Nailing Your Non-Profit SEO Strategy

From their legal structures to their taxing regulations, non-profits operate differently than their for-profit counterparts. They also differ in the way they should approach SEO strategy. Once reserved for the technically elite, virtually any company can now use search engine optimization to its advantage. In some ways, SEO stakes for non-profit companies are higher; improved search result ranking can mean the difference between people finding your potentially life-saving services and missing out.

As a non-profit entity, your end goals are likely different than other organizations. While a doctor’s office may be primarily focused on conversions, for example, your goal is likely to seek out donors, volunteers, and other companies to form partnerships. For these reasons, you need a more specific approach. So how do you slam-dunk your SEO strategy?

Think About Your Approach to Content

All organizations should strive to produce quality content. But the way your non-profit produces material is going to be different than, say, a restaurant or a hospital. While most companies focus on thought leadership (which you certainly should), your main focuses should be:

  • Telling a story. Share your successes and passion for your mission. You want people to click that link to volunteer or donate. One of the best ways to do that is to explain how your organization fulfills its mission. It can be something as simple as a written testimonial, but videos are better. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth ten thousand – at least when it comes to your SEO strategy.

  • Explaining how donations are used. People want to know what their money is used for much more than they want a package of address labels with the organization name on them (I’m looking at you, Humane Society of America). Capture the good you’re doing with a catchy infographic, like this one from the American Cancer Society: Image Source: American Cancer Society, Inc.
Image Source: American Cancer Society, Inc.

  • Illuminate your audience to the scope of the problem. For example, one of my passion projects is alerting people to the presence of food deserts in urban areas like Detroit. When my graduate school department worked with a local organization to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in urban high schoolers, we took a survey asking students to identify various types of foods by picture. We used the results (i.e., over half of the students could not identify a “green bean”) to secure funding for projects.
  • Have an FAQ page. People are more likely to donate or volunteer if all of their concerns are alleviated first.

Determine Your Keywords

If you’re in the non-profit world, you’re probably in love with what you do. Sacrificing lifestyle to help others is just part of the job, and you’re ok with that. So doing things like coming up with long-tailed keywords may seem like a time sink when you have lives to change, but it’s well worth the investment. Assign someone to conduct a little research now, and you’ll be rewarded with increased traffic on your site (and more lives to change!). Consider these tips when you’re coming up with keywords:

  • Look at your site’s statistics. Where is traffic coming from, geographically and demographically?
  • What are competitors doing? Sure, you don’t have “competitors” if you’re working towards a common goal, but see what like-minded non-profits are doing.

Rethink Your Responsive Design

Responsive design is a buzzword we hear a lot about these days. Simply put, it refers to how “user-friendly” your website is. According to MobileCause, a cloud-based fundraising assistance company, more than half of potential donors will view your website on a mobile device before deciding whether or not to give. If yours isn’t properly outfitted for mobile or tablet devices, you’re losing out on potential donations. If your website isn’t responsive already, get your IT guru on it – posthaste.

Get External Links

Encouraging supporters to link back to you is one of the most important ways to boost SEO. Fortunately, as a non-profit organization, you carry an inherent brand of trust, and people are more likely to perceive you as a reputable organization. This makes it more likely for them to link to you naturally. Just give them the opportunity. Make your content easy to share by implanting widgets, logos, and badges for supporters to easily implant onto their own websites.

A Word About Budgets

Non-profits need to worry about budgetary constraints more so than their for-profit counterparts. Employees at non-profits are accustomed to wearing many hats, so your IT person may also be your marketing guru and digital consultant. Hiring an SEO strategist may not be in the quarterly, annual, or decade-long budget. So take simple steps to improve your SEO, like the ones listed above, but also:

  • Remember the simple things, like getting your listing in online white pages.
  • Create separate webpages for charitable events. This can bolster the amount of content you have and improve your SEO.

Non-profit search engine optimization requires a little finesse and some extra budget finagling, but it’s a worthwhile undertaking. Using a comprehensive strategy will connect you to donors and volunteers and put people in touch with your valuable services.

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Sarah Voigtman

Sarah is a native Michigander and mother of three. She spends her spare time searching for the perfect burger recipe and navigating the tumultuous waters of parenthood.

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