Imagine someone looking online for volunteer opportunities or services you provide. Would they find your organization? When you think about how to drive traffice to your nonprofit website, pay attention to how your site ranks in search engines like Google. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a website from search engines via "natural" (aka organic) search results. Here are 10 tips to make your nonprofit website search engine friendly:

1. Keyword research is the first step for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Take the time to figure out what words are used by the people you want to visit your site, and then use these words on the relevant pages. For example, if a potential supporter is searching for "animal shelters in Houston", you want to make sure the relevant web page on your site contains the words "animal shelters in Houston". Make sure you use these keywords in the first few words of your page title  because this is the most important bit of the page from a search engine's perspective. You should do this for all the pages in your site, but remember: don't just stuff the keywords in there; it still needs to make sense to humans!

2. Get some good advice from SEO sources on the web.
Unfortunately, not everyone knows as much as they say they do online and far too often SEO forums are full of bad advice so choose your sources well. We recommend:

Caution: There are also plenty of people out there who believe you can scam the search engines. We don't. Stick to ethical SEO (i.e. don't fill the page with hidden keywords) and you will be rewarded in the long term

 

3. Build a website that is easy for the search engines to understand.
Your website should make use of up to date technologies like Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to minimize the amount of formatting in the HTML page code. Remove the formatting and you're left with pure content - and search engines love that.

 

4. Make navigation easy.
Build clear text links to all parts of your site. Search engines can't follow image links or links embedded in animations like Flash, they like their navigation plain and simple - and so do many users.

 

5. Get links from trusted, relevant sources.
Links are like a vote for your page and you can't rank well without them. Unfortunately, buying links or being indiscriminate in the places you link to and places you request links from, is not the way to raise the importance of your site. Think quality not quantity.

Links must be relevant to the content matter of your site and they must be from high-quality websites. Use keywords in the links you have coming into your site. For example, ‘See our adoptable puppies in Houston' is a much better incoming link than ‘View our pets'

 

6. Build a sitemap page to help the search engines discover every page in your site.
Sitemaps list the pages in your site along with brief keyword-rich descriptions of the page. If you have too many pages on your site, create as many sitemaps as you need and make sure they're linked together.

 

7. Don't forget the technical stuff.
There are lots of things that happen in the background that can cause problems with the way the search engines see your site. For example, if you use a cheap web hosting company, your nonprofit site might be on the same web server as a pornographic site that Google really doesn't like - guilt by association. Also, does your website use techniques that search engines don't like, like certain types of redirection? Just a few simple questions should be enough to recognize if your web design firm knows what they are talking about, such as:

1) Does my site use 302 (bad) redirects or 301 (good) redirects?

2) Should I be using meta description tags? Answer: Yes, but only to encourage searchers to click through to my site, not as SEO.

 

8. Track your progress with web analytics.
There are lots of free options to use and most likely your web hosting service or content management system already has some reports and tracking included. In addition to this, Google Analytics is easy to use and provides a wealth of information for free. Web analytics tell you how people interact with your site and where your web traffic is coming from. You can track the progress of any changes that you make to see if they are working.

 

9. Tell the search engines where you are by submitting your site details to them.
This doesn't guarantee a better position in the results, but it certainly helps. Both Google and Bing have tools to submit a list of all the pages in your site:

If you verify your site with Google & Bing (instructions are on the site, although the process does require some technical skill) you will also find valuable information about how well and how often your site is being examined by the search engines.

 

10. Content is King.
Create great content and keep it up to date. Search engines love sites like blogs, which are regularly refreshed. At the end of the day, even a site that ranks well and gets lots of visitors is no good if the visitors don't like what they see.

Adapted from Kellysearch.com


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