SEO tutorial for nonprofits: why SEO is a balancing act between content and optimization

Chris Esh


Why is SEO important for nonprofit organizations?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what SEO is, let’s talk about why you should care. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it’s all about drawing online search traffic to your website. There are two important things to keep in mind about website traffic.

  1. Quantity – How many visitors are coming to your website?
  2. Quality – How many of those visitors are actually qualified to either donate, support or care about your organization?

When done correctly, SEO will help increase the quantity and the quality of your website visitors. The quality piece is key here—there’s no benefit to bringing in a ton of new visitors who are not interested in your work whatsoever. You want to bring the right kind of people.

How does SEO work?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a big topic, but the fundamentals are fairly straightforward.

When you search for something on Google or Bing, (probably Google for 99% of the population) they will try to provide you with an answer to your search query in the most effective way possible.

You’ll notice that the first website that pops up when you search for something specific will often be a website that either answers your question specifically, or contains at least one of the same words that you used in your search query.

Basically, the website that has the most relevant answer to your question, or has the most amount of keywords that match your search query will be the first website that Google will recommend you to click on.

And they determine relevance by the actual words on the page, giving higher weight to keywords in headings and those that are used throughout the page.

There are a few other factors that determine the weight Google will give to your website, like keyword competition, or website search traffic, but these are the fundamentals of SEO to start paying attention to first.

How to start implementing SEO into your nonprofit.

Step 1: Identify your keywords

  1. Identify what keywords your target audience is searching for that are relevant to your organization (e.g. if you offer job training services in Bucks County, then you would want to target “job training services in Bucks County” and other related searches).
  2. The more broad the keyword, the more people will search for it, but the tougher the competition will be (other websites understand that people are searching for that topic and are trying to rank too)! So you might want to rank for “Philadelphia Jobs” but it’s not going to happen, no matter how many times you use that keyword on your site. On the other hand, very specific keywords where you have minimal competition are fairly easy to rank for (e.g. “solar energy job training programs near Doylestown”), but if hardly anybody actually searches that keyword, it won’t do you any good either.
  3. Find a balance between the two extremes–keywords with low/moderate competition that get a decent number of monthly searches.

Step 2: Create your content with SEO in mind

  1. Creates pages and/or blog posts that target the keywords you identified above.
  2. Use the main keyword as the page title if possible, then use it again in subheadings, and a few more times in the body content. HTML has multiple headings: H1 is the main heading, which search engines give the highest weight for keywords, then H2 is the next level down, and so on to H6.
  3. The keywords should fit naturally into the text–if it’s obvious you’re stuffing your content with keywords, Google won’t be fooled.
  4. Balance SEO with user needs. While optimizing for search engines, don’t sacrifice the user experience. If it reads like a jumbled list of keywords, you might get some more traffic, but getting people on your site is only the first step. You ultimately need them to like you, support you, and get involved with your work, so make sure you optimize your content for those goals first, then SEO second.

SEO is a long-term strategy. Your nonprofit search traffic will not jump overnight!

Search Engine Optimization is a marathon, not a sprint. No matter how perfect your SEO is on your brand new site, it won’t immediately top the rankings. If it’s done well you should see gradual progress in the months after launch, but there are many factors involved.

Good SEO requires ongoing work. As you add more pages and blog posts with the relevant keywords, and as more websites link back to you, Google’s algorithm will see your site as a more relevant resource for those keywords. But if your site just sits there and doesn’t change for months, Google might assume the content is outdated.

SEO is a huge topic but not nearly as intimidating as most people assume. Here is a great guide from Moz if you’re interested in learning more:

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO

The TLDR (too lazy didn’t read) Version

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a great way to draw a higher amount of quality search traffic to your website. It’s completely free (if you do it yourself) and only requires a bit of knowledge about common keywords and search queries your ideal website visitor uses in order to get started.

It’s a long term strategy that requires a significant amount of content creation (blog, article, or even just text on your home page) that should not be taken lightly if you want to get results.

All in all, SEO can be a high performing, cost-effective marketing strategy for your nonprofit organization if you take the time to do your research and churn out content that matches what your ideal website visitor is looking for.


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