Although Google tries to play down the power they have over the Internet, there’s no getting around the fact that the vast majority of people who visit a website originally found it via the search engine.
This means that knowing how to rank highly in search results is vital for any nonprofit organization wanting to increase their traffic levels.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the skill of showing a search engine that your website is one of the best resources for what a person is searching for. Google looks for signs of a website’s relevance to the words being searched for (keywords), along with signs of how trustworthy a website is.
Generally, trust is measured by the amount of quality websites which link to a website or webpage. Encouraging websites to link to your website is known as link building, a topic covered on this blog in the past. Link building is generally the harder part of SEO, since it involves convincing other people to do something which will benefit you.
Today, you’ll be pleased to hear, we will focus on the easier side of SEO, improving indicators of relevancy on your website. This is the easier part because making your website appear relevant to more people is something which can be controlled within in your organization. It can also lead to more immediate results.
Find Out What Already Works
The easiest way to get a quick traffic boost is to find out what keywords are already bringing people to your website and capitalize upon these. This can be done using Google Analytics or other statistics applications. If you haven’t already got one of these installed on your website, it is a very valuable resource and you should get it now!
From Google Analytics you can view what keywords brought people to your website. To see them, from the side menu select Traffic Sources > Search > Organic.
If your organization is well established, you will probably notice that most people came to your website by searching for your organization’s name. It’s nice to know that you’re famous, but we’re trying to increase the number of people discovering your website for the first time, so I recommend hiding keywords which imply the searcher is already looking for your website.
This can be done by clicking the “Advanced” link next to the search box, and excluding a word from your organization’s name. For example, VolunteerMatch would exclude the word searches which include the word “match” and Lattitude Global Volunteering would exclude the word “lattitude”.
Optimize Your Pages
With your list of phrases which bring people to your website via search engines, you can optimize pages to increase traffic levels. As you look down the list, you may see phrases that you had no idea were bringing people to your site. It’s a good idea to search Google for those phrases yourself and see whereabouts your page ranks for that phrase. If a keyword is bringing a substantial number of visitors to your website without having the top rank, it shows there is a lot of potential to increase that figure. To give you an idea of how much additional traffic would come from an improvement in your rankings, the top position generally gets around 6 times as many visitors as the 5th position and 18 times as many as the 10th.
Make sure your keywords are featured in the <title> tag of your page. This is very important to SEO, since your title tag is the words which are displayed in Google search results. Simply adding the keywords into the title tag of an already high ranking web page could be enough to earn you that top spot in the search results.
It is also a good idea to make sure that the keywords feature in the actual content of the page a few times, including once in the page’s header. However, it’s important not to go overboard with this. In the early days, search engines would pretty much just count how often a word appeared on a page and assume the more frequently the word appeared the more relevant the page was. This led to people stuffing keywords into pages as many times as possible to get good search engine ranks.
Thankfully, search engines are more advanced these days and can understand the topic of a page with just a few mentions of the word. If you use the word an unnatural number of times you will be penalized by Google for caring more about SEO than quality content.
Earlier I said that getting links to your website was the hardest part of SEO, but it can also be the most rewarding. If you can give people a good reason to link to the page you are aiming to rank high, it can do a lot of good. Remember, you need to give people a good reason to link. Maybe you could have an interesting promotion on that page, which readers of other websites might be interested in, or you might come up with your own ideas.
You also need to make sure writers at other websites know about your interesting page, so send out a few emails, especially to your existing contacts and friends explaining why you think their readers would be interested in the page.
SEO is a long term strategy. You can’t gain Google’s trust over night, but just by looking into what already brings people to your website and tweaking your content to suit those keywords better, you can generate a significant increase in traffic.
Adam Ulivi is an SEO specialist busily working with Lattitude Global Volunteering to help promote their volunteer activities in Fiji and Malawi but he’ll always find 5 minutes to chat about SEO with anyone looking for help. If you have any SEO questions, leave them below and Adam will try to answer them for you.
Shari led Online Marketing and Communications at VolunteerMatch from 2010-2015. After working with nonprofits for 9 years, she moved over to the corporate sector and is now leading Inbound Marketing for a tech company in San Francisco.