Why Nonprofits Should Invest in Local SEO + 7 Best Practices

Categories
Non Profit, Search Engine Optimization

Updated: March 14, 2024

As a nonprofit, have you ever wondered how to grow awareness, get more donors and recruit volunteers?

You’re not alone! 

While there are many avenues you can take in the world of digital marketing for nonprofits, we find that local SEO (search engine optimization) 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 something like “nonprofits near me” or “volunteer opportunities saving animals””, 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. 

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is a long-term strategy of optimizing a website 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 2 out of 3 of these factors – prominence and relevance. 

Thus – local SEO is about establishing the prominence of your business in a local area by optimizing your website using relevant content. 

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?

According to Google 61% of consumers said in a recent local search survey that they search locally every day.

That’s huge.

Local SEO, without a doubt,  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. 

Although local SEO has been around for many years, it’s become even more prevalent recently because of the surge of mobile users. When Google sees a user making a search with local intent, a Google Local Map Pack will be presented. 

Let’s explore that in more detail in the next section. 

What is the Google Map Pack?

map of nonprofits in portland, oregon

Google maps provides an easy and visual way for users to view businesses on a map. 

They can see how far away they are located, reviews from past donors, and get quick access to their contact information. 

Your target audience can easily click on your listing to call you, get directions to your business, or visit your website to learn more about your offerings.

Google will display map results above traditional search results because they know users with local intent are typically trying to find a physical location. 

How to Increase Your Nonprofit’s 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 best practices to help you improve your nonprofit’s online presence:

  1. NAP Consistency
  2. Listings
  3. Reviews
  4. Local Keywords
  5. Content
  6. Off-Page SEO
  7. Press & Events

1. Use the Correct Name, Address, & Phone Number (NAP)

Having your nonprofit’s 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 nonprofit’s 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.

Tips for 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

One study found that “71% of people had a negative experience with a business because of incorrect information listed online.” 

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, 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.

If your NAP is inconsistent across the web, your potential donors and volunteers might get confused and frustrated. It could weaken trust and lead to missed opportunities. For example, without accurate business hours, your customers might call you when you’re closed and hang up unhappy, which may cause them to go to one of your competitors instead. 

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 Business Profile, Yelp, Bing Places, and Facebook.

Google Business Profile 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 Business Profile 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.

Highlight Your Services and Categories

On Google Business Profile, make sure to select the categories and services that are most relevant to your business so you can attract the right people who are interested in your nonprofit work. 

3. Manage Your Reviews

Reviews, positive or negative, directly affect your nonprofit’s goals. 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.

According to Thrive, “82% of consumers read online reviews for businesses during a local search and spend close to 14 minutes doing so before making a decision.”

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.

Get a jumpstart on improving your local SEO by reaching out to your current supporters and volunteers and asking them for a review!

4. Onpage Local SEO Best Practices

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.

What does a good nonprofit local content marketing strategy consist of? 

Let’s take a deeper look.

Keyword Research

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.

Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

title and meta for a nonprofit in oregon

Title tags and meta descriptions are used to help search engines and humans know what the content is about. 

Although they may seem simple, they are crucial in enticing users to click on your listing vs your rivals. 

Important Things to Know:

  • Include your primary keyword at least once in either the title tag or meta description.
  • Keep title tags 60 characters or below so they don’t get cut off in SERPs. 
  • Keep meta descriptions 160 characters or below so they don’t get cut off in SERPs.
  • Place important keywords early in the title tag so they catch people’s attention.
  • Write naturally for readers and avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Have unique meta descriptions for every single page. 
  • Include a call-to-action within your meta description to give readers a clear action to take.  

Content

The geo-modified keywords you found during your keyword research can be used to create local content.

Simply titling your page and including the primary keyword aren’t enough for Google and readers to go off on.

They need on-page content to back it up. 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. Additionally, a blog about local community issues, events, news, or updates is a great place to start.

All the content you create for your site will contribute to E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness). 

Why is this important to you?

As of December 2022, it’s Google’s way of making sure that your content meets user’s search intent, and the stronger your E-E-A-T, the higher your rankings.

Furthermore, a strong E-E-A-T can improve trust with new users and boost conversions, whether that’s getting more volunteers, donations, or both. 

How to Improve Your E-E-A-T

EXPERIENCE: Having actual experience with a specific topic or product shows that the insights are authentic. One way to do this is to create a case study that showcases some of the past work that’s been competed.  

EXPERTISE: Users want to know about your credentials. What type of education and years of experience do you have? Providing this information upfront helps to demonstrate knowledge in the subject matter and instill trust with newcomers. One way to do this is by creating an author bio at the bottom of the page that describes their education, years in the nonprofit field, and specializations. 

AUTHORITATIVENESS: Authoritativeness simply refers to your reputation in the nonprofit industry. Do you frequently publish studies? Do you do a lot of community work?

One way to do this is to have one of your experts (PhD, MD, Director Level) fact check the article and highlight it towards the top of the page.

TRUSTWORTHINESS: Trustworthiness refers to how trustworthy an overall site is. Some ways to improve this factor include:

  • Being clear about who wrote the blog content
  • Citing your sources
  • Avoid hiding content behind a wall of ads or spammy Donate buttons
  • Having a secure Donate page with the proper security to protect user’s confidential information 

5. Off-Page SEO Can Go A Long Way

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. 

How do you do this?

Backlinks and public relations!

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. 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.

Here are few tips to increase the number of backlinks:

  • Create high quality pages and assets such as infographics and data-driven studies to naturally attract backlinks.
  • Promote them on your social media accounts.
  • Find broken links on other sites within your niche and reach out to the webmasters. Notify them about the broken link on their site and offer one of your pages that is similar for them to replace it with. 
  • Use HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to potentially earn links from the press. HARO connects journalists with sources, and if they choose to use your content, you can earn a backlink. 
  • Conduct a link gap analysis on your competitors to uncover sites that are linking to them but not to you. Chances are high that if they are linking to your rivals, they’ll most likely link to you.

Public Relations

Do you feel like some nonprofits get all the attention? 

You’re not alone!

Just over 2% of nonprofits account for approximately 90% of the revenue in the industry. 

It must be because they’re extremely large or plain lucky.

Well, not necessarily. 

PR, which is the practice of promoting an organization via media, plays a big part in one’s success. Increased media coverage offers numerous benefits such as:

  • Increasing brand awareness and getting eyes in front of people who’ve never heard of you.
  • Raising awareness in your mission and impact in the community and the world.
  • Attracting more volunteers and influencers who will continue to spread the word about your organizations with their friends and families.
  • Acquiring more donations from new and returning donors.
  • Host local events and contact the local news to do a piece. 

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. 

When done right, crafting a compelling backlink and PR strategy may bring in huge rewards.

Let Intuitive Digital Grow and Strengthen Your Local Presence

Whether you’re looking to start local SEO for the first time or you need some help with optimizing your existing strategy, we’ve got you covered.

Being a local company ourselves, we understand the importance of appearing in local search results. If you need help with claiming your local business profiles, managing your reviews, or optimizing your SEO best practices, don’t hesitate to give us a ring.

We’re just a call  (503-206-4988) or form fill away!

About the Author

Jess Chang

Jess is an SEO Digital Strategist who enjoys helping businesses crush their goals by increasing their online presence and boosting total number of conversions. During non-work hours, she enjoys going to the gym, traveling the world, and trying new foods!

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