The power of search engine optimization (SEO) is irrefutable. When your organization is easier to find on Google and Bing, you’ll generate more visibility around your work. Your nonprofit will experience the perks that come with bringing more people to your website—from increased membership to PR attention and beyond.
When it comes to success with SEO, long-tail is the name of the game. In other words, your best strategy is to target phrases or expressions that you’re using to target your audience. To understand this difference, take a look at the following examples of long-tail keywords:
“keyword research tips for nonprofits”
“improve distribution to your blog posts”
“tips for increasing membership rates for nonprofits”
Unlike keyword expressions like “marketing tips” or “nonprofit marketing tips,” long-tail keywords revolve around a very specific search intent. They’re also challenging to identify, as Google releases minimal search engine data to the public. You’ll need to do some research to ensure that you’re taking the right steps forward. The good news? We've got a proven-framework for success.
Tips for Creating and Optimizing Your Nonprofit's Keyword Strategy
1) Brainstorm a Topic List
Get 5 people in a room with a whiteboard, and start brainstorming a list of topics that are important to your organization. These can be anything: problems that your nonprofit is tackling, communities that you serve, issues you stand for, or services that you offer. The more broad the better—you’ll want to create a list that’s thorough and comprehensive. Worry first about major themes, and then dig into specifics afterwards.
With some creative mind-mapping and outlining, you can structure this brainstorm into a list of keywords that you can research. By starting with the keywords first, you’ll ensure an approach that prioritizes your audience’s needs over any algorithm.
2) Organize Your Brainstorm
Take the brainstorms you generated, and start grouping your ideas by causes, communities, and personas. The, translate this ideation process into a cohesive list of topic ideas. From there, create a list of keywords that are relevant to each topic (eventually, you’ll commit to focusing on one keyword per topic).
What you’ll soon realize is that there are numerous directions that you can take with your content. Take a step back to understand why, and figure out the directions and angles that are most on-point with your cause. This approach will help ensure that your ideas are the right combination of interesting, engaging, and easy to find through search engines.
3) Research Related
The beauty of natural language is that it’s subjective. That’s why, after building your initial blog topic and SEO keyword lists, you’ll want to research similar angles and directions. You might also ask another team member to help—just to provide an extra eye and set of recommendations.
Your keyword research should involve SEO tools, conversations with customers, and data from your web analytics software. Cast your net wide and figure out what you don’t know. Look for hidden opportunities to reach your target audiences through search.
4) Mix Long-Tail and Head Terms
Just because long-tail is the name of the game doesn’t mean that you should avoid head terms altogether. After you’ve managed your SEO strategy for six months to a year, you’ll start to see trends among keywords that are driving traffic.
Use this long-tail success data to continue to identify other potential head terms. Think of these as keywords that are more general—and more competitive to rank for in search engines as a result. Using long-tail keyword data, you can better target the head terms that are most aligned with your brand and that make sense to target as a result.
5) See Where Your Competitors Fall
The search landscape is highly competitive: you’ll want to understand how Google ranks key players in your industry. See where your competitors fall by conducting keyword research audits on their blogs and websites.
Instead of looking to replicate what they’re doing however, look for hidden opportunities. Among nonprofits, especially, similar organizations should work together and share successes—not try to outrank each other.
The knowledge of how your partner and peer institutions are ranking can help you come up with ideas that you may not have previously seen. Don’t build your SEO strategy in a bubble: know what others are doing so that your nonprofit is visible, too.
6) Cut Down Your List to Start
When it comes to a successful SEO strategy, planning is only part of the equation. Execution is equally important.
Make sure that you’re focused in your approach: start by targeting a few keywords and monitoring the results of those efforts. Replicate what works, nix what doesn’t, and keep forging ahead with small, steady tests. Over time, you’ll see trends that you wouldn’t have been able to foresee.
Focus with SEO is key. If you spread yourself too thin, you won’t see real results.
Need More Support?
Here’s a free SEO template, along with some in-depth instructions. These resources are designed for the corporate sector, but the tips are just as applicable to nonprofits.
Be sure to re-evaluate your process every few months: once a quarter is a good benchmarks. As you start to build visibility in search, you can add more keywords to your lists.
Grow slowly and steadily. Watch what your nonprofit peers are doing. Aim to be relevant. Structure, strategy, patience, and creativity will be your best SEO assets.
Originally published Feb 9, 2016 7:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017