SEO 101 for Nonprofits

Photo by Olibac

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Gisele Navarro Méndez. Gisele provides freelance social SEO consultancy, as well as SEO coaching for bloggers and small business owners. She’s the Social Media Executive for Upstream Connections and you’ll find her blogging at In Social We Trust. She tweets regularly via @GiseleNMendez and can be reached directly at gisele.nmendez[at]


According to the 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, nonprofits increased their dollars raised online by 19% from 2010 to 2011. How can your nonprofit compete cheaply and effectively with those organizations with the biggest marketing budgets? The answer to that question is “by leveraging the power of the Internet.”

Internet marketing plays a leading role when it comes to engaging with contributors, volunteers and the general public, and there are many different strategies to promote your cause without spending much. One of those strategies is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

What is SEO?

SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a website in order to make it visible within search engine results, leading to an increase in the number of visitors the site receives from the “free,” “organic,” or “natural” listings on search engines.

Why does my Nonprofit need SEO?

Most Internet users start their navigation on Google, Bing, or Yahoo, and this means that if your site cannot be found within their organic results, you won’t have this amazing opportunity of getting your message across via search.

How do I get started with SEO?

There are many different aspects to SEO, the main three would be: the way in which your site is structured, the content on your pages, and how other sites link to you on the web. Let’s go step by step:

1. Choosing Your Keywords

A smart choice of keywords will help search engines understand your website, and show it to the right people, a.k.a. the ones who are looking for what you’re offering.

The process is quite simple: think of keywords that are relevant to your nonprofit, write them down and analyze their quality to find the best out of your original list. Remember that if you choose keywords that no one is searching for, then you won’t be getting much traffic from them.

Check out these tools for generating the perfect keyword list:

2. Optimizing Your Site for SEO

Now that you have a list of keywords, it’s time to start incorporating them to the content and code of your website. Keep it simple: think of four or five keywords, or keyword phrases, for each page on your site and optimize for those.

A. Title Tag

The title tag must describe the topic of your page briefly and accurately. Try to keep the keywords as close to the beginning of the title tag as possible, and remember to include the name of your nonprofit. Include up to 70 characters, and write unique titles for each page of your site.

B. Meta Description

Meta description tags should be written with your audience in mind because they will be your one chance to convince the searchers of visiting your site. These short paragraphs should include the keywords in a smart way without exceeding 160 characters.

C. Image Name & ALT Tags

The images of your site should be optimized as well. You can add keywords to the image name and the Alt Tag. This will help with web search, but also with image search, opening the door to another source of traffic.

3. Creating Useful and Shareable Content

Creative and engaging content will attract the audience you’re targeting, while working marvels with search engines. Consider having a blog for your nonprofit, that way you can write regular blog posts in which you could share news, interview donors, and cover events among other things. Remember to add social buttons in order to make it easy for your visitors to share your content!

Don’t forget that storytelling is a powerful tool for your nonprofit, and freshness will be key, both for connecting with the emotions of your readers, as well as for SEO purposes. So create new content regularly.

4. Building Links to Your Site

Link building will be an essential component of any SEO strategy. You could say that each link to your website from another site counts as a vote of trust in the eyes of search engines, so the better the links, the higher your rankings within search results.

Here you have some ideas for building quality links to your nonprofit:

  • — Ask government agencies and educational institutions for links. Scan the web looking for organizations that are relevant to your mission and reach out to them.
  • — Create a page on Wikipedia about your nonprofit and include a link to your website.
  • — Reach out to members of your community to see if they will link to you. Start by contacting organizations and nonprofits you already have an existing relationship with.
  • — Submit guest posts to relevant blogs. Generally, you will get a link back to your site within an “about the author” box.
  • — Allow contributors, advocates, and other nonprofits to guest blog on your website. The guest blogger will probably promote the article and drive a fresh audience to your site.
  • — Optimize your social media profiles. Connecting your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, G+ Page back to your site is a must. Make sure you’re writing original bios for each profile!

SEO is too important not to pay attention to! Think of “link building” as “relationship building,” and make sure you’re opening other doors for visitors to arrive to your website.

Now that you know SEO is not as complicated, expensive and time consuming, do you think you’ll be applying these tips to your nonprofit’s site?

44 thoughts on “SEO 101 for Nonprofits”

    1. Hi Joe,nnI’ve used Market Samurai a couple of years ago and it was quite useful for keyword research and for tracking changes in the rankings. Truth is that Market Samurai pulls information out of Google Keyword Tool so you are basically getting the same suggestions, the difference is that with MS your research will be more organized as you can apply filters + work on separate projects + download the data + etc.u00a0nnIf you’re jumping into the keywords boat for the first time, I would recommend trying one of those free tools first and then start considering paid tools such as Wordtracker or Market Samurai. Too many options and filters might make you feel dizzy if you’re not used to the acronyms and their meaning.nnHope that answers your question!nnGisele

      1. Your answer does! Thanks.nnI think you’re right with MS. It’s similar to GK but it does better organize info for you. I try to use it when I’m writing posts to pick better keywords. For example, I wrote a post last week on what I would call “Coin Canisters”. But when I did some research on MS I discovered that “Donation Boxes” was searched for more often. So I went with this instead:u00a0 again!nnJoennP. S. Would love to see a post on how other things are driving SEO these days, such as social media.nn

        1. Researching keywords while writing your posts is the smartest way of optimizing your content for SEO while learning more about your readers and potencial readers. As a result you ended up opening a big gate to your article, instead of the regular-sized door that would have been opened if you’d sticked only to “Coin Canisters”.nnIfdy loved your idea (and so did I) so there will be an upcoming post about the relationship between social media and SEO, and the importance of optimizing your online presence.nnThank you for your thoughtful comments :)nnGisele

  1. Great Post Gisele,nnI think your link building suggestions were spot on for people just getting into SEO. They’re good places to start and aren’t asu00a0susceptible to algorithm updates.nnAlso, if I may suggest a keyword tool, I find Ubersuggest pretty helpful. It’s free and spits out a lot of variations I wouldn’t have originally considered. It also exports to CSV so you can sort and organize.nnCheers,n-Peter

    1. Thank you, Peter! My idea was not to scare them with don’ts and algorithm updates, so I’ve listed the basics + some link building ideas. I will keep on writing, introducing nonprofits to our world :)nnI will try Ubersuggest right now because I haven’t heard about it before, and if you’re recommending it, I’m sure it’s a good tool.nnThanks again!nnGisele

  2. Great overview of SEO.u00a0 When it comes to link building you need to remember that quality trumps quantity.u00a0 Spend time researching sites that are relevant to the industry and actually generate traffic.u00a0 Links help build search engine trust but they also help generate traffic!

  3. Allowing guest posts on a non-profit blog? I’ve only worked with 1 non-profit to date, but they are very much against any outside content being posted. I would assume most of them to be the same way, no?n

    1. I think some nonprofits think it would hurt them or undermine them in some way, but in terms of driving traffic, it can work. Bringing in like-minded authors who have a following, or simply adding variety to content with the expertise of someone outside the organization, can help broaden the blog’s reach. What do you think @GiseleNMendez:disqus?

    2. I agree 100% with you, u00a0@IfdyPerez:disqusu00a0. With guest posts we are opening a window to a fresh blow of ideas and a door to new visitors to our site. I think there are many “safe” guest post possibilities: a contributor who wants to share his/her story, an advocate who can share his/her connection to the cause, an author who can contribute to the experience, or just another nonprofit.

  4. This kind of SEO is really not that popular. It is only good for small business or a community that wanted to have a little voice in the internet.

  5. Very valuable article for the newbie like me. Very beneficial for me. Even Wikipedia articles seems confusing and lengthy, but you cleared the air for SEO foundation.

  6. Cloaking is one of the most efficient techniques search engine optimization, but to be able to take advantage of the full range of features, one should employ the expertise of an expert company.

  7. Abhiram Pathak

    This is a great blog for those who are new in SEO. Your article will be helpful
    to new seo. Thanks a lot dear for your valuable info. Please keep us informed like this.

  8. I actually appreciate some good content that you have able to post in your blog. It deals on how important is seo for business, it also help me understand all of the necessary methods and techniques that would help us to establish a comprehensive methods for business using the seo platforms.

  9. This is most useful technique in the seo field,your post not only good for us but also the people who are new in seo or also quite helpful to understand all the methods of tips that are important in seo….Thanks for this post,,

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