As nonprofits navigate an ever-changing digital landscape, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a hot topic. How do new trends, tools, and norms affect how nonprofits should approach their SEO strategy in 2024 as they try to rank well for important keywords on Google and other search engines?
SEO strategies and approaches continue to shift and evolve year after year. With the most recent onset of generative AI-powered tools becoming mainstream and accessible to all organizations, SEO is discussed more and more. How effective can it be alongside generative AI? Is SEO becoming more automated and therefore creating even bigger competition?
Forum One works hand-in-hand with major civic and social organizations to ensure that their online content is effective and reaches target audiences. Below, we uncover six key strategies designed to elevate your organization’s digital presence through SEO. You’ll learn how to navigate a search engine results page with confidence and amplify your nonprofit’s reach and engagement in organic search.
The first three focus on “internal” strategies for keywords, content, and site organization—things you can do within your web properties to optimize them for search. The final three explore “external” tools and strategies to aid SEO once you’ve optimized your site, i.e., what else you can do to boost relevant traffic and high rankings.
1. Understand keywords and use them well
Keywords are words and phrases that potential visitors are likely to use when conducting online searches related to your organization or cause.
Keyword research is a fundamental aspect of SEO. You can start with your own list of words that probably seem obvious—e.g., your organization’s name and branded projects, words associated with your sector or cause, and the names of subject-matter experts on your staff.
From there, utilizing free tools such as Google Keyword Planner and Google Search Console is crucial. These SEO tools provide insights into search queries, allowing you to delve into search intent and understand what people are actively searching for, to uncover popular and relevant keywords aligned with your nonprofit’s mission. You’ll use these keywords in the content you create.
Pursue educational keywords related to your cause
Let’s say you’re a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental conservation. Instead of solely targeting generic keywords like “environmental conservation” or “green initiatives,” you might specifically go after educational keywords such as “impact of deforestation on ecosystems,” “benefits of sustainable agriculture,” or “carbon footprint reduction strategies.”
Crafting content around these specific educational topics not only positions your nonprofit as an expert in the field but also attracts an audience genuinely interested in learning more about the intricacies of environmental issues. This targeted approach can lead to increased visibility among individuals seeking in-depth information on relevant subjects, ultimately fostering a more informed and supportive community around your nonprofit’s cause.
On-page SEO best practices
Once you know your keywords, put them to work! Use the terms in high-quality, relevant, and valuable content (more on that in tip #2 below) and make that content easy to find by incorporating selected keywords into titles, headings, and meta tags. “On-page SEO” is the process of enhancing and maintaining these elements:
- Title tags: Crafted title tags are the initial impression users have of a page in search results, influencing click-through rates. It’s an SEO best practice to include any important keywords from the page in the title tag.
- Main body content: Optimizing main content with relevant keywords is crucial for effective SEO. This practice ensures that search engines accurately understand and rank the page’s content. By strategically incorporating keywords, websites align with user queries, attracting the right audience and improving overall online presence.
- Header tags: Header tags contribute to both the logical structure of content, aiding search engines in understanding information hierarchy, and the readability of the page for users. Much like title tags, it’s important to include any important keywords from the page in header tags.
- Optimized images: Add alt-text to images to not only serve visitors’ accessibility needs but also increase the chances of appearing in image searches.
- Meta description: Though not direct factors in ranking, meta descriptions help users understand what they’re clicking on, and seeing relevant keywords here may help visitors choose your content.
2. Create quality long-form content
Consistently generating new and high-quality content is fundamental for effective SEO. Your content should align with your identified target keywords while delivering substantial value to your audience.
Diversify your content strategy by incorporating various formats, including blog posts, articles, videos, and infographics. This not only appeals to different audience preferences but also enhances your website’s overall relevance and authority in the eyes of search engines.
E-E-A-T (Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) is a concept introduced by Google in its Search Quality Rater Guidelines. This framework is used by Google’s human evaluators to assess the quality of web pages and provide feedback on the search algorithm. Here’s a breakdown of each component:
- Expertise: This refers to the level of knowledge and skill demonstrated by the content creator or the website in a specific subject area. Content written by recognized experts or authorities in a field is likely to be considered more reliable.
- Experience: Google emphasizes the importance of firsthand experience in content creation, encouraging businesses to showcase real-life encounters with their subjects. Whether through firsthand product testing, genuine customer reviews, or authentic travel accounts, incorporating real experiences into content creation enhances trust and authority.
- Authoritativeness: Authoritativeness is about the perceived authority of the content or the website as a whole. Backlinks from other authoritative sites, citations, and the overall reputation of the website contribute to its authoritativeness.
- Trustworthiness: Trustworthiness assesses the reliability of the information and the overall integrity of the website. It considers factors such as transparency, honesty, and the site’s commitment to user privacy and security.
Publish Expert Content to Improve E-E-A-T
Publishing expert content to enhance E-E-A-T involves several key steps:.
- First, prioritize the creation of in-depth, well-researched content that showcases your subject matter expertise.
- Ensure that your authors and contributors are recognized authorities in their respective fields.
- Back up your content with credible sources, citations, and references.
- Actively engage with your audience through comments, forums, or social media to demonstrate responsiveness and build trust.
- Regularly update your content to reflect the latest industry trends and changes.
By consistently delivering valuable, accurate, and authoritative content, you can significantly improve your website’s E-E-A-T and strengthen its position in search engine rankings. While aligned with Google’s standards, these practices will serve you well in overall SEO.
Multilingual SEO for nonprofits is a strategic approach to optimize online content for audiences speaking different languages. For nonprofits with a global or diverse supporter base, implementing multilingual SEO ensures that their mission and message resonate effectively across linguistic barriers.
Multilingual SEO involves translating website content, metadata, and keywords to cater to the languages spoken by the target audience. Utilizing hreflang tags to indicate language and regional targeting, creating language-specific sitemaps, and offering a seamless user experience in multiple languages are essential components of multilingual SEO.
- More on this: “Developing an SEO Strategy for Translated Content”
3. Ensure optimized site performance and structure
Ensuring the technical soundness of your website is a foundational aspect of effective SEO. It involves addressing issues like crawl errors and broken links, and maintaining updated XML sitemaps. By systematically resolving these technical issues, you create a smoother pathway for search engine bots to navigate and index your site.
Additionally, optimizing the overall structure of your website not only improves the user experience but also aids search engines in comprehending the hierarchy and relevance of your content.
PageSpeed directly impacts user experience, search engine rankings, and core web vitals. A faster-loading website not only enhances user satisfaction but also aligns with search engines’ emphasis on delivering quality and efficient results to users. Google, in particular, considers PageSpeed as a ranking factor. PageSpeed can be optimized through techniques like image compression, browser caching, and minimizing server response times.
Your website’s loading speed significantly affects its ranking on both mobile and desktop devices. It’s essential to use tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to evaluate how quickly your webpages load and to assess your Core Web Vitals metrics.
A well-organized site structure plays a pivotal role in enhancing both user experience and search engine rankings. A clear and logical hierarchy makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index pages, ensuring that content is accurately understood and appropriately ranked. User-friendly navigation, with intuitive menus and strategically interlinked pages, improves the overall accessibility of a website, encouraging users to explore and engage with more content. A streamlined site structure also contributes to lower bounce rates and prolonged user sessions, both of which are positive signals for search engine algorithms.
Orphan pages refer to pages on a website that are not linked to by any other page. These isolated pages can harm SEO. Search engine crawlers may struggle to discover and index orphan pages, leading to reduced visibility in search results. Additionally, since these pages lack internal links, they miss out on the authority and relevance signals passed through the linking structure of a website.
Orphan pages may also result in poor user experience, as visitors may have difficulty finding them through natural navigation. To mitigate these issues, ensure that all pages on a website are appropriately linked within the site’s structure.
A sitemap serves as a blueprint of the structure and organization of a website’s content for search engines. It provides a comprehensive list of URLs, helping search engine crawlers navigate and index the site efficiently. By submitting a sitemap to search engines like Google, webmasters ensure that all relevant pages are discovered and considered for inclusion in search results. Additionally, a well-structured sitemap can reveal essential metadata, such as the last modification date of a page, facilitating timely updates in search engine databases.
Here’s an example of ours:
Mobile usability is a cornerstone of technical SEO, acknowledging the ubiquitous presence of mobile devices in our digital landscape. With the advent of mobile-first indexing, search engines prioritize the mobile version of a web page when determining its ranking. Ensuring seamless mobile optimization is, therefore, paramount for reaching and engaging with visitors.
A mobile-friendly website not only caters to the preferences of users accessing content on smartphones and tablets but also aligns with the accelerated mobile pages (AMP) framework for faster loading times. Prioritizing mobile usability is not just about responsive design; it’s about creating an optimal experience for users on diverse devices, solidifying a website’s SEO performance, and enhancing its accessibility to a broad audience.
4. Optimizing off-page SEO
Off-page SEO refers to optimization efforts that extend beyond a website itself: the external factors that influence a site’s online authority and visibility. This comprehensive strategy involves cultivating a robust online presence and reputation.
A pivotal aspect of off-page SEO is link building, wherein high-quality backlinks are secured from reputable websites, serving as valuable endorsements and elevating a site’s credibility.
Beyond backlinks, social media engagement is equally vital, with interactions and shares on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn contributing to increased visibility. Mentions and citations across the web, especially on authoritative sites, further validate your website’s relevance and authority in its industry or niche. Off-page SEO is integral to establishing a comprehensive online footprint, fostering trust with search engines, and ultimately impacting your website’s search engine rankings and overall visibility.
Look for unlinked mentions of your organization (and turn them into links)
The strategy of identifying unlinked mentions of your organization and turning them into links is a proactive approach to building backlinks. By monitoring online mentions through tools or manual searches, you can discover instances where your organization is referenced but not hyperlinked. Engaging with the content creator or website owner and requesting the addition of a hyperlink to your site can transform these mentions into valuable backlinks. This strategy not only helps in securing additional links but also ensures that your brand is properly credited.
Pursue listings in directories and articles about nonprofits
By identifying and submitting to relevant directories within your niche, you can secure valuable backlinks that contribute to improved SEO. Being featured in articles and resources specifically focused on nonprofit work not only provides authoritative mentions but also aligns the organization with reputable sources in the sector. This strategy builds a robust backlink profile and amplifies visibility with target audiences. It’s an effective way for nonprofits to leverage industry-specific platforms and enhance their online credibility.
Broken link building
Broken link building is a strategic approach to backlinking that involves identifying and replacing broken links on external websites with relevant, high-quality content from your own site. By systematically finding broken links within your niche or industry, you can reach out to the website owners or content creators and suggest your content as a suitable replacement. It’s a mutually beneficial strategy, as you assist other webmasters in maintaining the integrity of their content while gaining link placements that enhance your site’s authority.
5. Leverage local SEO opportunities
Local SEO is a targeted approach that is particularly vital for nonprofits serving local communities, including charities, community organizations, and advocacy groups. To secure a prominent position in local search results, fine-tune your website for local keywords and actively manage a well-optimized Google Business listing.
By ensuring accurate and up-to-date information on Google Maps and a robust Google Business profile, you can enhance your organization’s visibility in local searches, making it easier for local individuals to find your relevant services, events, or causes. Fostering positive online reviews further solidifies the nonprofit’s reputation. Through these multifaceted local SEO tactics, nonprofits can seamlessly connect with their local communities, amplify awareness about their causes, and increase the likelihood of being discovered by individuals searching for local nonprofit services or events online.
Google business reviews
Google Business Reviews play a pivotal role in local SEO strategy. Positive reviews on Google Business Profiles (previously “Google My Business”) not only serve as testimonials but also directly influence local search rankings. Accumulating a high number of positive reviews not only boosts the nonprofit’s reputation but also signals to Google that the organization is trustworthy and relevant to the local community. Additionally, businesses and nonprofits with positive reviews are more likely to appear in the coveted local map pack, which can significantly increase visibility for users conducting location-specific searches.
6. Monitor and report on your SEO results
Utilizing web analytics tools is paramount for gaining insights into your website’s performance. These tools allow you to meticulously track various metrics, monitor user behavior, and extract valuable data that provides a comprehensive understanding of how visitors interact with your site. By analyzing metrics like page views, bounce rates, and user demographics, you can identify strengths and weaknesses in your online presence. This data-driven approach not only helps in gauging the effectiveness of your SEO strategies but also pinpoints specific areas for improvement. Armed with these insights, you can make informed decisions to enhance user experience, optimize content, and refine overall website performance, contributing to a more successful and user-friendly online presence.
Google Analytics 4 (GA4)
GA4 serves as a powerful tool for monitoring and reporting on SEO results. As the latest version of Google’s analytics platform, GA4 introduces advanced features like enhanced machine learning capabilities and a more flexible event tracking system. It allows users to track and analyze user behavior, engagement, and conversion metrics, offering a granular understanding of how visitors interact with a website.
Specifically for SEO, GA4 enables the tracking of organic search traffic, user demographics, and user journeys, helping businesses and organizations assess the effectiveness of their SEO strategies.
Google Search Console and Position Tracking
Google Search Console is an invaluable tool for webmasters and SEO professionals, offering critical insights into a website’s performance in Google Search results. One of its key features that significantly aids in SEO efforts is position tracking.
Through the Search Performance report, users can monitor the positions of their website’s pages for specific queries over time. This feature allows webmasters to assess the impact of SEO strategies, identify trends in keyword rankings, and understand how users discover their site. Position tracking in Google Search Console provides a granular view of the website’s visibility, enabling data-driven decisions to enhance search rankings and overall performance in Google Search. Position tracking tools also enable the monitoring of competitors’ rankings, offering a competitive benchmark for SEO performance.
This data is instrumental in making informed decisions about content optimization, identifying emerging trends, and refining strategies to enhance overall search engine visibility.
SEO is a dynamic process that necessitates staying abreast of industry trends, algorithm updates, and shifts in user behavior. To maintain and enhance a website’s performance in search results, it is imperative to remain informed about the latest developments in SEO. Regularly adapt your strategy in response to emerging trends and algorithmic changes to ensure alignment with the current best practices. By staying agile and continuously iterating your approach, you can not only meet but also anticipate the evolving demands of search engines, fostering improved visibility and sustained success in the competitive online environment.
Need support to strengthen your SEO strategy?
Forum One stands out as a trusted partner with the expertise to assist nonprofits in formulating and executing robust SEO strategies. With a proven track record in digital strategy and web development for mission-driven organizations, Forum One understands the unique challenges and goals of the nonprofit sector.
Have an idea for SEO strategy you’d like to discuss? Reach out today. Forum One combines technical proficiency with a deep understanding of the social impact landscape, enabling tailored SEO strategies that drive meaningful results.