Updated: May 5th, 2020
For nonprofits, awareness is critical in order to gain support, capture volunteers, and grow donations. But the question is, how do you grow that following on the web? While there are many avenues you can take in the world of digital marketing for nonprofits, we find that local SEO is a great place to start.
Local SEO allows you to focus on a specific geographical region, enabling your nonprofit to target the correct audience. It also focuses on intent. When an individual searches for “nonprofits near me” or “volunteer opportunities near me”, you’d expect your nonprofit to show up in the results.
With a solid local SEO strategy, the likelihood of your nonprofit appearing on the first page of search results increases dramatically.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is just one facet of SEO, but it is often underutilized and under-appreciated. To put it simply, local SEO is a specific strategy and implementation used to optimize your site in order to help it rank for local organic searches.
Google’s definition of local is, “ …based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. These factors are combined to help find the best match for your search.” You have control over 1 out of 3 of these factors, prominence.
Relevance is dependent on what the searcher’s intent is, while distance is based entirely on where the user is located when searching as well as their proximity to you and other relevant competitors. Working to increase your nonprofit’s prominence will naturally help with the other 2 factors.
Why is Local SEO Important for Nonprofits?
Local SEO is important for nonprofits because it gets your organization and your message in front of the right people. Many nonprofits, community organizations, and grassroots movements start with local volunteers, members, and activists before growing nationally.
Getting your message across to those in your area or region is vital for growing participation in your organization. Particularly if your nonprofit is oriented around a local issue or has a regional focus, local SEO can help target potential members in your city, county, or state.
For example, an environmental nonprofit focused on combating climate change in Oregon needs to reach a different audience than one in Washington (even though their mission may be the same).
Getting your nonprofit in front of the right people, growing awareness about your organization, and garnering support for it, both in terms of volunteers and donations, starts with a local SEO strategy tailored to nonprofits.
How to Increase Your Nonprofits Online Presence
There are many reasons why local SEO is important for both businesses and nonprofits. Increasing your online presence is at the core of them. For nonprofits, many of the local SEO tactics are the same but need to be tailored to the organization.
Although increasing your visibility and rankings may seem like an uphill battle, it is certainly possible with time, patience, and a good strategy.
Here are 7 reasons why local SEO can help you improve your nonprofits online presence:
- NAP Consistency
- Local Keywords
- Off-Page SEO
- Press & Events
1. Correct Name, Address, & Phone Number (NAP)
Having your nonprofits name, address, and phone number (NAP) consistent across the web is harder than you may think. These 3 simple things directly affect your search engine rankings and are used frequently by them.
Google loves consistency and they certainly reward it when it comes to local SEO and your nonprofits NAP.
This information needs to be accurate on your nonprofit’s website. When updating listings or linking back to your website, the information you provide needs to match the NAP on your main site. This is an easy way to quickly increase your credibility with search engines.
Here are some tips when it comes to NAP consistency:
- Create a “master” document where the correct information lives for reference
- It should be located in the footer on every page of your site
- It needs to be consistent across all platforms (like social media), listings, and mentions
- Decide from the start if you will abbreviate anything. If so, keep it that way everywhere
- Try not to change or update it often
- Use the correct format for your phone number: ###-###-### or (###) ###-####
- Triple check before you post or make any changes, especially if you have moved or changed your contact information
Even the smallest difference in your NAP across the web can dampen your nonprofit’s internet credibility. Be sure to take your time and fix the inconsistencies as you find them. Credibility matters when it comes to search engine rankings.
2. Find, Claim, and Update Your Listings
Online directories, or listings, play a role in improving your nonprofit’s local SEO. Search engines go to these directories looking for relevant information to display about your nonprofit.
The goal here is accuracy and (you guessed it) consistency. The more accurate and consistent these listings are (NAP) the more credible your nonprofit is in the eyes of Google or Bing. On top of that, the more listings you have builds trust with search engines, which in turn increases your ranking in local search results.
There are hundreds of different listings out on the web and it will take some serious time for you to find, claim, and update them all. But there is hope. You can easily take care of the main ones, such as Google My Business, Yelp, Bing Places, and Facebook.
Google My Business is by far the most important listing site (in the eyes of Google) and many of the other, lesser-known listings directories pull information for your GMB listing. Setting up and optimizing your Google My Business page is relatively easy and straightforward, however, maintaining it and regularly updating it takes time. Don’t forget about the second tier (free) directories as well. These directories operate like old school phone books but are still important to keep an eye on.
3. Manage Your Reviews
It’s no secret that reviews continue to be important. Google, Yelp, Bing, and other review sites provide your volunteers and supporters with an opportunity to let the world know how they feel about your nonprofit.
When it comes to local SEO, the quality, frequency, and amount of reviews your nonprofit has, will help with your nonprofits authority in search results.
Positive reviews have the ability to drive more visibility to your nonprofit. From a local SEO standpoint, encourage your supporters and volunteers to leave reviews. Google, Bing, and Yelp reviews build trust and credibility with potential donors and search engines.
Reviews on Google and Bing are important to grow. These reviews will show up on the “knowledge graphs” in search results and help your potential donors learn more about your nonprofit. Having positive reviews featured on these graphs is a great way to capture their attention
Conversely, your nonprofit can get negative reviews as well. If this happens, a swift reply is required. Respond to reviews in a timely manner accompanied by an appropriate answer. Directing these unhappy individuals to contact you directly is a great way to manage and contain the damage that can be done by negative reviews. Responding to these reviews shows others that you are listening and want to find a solution.
Reviews, positive or negative, directly affect your nonprofit’s goals. Get a jumpstart on improving your local SEO by reaching out to your current supporters and volunteers and asking them for a review!
4. Use Local Keywords
The keywords you choose for your nonprofit are (forgive the pun) … “key”. You want to make sure you are ranking for the right terms so that users searching the web can find your website.
Local keywords work the terms users in your area are searching for as well as including geographic locations in your terms. Using words like the city you are located in, the state your organization operates in, or even the county or town you do work in, can help you show up to nearby searchers.
Here is a formula for nonprofit keywords that you can use. For most local nonprofits, your searchers will be searching for the type of organization you are, the volunteer opportunities you offer, or the issue you address + “near me”.
Google has gotten really good at identifying near me searchers and using the searcher’s geographic location to identify where that “near me” search is coming from. Once it’s identified that “near me” is coming from Portland, OR, it will then pull up results that are in “Portland, OR”.
If your organization is in Portland but doesn’t use “Portland” in the SEO title of your webpage, Google is going to have to work twice as hard to find your organization, cross-reference your business (NAP) info, understand that you are in Portland, and display you in results for “Portland.” By not including geo-modifiers in your local keyword strategy, you run the risk of not showing up for local searches at all.
Geo-modifying your SEO keywords, titles, meta descriptions, and content, are essential for a solid nonprofit SEO strategy.
5. Create a Local Content Marketing Strategy
Your geo-modified keywords can also be used to create local content. After all, simply titling your webpage: Climate Change Volunteer Opportunities in Portland isn’t enough to rank high for that term, you need on-page content to back it up.
Creating high-quality content can be quite difficult. Gone are the days of simply stuffing a few keywords into your content and expecting to rank for them. Nowadays, high-quality content means answering all the questions a searcher might have on a topic as well as all the related subtopics.
A good nonprofit local content marketing strategy means creating content about your organization, your mission, your location and all other related topics. Whether this is through web pages, blog posts, infographics, or something else, creating content takes time, but can go a long way towards informing, educating, and connecting your readers to your mission. A blog about local community issues, events, news, or updates is a great place to start.
6. Off-Page SEO Can Go A Long Way
Designing your website and making sure it’s SEO friendly is the foundation of a good nonprofit digital marketing strategy. But if you really want to see big results, you need to turn to off-page factors as well.
Off-Page SEO is quite a simple term, but in practice, it’s difficult to do. Off-Page SEO is any action taken to increase a page’s search ranking without making any edits, updates, or changes to the actual site. So what does this mean?
In a word: Backlinks. Backlinking is the heart of off-page SEO and involves getting other websites to link to your website. The more high authority, relevant websites linking to your content, the more valuable Google deems your website to be, thus raising all of your rankings.
Backlinks are like votes of confidence in your website, and the more you have the better. In order to get backlinks, a comprehensive link building strategy for nonprofits is essential. While link building takes time, for smaller businesses the results can be massive. A few well-placed backlinks from reputable sources can go a long way towards improving your overall search rankings.
7. Utilize Local Press & Events
Note: At the time of last update, COVID-19 is still ongoing and affecting public gatherings through social distancing. The effectiveness of this tactic is still worth noting.
One way to get backlinks to your nonprofits website is through hosting events and getting press for them. Local press can be like hitting the jackpot for your nonprofit.
Getting your local news organization, journalists, industry blogs, community websites, or online magazines to write up a piece of content about your organization or an event that it is hosting is a great way to spread the word about your nonprofit, while also getting a few quality backlinks in the process.
For example, you could show a locally-produced film about Climate Change in Oregon. You would first create a web page on your site about the event, then reach out to as many local news outlets and online publications as possible via email about the event. Let them know (nicely) all the details about the event, the page in which they can find those details, then let the journalists get to work! Boom, half a dozen backlinks for your website.
Your Local SEO Experts
At Intuitive Digital, we have a great team of SEO and digital marketing experts who are here to help your nonprofit grow in more ways than one. Being a local company ourselves, we understand the importance of appearing in local search results. Reach out today if you’re interested in getting a digital marketing or SEO strategy for your nonprofit.