasing their visibility and driving traffic to their site. Utilizing “black hat” tactics in an attempt to trick search engines into ranking certain sites more advantageously, these firms can do more harm than good for your organization, so it’s certainly important to be wary.
However, ignoring the importance of SEO all together is a tragic mistake. So if and when you’re ready to optimize your organization’s website—whether it’s an in-house endeavor or a contracted job—consider these elements that will make it easier for potential supporters to find your group.
Watch your Keywords
Keywords are the primary component of SEO, and yet one of the most common mistakes organizations make is choosing the wrong ones. For instance, a non-profit may stress keywords in its SEO strategy that are meaningful to them—insider terms that are bandied about among staff and core supporters—but nearly meaningless to someone doing a search for causes such as yours. So do a little research and make a list of the best keywords based on how many searches are done for said words—any good SEO firm can certainly advise you on what works and what will be ignored.
Sure, it’s great to have strategically placed keywords driving traffic to your non-profit site, but what happens when a potential supporter lands on your homepage? Do you have quality content to back up the keywords or phrases that brought them there? Consider this: search-engine giant Google puts a high premium on relevant content, insisting that a site have a good deal of quality material to warrant emphasizing said keywords or phrases. Indeed, Google is focused on serving its users, not simply guiding them one way or another based on SEO rankings. So keep a visitor on your page with interesting, informative and, ideally, attractive content.
Any organization—especially a young fledging non-profit—needs to build up a little street cred, and a great way to do this is to get your website link on another site, preferably one that is respected and receives strong user traffic. An NPO can certainly profit off the legitimacy of others: for instance, if you sponsor lots of community events, get yourself onto civic-based calendar listings; if you do lots of outreach in certain public sectors such as schools or municipal entities, always ask to be listed on their sites as a partner or, at the very least, a like-minded “friend” or “supporter.” But beware of the ultimate black hat tactic known as “link farms,” which put a premium on getting your site posted anywhere and everywhere rather than on quality sites only.