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5 SEO Tips for Non-Profits

, Friday, February 4th, 2011

There are plenty of great SEO guides out there, but few address unique considerations for non-profits. Here are 5 specific ways to optimize your non-profit’s site:

1. Encourage links from supporters

One of the most important factors for SEO is having incoming links from reputable external web sites. As a non-profit, you have an advantage in this area, because you likely have supporters who are happy to promote your cause with a link. Take advantage of this — if your organization has a blog or makes announcements online, make sure that content is easily shareable. Provide logos, badges, or widgets that your supporters can easily plug into their own web sites.

Beware of linked badges/graphics that don’t give search engines enough information. From NTEN’s Blog:

Badges are an excellent way to get your supporters linking to you, but too many nonprofits make a common mistake: they fail to incorporate text links into their badges. Search engines prefer text links to graphics, as they signal which keywords are related to the linked page. (Remember, search engines can’t read graphics. Yet.) So, ask your supporters for links and be sure to provide them with SEO-friendly badges.

2. Don’t forget about pages hosted elsewhere

Screenshot of Google Sitelinks

If your donation form isn't hosted on your site, it won't appear in your Google Sitelinks.

The pages stored in your content management system may already be search engine optimized — but if some of your most important pages are hosted elsewhere (through your CRM system, for example), they may not be optimized in the same way.

  • The externally hosted page may have a different domain name than the rest of your site, which makes it difficult for search engines to associate it with your organization. For example, a donation form hosted on a separate domain cannot be listed as one of your Google Sitelinks. However, if you create a “Donate” page on your own site that directs users to your donation form, that can appear as a Google Sitelink.
  • You may not have as much control over the format, URL, title, heading usage, and meta tags for pages hosted elsewhere. Take the time to identify workarounds or dig deeper into the customization options for your highest priority pages.

3. Evaluate the calls-to-action throughout your site

  • Identify the pages on your site that already receive plenty of traffic from search engines, then make sure your most important calls-to-action are featured or at least accessible from those pages.
  • Make your calls-to-action SEO friendly by incorporating text links containing strong keywords and using alt tags for banners/images.

4. Manage your online identity

  • Which is more recognizable to your target audience: your organization’s full name or its acronym? Or maybe neither — are people most likely to be searching for a well-publicized project or campaign you’ve run recently? Does it depend on the audience? Account for these variations in your SEO strategy.
  • Be sure that your website is listed where it should be, both in broad non-profit listings sites (Idealist, Charity Navigator) and in topic or geographically-focused resources.

5. Do your keyword homework

  • When branding new campaigns and projects, do keyword research. Does the title of your new campaign align with the terms that your audience is searching for?
  • Identify the keywords that are most specific to your cause and be able to differentiate yourself.

Do you have other SEO ideas that non-profits should have on their radar? Post them in the comments.

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