Let’s talk about a term that gets online communications professionals geeked out but often makes the average person overwhelmed.
Search engine optimization, also known simply as SEO, is a term that gets thrown around a lot. Yet many people do not have a clear understanding of what SEO is and far too many have misconceptions about how to use this tool in their marketing outreach.
Here are some of the key things you need to know if you want to harness the power of SEO and use it to grow your organization, bring in more supporters and widen your audience reach.
The basics of SEO
Search engine optimization is all about hoping search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing find your website.
When someone enters a keyword or phrase in the search bar of their browser the search engine looks for websites that use that term.
For example, if you are looking for information about training the new dog you just got from the shelter, you may search for something like “obedience training for dogs.” The search engine then will show you websites that talk about obedience training for dogs.
To show up in the results, you will need to use that SEO keyword and phrase in your website several times and offer good related content.
The most important parts of the website to use the keyword in are in the blog or page title, the URL for that particular post or page, and the meta description for that page.
These help show search engines that a particular page talks about those specific keywords and topics.
SEO is not some great mystery
SEO gives most people anxiety and this is often rooted in the misconceptions people have about the process of optimizing their web content.
They feel overwhelmed by the idea of optimization because they think that they have to know some secret complex algorithms and do things absolutely perfect in order to get their website ranked in search results.
This is not true, and while there are certain things you need to do, there is no secret formula that will always guarantee success.
This also means that even if you are not doing things perfectly, you can still improve your SEO and your results.
Getting started on the right foot
The key to successful search engine optimization is knowing what words and phrases you are trying to focus on.
You need to do some keyword and phrase research before you begin.
Go into a search engine and start typing in terms and phrases related to your nonprofit and the work you do in the community. See what sites are being ranked.
When you see competitors ranking (yes, there are competitors in the nonprofit space), try working those keywords into your own webpages to tap into those rankings and wear down your competitors some as well.
This is the best way to get started off on the right foot when it comes to SEO.
Don’t forget whom your website really is for
The next thing I’m going to tell you might sound a little strange after pumping up the importance of SEO. But the reality is that there is more to getting your website noticed than just focusing on SEO.
According to online marketing guru Neil Patel, stuffing keywords throughout your website isn’t going to help much anymore in the search rankings department. That’s because almost every keyword has become too competitive and it could take hours to find a non-competitive one.
Instead, Patel said, focus more on producing the best content with a variety of terms and context that really explain your issues to your main audience.
Confused? Don’t be. Here’s how I see this working out for most nonprofits, who are probably busier focusing on their next campaign rather than getting caught up in all this search engine stuff.
First and foremost, take some time to better explain what your organization is all about and how you’re changing your community in a different way from everyone else. And don’t just do this on the homepage of your website. Keep explaining more about the difference your organization is making in people’s lives on every page of your website (even the contact page).
If you’re wondering where you get that information from, you’ve probably already summarized everything when you started having discussions about what issues your organization wants to tackle in the community.
From those discussions and content that you plan to post on your website, you’re probably going to have some words or phrases that come up frequently. Those are the keywords that you should strategically place on pages throughout your website.
Next, make sure you have the Yoast plugin installed on your website (this is another reason why I recommend building websites with WordPress). By filling out a few basic questions about your organization, Yoast will give your website an SEO boost right out the gate.
Yoast also forces you to enter keywords for each blog post or page and gives specific recommendations on how to improve the SEO for each piece of content you publish.
But don’t get too bogged down with trying to find the right keyword for every single thing you publish on your website.
Overall, the best way to bring more people to your website (and essentially more supporters to your organization) is to speak to people’s values. The traffic will eventually come.
So if police brutality is a frequent problem in your community, I’m sure you already know how to make some noise in the streets and organize an action to bring more awareness to people.
But make sure to document what you’re doing on your website and explain the issue better than anyone who might have tried to explain it before. That’s when the real results happen with SEO.
Remember, you don’t have to work at Google or Facebook or be a computer science expert to get this stuff right.
You should focus on giving each important page of your website a targeted keyword. But just know that when you focus more on writing for humans than on ranking for the keyword, good things start happening for your website and your organization.