No clients come to us saying, “Build us a website that will ensure we miss out on potential traffic and sacrifice the chance to engage with thousands of visitors.”
Yet, that’s exactly what hundreds of nonprofit websites do daily by ignoring many of the basics of SEO (search engine optimization). No matter how sound the user experience, beautiful the graphic design or dynamic the content, building a great website without proper SEO is like building a spectacular house without any roads leading to it.
How are people going to find you? How is your site going to come up in first-page search results when users are searching for your subject matter?
There’s no surprise to SEO’s lowly status. It’s not sexy. You can’t see it. It’s kind of boring. Not well understood. SEO today remains in the same kind of poor cousin position to web design that 5 years ago digital communication was to traditional media. But done right, SEO can drive invaluable traffic to your site, bringing potential supporters and donors to you in significant numbers.
So where do you start? Here are 6 basic steps to begin building effective SEO.
1. Discover the potential traffic: The fastest way to understand the power of SEO is by seeing the numbers of users relying on Google every day who are searching for your content. Start by visiting the Google Keyword Tool. Enter some obvious keyword choices related to your issue or cause. Chances are you’ll see a lot of users searching for your content that you’d love the chance to intercept and drive to your site.
2. Refine your keywords: Now comes the hard work. You’ll want to uncover the best keywords to incorporate into your SEO strategy. This requires a good deal of intuition and understanding of human behaviour, combined with trial and error — a lot of legwork. Are people more likely to search for endangered animals by using “endangered animals” or “animal protection”? Are users more likely to search for information on preventing cancer by entering “cancer prevention”, “cancer causes” or “ways to prevent cancer”? You’ll want to repeat this exercise for every section and page on your site in order to target the keywords and search activity related to the specific content provided throughout your website. Aim to have 3 top keywords per page or section.
3. Keyword Copy Development: Once you’ve identified the top keywords to incorporate into your website section by section, or page by page, it’s important to integrate these into your writing. If the same keywords appear in your site that a user is entering to search, Google recognizes this and sees it as relevant to the searcher. So it’s vital that the most relevant keywords make their way into your copy – throughout your site.
4. Apply Proper HTML Meta tags: Copy is one way Google recognizes your site as relevant to a searcher. Another critical way Google scans your site is through HTML meta tags. You can’t see meta tags – they’re written into the HTML code of your site by your developers and provide information to search engines about what the page is about. It’s vital to have proper page titles, descriptions and keywords as part of your meta tags – and important to do it for every page of your site to be as relevant as possible to the specific content contained on that page. TIP: There’s a quick way to see if your site currently has proper meta tags in place. Right click on any page, and select “View Page Source”. Done correctly, you should be able to see information provided for “Title” (the title of the page); “Description” (an appropriate description of the content contained in the specific page); and “Keywords” (a list of keywords most relevant to the content of the page). If you’re not seeing this, and these meta tags don’t change with each page to be relevant, you’re SEO is lacking.
5. Consider SEM (Search Engine Marketing): Even with best-in-class SEO built into your site, it takes time to build your indexing with Google and other search engines. For this reason, you may want to consider using some of your marketing budget for SEM – or paid search – as an interim step. Unlike natural results, paid search results are the results that appear on the very top or right hand side of search engines. By using paid search, you’ll ensure your site is visible in search results while your site is building up its ranking with Google through your SEO.
6. Consider using an expert: SEO is quite a specialized discipline. If you don’t have the internal time and resources to devote to it, you may want to consider using professional assistance to ensure it’s done properly. SEO is an essential service Manifest offers in every website we build. But whether it’s with a firm like ours specializing in social marketing and digital, or a standalone SEO company, having SEO executed on your behalf can make the difference between people finding you or passing you by.