SEO Tips for Nonprofits
In the Sage Nonprofit Solutions webinar "Intro to Search Engine Optimization & Marketing for Nonprofits" in its Web Wise Series, Katie McNally, account supervisor for Sitewire Marketspace Solutions, and Dan Gonzalez, Web manager for Sage Nonprofit Solutions, discussed search basics, best practices for organic SEO and what search’s role should be in fundraisers' overall interactive marketing mix, among other things.
The presenters began with a definition of organic search, which they described as an unpaid listing in search engines that is best used for response marketing campaigns. It is one of the most cost-effective forms of online marketing, they said, though often difficult and time-consuming. Organic search results are the bulk of search results that typically appear in the lower 2/3 of a search results page, while paid search results are those that appear at the top and along the right-hand column.
Organic SEO is the process of optimizing your Web site to improve search rankings for specific targeted keywords. Organizations can't pay to be the first organic search result. SEO takes work and constant updating. But it pays off. According to a Google study, aided brand recall increases by 2.2 times when a brand is in the top sponsored and top organic results.
The two key methods of organic search optimization are:
• On-site optimization, where you make changes to your target Web site for specific keyword phrases.
• Off-site optimization, which involves link passing that can help affect the rankings for specific keyword phrases.
Optimization includes the following steps:
- Obstacles analysis. Make sure your page names have meaning, and use alt tags and text-based navigation when possible.
- Keyword research and selection. Determine all the relevant keywords for your organization, i.e., words people would type in a search field when looking for your organization.
- On-site keyword optimization. Focus on one or two keywords per page. Use descriptive page titles including the keyword phrase. In page content, repeat the keyword phrase multiple times and pull out content into bulleted lists. Use text-based navigation, not images.
- Off-site Web site optimization. Increase the number and quality of links pointing to your Web site. Make sure keywords in links are relevant. The presenters recommended good sites on which organizations can boost links pointing to their sites, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, LinkedIn and Wikipedia.
SEO should be an ongoing cycle in which your organization constantly re-evaluates its strategy, makes on-page adjustments and off-page optimization, resubmits the site to search engines and waits until it's re-indexed, and then measures the results. In terms of measurement, they recommended using Google Analytics to determine total organic traffic; using a keyword-ranking tool to determine ranking position for each optimized keyword; and keeping track of all data to compare and set benchmarks in future months.
Paid search also requires ongoing management that includes determining a strategy, managing it daily (adjusting bids, ad copy, targeting, timing and keywords), waiting to attract enough visitors and conversions, and then measuring results. The presenters recommended steps to beginning this process involve:
- Site conversion analysis. Determine if your Web site is conversion-friendly by asking if it's easy on the eye, follows a simple visual flow, resonates with the potential donor and features a compelling call to action.
- Do A/B and multivariate testing using Google Optimizer, which is free and easy to set up.
- Geo targeting. Figure out who you're targeting: a particular ZIP code, city, state, etc.?
- Research keywords, picking all relevant keywords initially. Later in the process you can delete and bid down some keywords.
- Make sure your ad copy is accurate, compelling, informative, matches keywords, qualifies visitors and doesn't use excessive punctuation. McNally and Gonzalez recommended writing multiple ads and testing them against one another.
- Set a daily budget for the maximum amount you are willing to spend on paid search and keep in mind you can change this budget at any time. "The amount you spend each day will vary on the number of people searching, and the number of clicks you get," they noted.
- Set initial bids and bid strategy. Make sure your bids are high enough to show up on the first page of search results. Increase or decrease budget during different times of the day depending on what you know about your target audience.
- Track conversions. For example, add a code to your "thank you" page that's generated when an action has occurred that tracks which keyword led to the action.
- Measure results. Some results to measure include total clicks, average cost/conversion, average cost/click, etc.
To learn more about the upcoming webinar How to Leverage Social Media to Raise Funds, click here.