Struggling to get your message out there?
You pour so much passion and hard work into your nonprofit, but if no one is finding your NGO online, that can feel a little discouraging.
Help your nonprofit get the resources it needs by boosting its chances of appearing for relevant users in Google Search results.
Follow these simple SEO tips for nonprofit success in digital marketing.
1. Hone Your Message – Don’t try to be everything to everyone
Before you start bringing in people to your site, you need to make sure what they’ll find there is relevant, up to date, accurately reflects your mission, and is easy to quickly learn what you’re all about.
If they are confused about what your nonprofit does or can’t easily find ways to engage, they’ll just bounce. And what’s the point of channeling SEO efforts to locate your audience in search results if they reach your website or social profiles that haven’t been updated in a year? (There’s no point).
Appearing for new users in search results is a huge piece of your nonprofit digital marketing strategy, but funneling more folks your way won’t help if you’re not capitalizing on the users already coming in by connecting with them in a meaningful way.
Here are a few things, in particular, to focus on:
- Your homepage should make a great first impression and clearly convey your mission.
- Pages on your site should bring out emotion from readers as well as provide useful information.
- Utilize your ‘About’ page to tell your audience why you do what you do, it’s a great way to connect with others who can get behind your goals.
- Your contact information should always be up to date.
- Do you run events? Keep those consistently updated.
- Use images, nobody likes a wall of text.
Consider How Your Website Functions
Along with conveying your message to users once they land on your site, you should spend some time evaluating what that user will experience when engaging with your content.
Your main navigation goes a long way to make things as easy on users as possible.
If you’re working with a traditional left-to-right site navigation, you’ll want to prioritize the actions you’d like users to take.
Since your mission is a big part of how users will connect with you, consider putting your About page farthest to the left. Use a drop down if you have many pages that fall under that category to keep the top-level nav items simple and easy to understand.
Pages like volunteers, donations, classes, resources, etc. should be immediately next on the left to prioritize your main action-items.
Follow these other supplemental resource pages, a blog, etc. and then the far-right item should be your contact page or another major call to action item.
While you’re at it, make sure all your forms, donation buttons, email links, and phone links are functioning properly— you wouldn’t want to miss out on a connection due to a technical error.
If your site is badly in need of a refresh, you might consider a new nonprofit website design.
2. Keywords for Nonprofits – How to actually show up in search results
Take your first step towards being discovered in search results by focusing on the specific wording you use for your site content.
This will be one of the most important components of your nonprofit SEO strategy.
Your readers on average are probably at a lower reading level than you’d expect. A digital marketing general rule is to typically aim for an 8-10th grade reader level, depending on the technical nature of the content.
You likely have specific terminology with which you refer to your nonprofit work, but how common are those words? A tough compromise you may need to make is finding a middle ground between how you want to talk about your nonprofit vs how the average person might describe the work you do.
So when crafting your messaging, you’ll need to throw in some terms that could help them (and Google) make the connection between their searching intent and your website. That’s where keyword research comes in.
Nonprofit Keyword Research
Keyword research is the process of finding specific terms that you can use on your website to convince Google that your site is relevant and should be shown to users searching specific terms (more on this in the next section).
Your job will be to find words that users are actually searching, determine if those words match your nonprofit’s mission, and then include those words on your website.
If every piece of that connection lines up, you’ll be targeting your desired audience and your desired audience will find that your website matches their original search intent. If any part of that breaks down, Google will notice and no longer list your site for those terms.
Keyword Examples for Nonprofits
Let’s assume you want to get more volunteers for your nonprofit.
When choosing keywords, it may be tempting to go for keyword targets like ‘nonprofit volunteer opportunities’— which could be a great one to include in the content of your website no matter what, but it casts a very wide net as your primary keyword.
Take a moment to put yourselves in the users’ shoes. Likely they already have causes that are near and dear to their hearts, much like your cause is to yours. You want to find the people that share your passion. And chances are those people are searching for something a bit more specific than generic volunteer opportunities when they’re looking to volunteer for a cause you both believe in.
“Your purpose” + “volunteer opportunities” is a great formula to start with (examples of this could include environmental volunteer opportunities, lgbtq volunteer opportunities, or homeless volunteer opportunities depending on your organization). That way, you’ll increase your potential for showing up on those specific searches.
Even if that means fewer overall users, the traffic that does see you is all the more likely to be interested in your exact cause. Quality over quantity! Plus, chances are you’ll have trouble competing for broad keywords with some of the big organizations out there, so shooting for specifics can increase your chances of actually being seen.
Let’s look at another example of using keyword specificity for dog rescues. For this example, we consulted our office dog, Elsa. (Don’t worry, she’s very good at SEO).
You want to boost awareness and find more homes for your pups, meaning you need to find more users interested in adopting.
You could target keywords like “adopt a dog” or even “adopt a dog portland” for a good start (more on using your location later). Type that into a Google search as is, and you’ll see that some bigger rescues show up first. Oregon Humane Society and Petfinder have those top spots pretty much locked down, which is great for the doggos in those organizations. But doesn’t leave much room for the smaller rescues to gain any ground in SERPs.
So, say you are involved with rescuing a certain breed of dogs from a specific area, that gives you some specificity to work with. You could use keywords like “adopt a pitbull” or “mexican street dog rescue” to connect with an audience that is looking for a particular breed or to help out with a specific influx of dogs from a higher-need location.
Once you have an idea of the terms you’d like to target to find the right audience, you can use tools such as Ahrefs or Keywords Everywhere to determine how many people are actually searching for those words. Choose the terms that have some monthly searchers, but also aren’t too competitive.
You’ll want to use these keywords in your page content (both in headings and in your text), on your page titles, and in your meta descriptions. Yoast is a great plugin for WordPress to control the page titles and meta descriptions for your nonprofit.
Use Your Location in Keywords
As you might have noticed in the examples above, adding geolocation terms will be a big deal for most nonprofits.
Nonprofits tend to be directly tied to communities and local regions, and if that’s the case for you, much of your audience is going to be discovering you from nearby searches.
Google does this automatically if it is able to tell where the user is located when searching and also has a clear understanding of your physical address.
However, adding your location to your keyword targeting can make a big difference too. It can be as simple as “volunteer portland homeless”, “climate change volunteer portland”, or “wildlife nonprofit oregon”.
3. Claim Your Google My Business
Speaking of local nonprofit SEO, something that will be absolutely critical for you to do is claim your Google My Business.
If you have an address, you likely have a Google My Business. Even if you didn’t make it, Google does it automatically sometimes. Sometimes even when you have one Google will make another one, it’s a whole thing, it’s them, not you.
And since Google owns the listing platform, it’s placed so prominently it can really make or break your first impression for nearby searchers.
To learn about claiming your listing and optimizing it, check out our related article on the importance of Google My Business.
Google posts, regularly
Within Google My Business, there is a feature called Google Posts.
Once you have your listing claimed, make it a weekly occurrence to update your Google Posts. You can add items like events, new blog posts, or just simple posts promoting your mission.
Staying consistent with these posts will boost your local signals as well as improve click-throughs to your site.
4. Social Media
Social media is a huge propeller for your message and vision. It can often go hand in hand with your organic SEO efforts.
Social media for nonprofits allows you to stay connected with users that are already invested in your cause, it lets current followers share content that might bring in more users, and regularly updating your feeds will increase your chances of organic discovery.
Are you running a dog rescue? Get on Instagram! Dogs rule Instagram— how can you say no to those sweet eyes in your feed?
Are you fighting for workplace equality? Stay active on LinkedIn to make connections with companies that share the same values.
Are you active in politics and policy reform? Keep your finger on the pulse with Twitter.
Youth-focused? I hear the kids these days love TikTok.
And of course, the catch-all giant, Facebook is always a good presence to maintain to ensure you’re reaching a wide variety of folks.
In any case, keeping your profiles and feeds actively updated will be the best way for your nonprofit social media to integrate into SEO strategy. You can also take it a step further with paid social advertising for nonprofits.
Partner with a Nonprofit-Focused SEO Firm
Chances are you already have a lot on your plate with running your nonprofit.
If adding a comprehensive digital marketing strategy that includes nonprofit SEO seems daunting, there are resources you can use!
Intuitive Digital is a values-based organization that loves to work with a variety of nonprofits. Talk with us about the best way to propel your message and find your audience.