Whither SEO Fundraising in 2014?
There’s a problem with earth-shaking technologies: They don’t stay earth-shaking all that long anymore. Or, if they do, they don’t always shake in the direction we had in mind.
Technology changes fast and seems to change exponentially faster every day. Just about the time you get your mind around a new online phenomenon, it’s been revised, upgraded, rearranged or otherwise “improved” into something quite different than it was when you first discovered it.
Take search engine optimization (SEO). Not that long ago, when Internet search engines became the default way for most people to find information, organizations quickly realized that the higher they were ranked on Google, Yahoo and other search engines, the more visitors they would get on the websites. Higher rankings brought in better quality visitors too — visitors who were more likely to turn into donors.
The logical next step was to develop strategies and techniques that would raise their rankings. And thus SEO was born. It turned out that by using relevant page names, alt tags, text-based navigation and keywords, you could influence the search engines’ algorithms and drive your rankings closer to the top of the list.
So, over the last few years, organizations became better and better at optimizing their sites to push their names ever higher on search results lists.
And now just as we’re starting to get really good at it, SEO is changing — in ways that just might render all our ingenious and sophisticated manipulations irrelevant.
"Most of us assume that when we 'google' a term, we all see the same results — the ones that the company's famous Page Rank algorithm suggests are the most authoritative based on other pages' links. But since December 2009, this is no longer true. Now you get the result that Google's algorithm suggests is best for you in particular — and someone else may see something entirely different. In other words, there is no standard Google anymore.” (See him explain it in more detail here.)
Yikes! If that’s true, there’s no way we can be sure all our content editing, changes to HTML coding and other clever tricks will reach nearly as many people as we thought.
For example, I just Googled the word homelessness. Seven sites appeared above the fold on my screen. And four of them were from the city I live in. That means organizations outside of my immediate area, organizations that might do vital work on a national scale, organizations that I might want to support, have a far lower chance of getting my attention.
And it’s not because I don’t care about supporting national homeless organizations. It’s because Google has decided that for me.
Does this mean SEO is now irrelevant? Definitely not. But it does mean that it behooves us as fundraisers to take a long, hard look at how much it’s helping us expand our reach. And, as with all fundraising technology, consider its revenue potential as compared to direct mail, e-mail and other media — and allocate our resources accordingly.
Willis believes in expressive writing, exceptional fundraising, and exuberant living.
Willis Turner is the senior copywriter at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He was an experienced writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 20 years before making the switch to fundraising nearly 15 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, as well as collateral materials and communications, that get attention, tell emotional stories, and persuade people to take action or make a donation.