Practical SEO Advice for Nonprofit Marketing
Updated: Jun 9
Hello, nonprofits! I manage the Salesforce.org blog, so I know what it takes to develop quality content and drive traffic to your website.
Here are a few pieces of advice to help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as part of your nonprofit marketing, based on my years of experience as a marketer and in my role at Salesforce.org, where I help produce over 250 blogs a year (about one per weekday) from over 100 authors a year, as well as other content like research reports.
Get Noticed with SEO: Why Would Someone Want to Find Your Website?
Once you know your marketing strategy (specifically, what audience you want to reach), think about: what are people typing into online searches? What questions would they have that your organization would be specifically able to answer?
For example, a nonprofit in Nigeria that is working to fight corruption might have several audiences, such as local citizens who want to report issues, as well as international supporters. Think through key terms that each audience might use in a search.
1. Audience: Constituents
How to report corruption
How to report officials
End corruption in Nigeria
Remember, if you are working internationally, consider keywords in the local language. Your program managers or in-country field officers can help with this.
2. Audience: International Volunteers
Volunteering in Nigeria
Best Nigeria charities (note that "charity" is a more popular search term with 201,000 searches a month, vs. "nonprofit" with 74,000 searches/month, according to the Keywords Everywhere browser plugin)
Where I can volunteer to fight corruption
Donate to a Nigerian charity
3. Audience: Donors
Impact reports Nigeria charities
When thinking about keywords to use, think through what each audience cares about and what common language they might use in a search engine.
Practical SEO Advice
There are lots of resources about SEO (such as these resources from Google) so I’ll aim to distill what’s most important based on my own experience. My practical tips for nonprofit marketers to improve your SEO are:
1. Have human-readable web page names
An example is here from a meditation center. I have attended many of their classes; however, as of February 2019, their URL does not describe what the program is about: https://berkeley.shambhala.org/program-details/?id=358455
A better URL would be: https://berkeley.shambhala.org/friday-night-learn-to-meditate-2019-04-26
Why? It has a search term (‘learn to meditate’) and a unique identifier (the date: 2019-04-26) which can distinguish this event from the Friday night events that are every week. So you can still have a weekly recurring event page with the keyword in it, and have a different one that’s unique for every week you have a program.
2. Put keywords in titles of blogs
This is simple, but it’s important. Pick the main keyword you want to focus on as the title for your blog, and make the blog about that topic. Don’t try to stuff that keyword everywhere in the blog - it should flow naturally.
3. Use second-level headers in blogs and other web pages
See how I named this section “Practical SEO advice?” The algorithms that crawl the Internet look for structure, like page titles and second level headers, to “understand” what content is about. Make blogs and websites easy to skim.
4. Align content to popular news topics
For example, if you have end of year/January content that you want to get noticed, consider making a list of “10 New Year’s Resolutions for [topic]” because New Year’s Resolutions are a hot topic in January for many people.
5. Create internal links
In blogs and web pages, link to other relevant sections of your website on those pages. Don’t make your web pages stranded out in cyberspace - linking to related pages helps search engines crawl your website to get found (more page views, potentially) and helps people navigate your site. But don’t go overboard with tons of menus. Use your judgment.
6. Have about 1 link per 100 words of text
Links are great, but… like vitamins, you want to get enough, but don’t take too much!
7. Create external links
The goal here is to get other websites to link to yours. This is one way to show search engines that your organization is credible.
How: Got a board member who works at a well-known company? Get them to write about a volunteer experience and link back to your nonprofit’s website. Search engines pay attention to highly ranked webpages, and let’s face it – large companies have lots of money to spend on marketing, so they probably have high search rankings and… by linking to you, you can benefit from their marketing investment!
8. Add alt text to images
Alt text is the text that is used to describe an image, and is used in email marketing, web pages, blogs, etc. It’s useful because it makes it easier for people with limited or no vision using screen readers to access web pages, because alt text will be read aloud by the screen reader program. So a blind person can know what your image is showing, even if they can’t see it. The second use is that alt text is good for search engines, so you can put relevant keywords in alt text to improve your SEO. Just make sure it’s human-readable, OK?
For more information on going from marketing to fundraising, download the Nonprofit Recurring Giving Benchmark Study research. Read on to find what 115 organizations did well (and didn’t do well) across 115 donation pages, 4,117 emails, 534 direct mail letters and 83 phone calls in their fundraising. You’ll get practical tips on how to make your website more appealing to recurring donors.