SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is crucial for any nonprofit that wants to have an online presence. This is not just limited to for profit companies that are trying to market themselves. It means more than just building a website and assuming your organization will win search rankings. You need to practice SEO in order to place higher than other nonprofits with the same name or in the same arena.
Take a quick test: Google these three search terms: your organization's name, your organization's name and city, and your organization's field and city. For example, "Tampa Humane Society," "Humane Society, Tampa FL," and "animal welfare Tampa FL."
Where did your organization rank? If you do some proper SEO, your site should appear at the very top of the search rankings, or at least the top 5. If your SEO efforts are lacking, your site may not have even appeared on the first page. We have seen several nonprofits which websites are outranked rather severly, even by newspapers that wrote a single article about the organization. Obviously this will not do for nonprofits that are trying to increase pledges through their online efforts.
One SEO technique for nonprofits is to publish your newsletter on your website. The easiest (and best) way to do it is to publish each individual article as a blog post. This helps your SEO by giving additional content for the search engines to find. The more content you create, the better your search engine performance. You can still publish your newsletter, but recycle the content and use it in more than one location.
Another option is to publish the entire month's newsletter on an a separate web page. This will keep each article on one page, which will make it easier for your web programmer, but will not give you as many SEO benefits as the blog option. Remember, good SEO is based on frequency and recency, meaning update a lot, update often. If you can republish your articles as blog posts, you will have better SEO results than if you publish a single page newsletter.
Another SEO technique is to purchase a domain name that includes your field and city. This is one of the best ways to improve SEO rankings. Get a unique, local domain name – "TampaAnimalWelfare" or "TampaFloridaAnimalWelfare" – and create a single page with basic information about your organization, with links back to your main website. Be sure to use keyword-rich content in order to win the searches for that particular term. By creating a microsite like this, you can have a powerful backlink to your main website, which improves its rankings.
If you have offices in more than one city, use this technique for each city, county, and state. Or if your field can be defined by many different terms – animal welfare, animal protection, animal care, animal shelter – then use each term with your city. The more pages you can do this with, the better your search engine placement. You can purchase inexpensive domain names from sites like GoDaddy.com, and they will often provide you with a single page for free.
A final SEO technique is to use videos as part of your marketing. Messages from the CEO, videos of special events, speeches, and fund raising events. Host your videos on YouTube, create your own YouTube channel, and embed the videos in blog posts or web pages. Not only are videos some popular content for search engines, but it is another way to get your audience and donors engaged with your organization, and to deepen the relationship.
While many nonprofits do not like to think of themselves as a business, they need to remember that they are competitive for discretionary dollars, not only with other nonprofits, but with restaurants, movie theaters, bookstores, and TV. The sooner nonprofits start approaching their fund raising and development as a real sales and marketing effort, they will begin to see dividends from their SEO efforts.