Like all other types of organisations – from business to government – non-profits and charities now operate in a space that’s largely driven by online visibility. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has emerged as an indispensable tool, capable of amplifying a charity’s presence and impact online. In this article, we give you some charity-specific SEO practices and pointers so your charity or non-profit can ride the online tide with ease.
#1: Laying the Groundwork: Key Considerations Before Embarking on SEO
Before embarking on any form of SEO, it is vital to have a crystal-clear understanding of your target audience, their preferred devices for internet browsing, the kind of content they engage with, and the strategies that could convert them into staunch supporters and generous donors. Let’s quickly look at these points.
A. Identifying the Right Audience
SEO doesn’t function in a vacuum. It is a means to connect with your audience. Understanding who they are and what they care about is the first step towards crafting an effective SEO strategy. To illustrate this with an example, if your charity is dedicated to animal rescue, your audience might range from compassionate animal lovers to environmentally conscious individuals who understand the importance of biodiversity. You need to understand what type of content they consume and how they do it.
B. Device-Friendly Approach
Catering to the device preferences of your audience is a non-negotiable principle you have to follow. A significant number of internet users browse on the go, making it imperative for your website to be mobile-friendly. However, it is also essential that you give your visitors an equally responsive and accessible experience on tablets and desktop computers. In case you do not use our charity templates, this is something you need to tell your developers from the get-go. Most developers do take care of this but some still design with the large screen in mind, which is a no-no.
C. Engaging Content
Content is the lifeblood of your digital presence. It is the magnet that pulls in your audience and keeps them engaged. For a charity, this could span across informative articles about your mission, impactful stories from the field, and compelling calls-to-action that inspire involvement. We will cover this in some more detail in a section dedicated to content.
D. Conversion Strategies
Your SEO efforts should culminate in meaningful action, converting website visitors into active supporters and donors, or else it is akin to buying an ice cream and letting it melt in your hand. To improve your conversions, highlight the impact of donations, share stories of the work you have done, offer diverse and appealing volunteer opportunities, and regularly update donors about the difference their contributions are making.
#2: The Art and Science of Keyword Research
Keyword research, the cornerstone of any effective SEO strategy, takes on an even more critical role in the context of charities. It involves identifying and analysing the terms or phrases that your target audience types into search engines, allowing you to optimise your content accordingly. For charities, keyword research is not just a tool for driving website traffic; it is a way of connecting with the audience that cares about your cause and is more likely to support it.
To understand this, you need to follow the following principles:
A. Understand Your Audience and Their Interests
The first step in keyword research is understanding your audience. What issues are they concerned about? What terms might they use to find information about these issues? For instance, if your charity focuses on clean water initiatives, your audience might search for terms like ‘clean water charities’, ‘water crisis’, or ‘how to help with water pollution’. Understanding your supporters’ interests and concerns can help guide your keyword research.
B. Use Keyword Research Tools
Keyword research tools can offer valuable insights into the popularity of specific search terms, their competitiveness, and how they trend over time. Tools like Google Keyword Planner (free), SEMrush (freemium), or Ahrefs (freemium) can help identify high-traffic keywords related to your cause.
To give an example, a charity working in animal rescue may find that keywords like ‘animal rescue charities’, ‘how to help abandoned animals’, or ‘animal shelters near me’ are frequently searched for. These tools can also suggest related keywords you might not have considered.
C. Prioritise Long-tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are more specific and often less competitive than shorter, more general keywords. For example, ‘dog rescue charity in London’ is a long-tail keyword, while ‘animal charity’ is a general keyword. Although long-tail keywords typically have lower search volumes, they can attract a more targeted audience and often have higher conversion rates.
D. Localise Your Keywords
If your charity operates in a specific geographic area, consider incorporating local keywords. For example, ‘homeless shelters in Manchester’ or ‘environmental charities in Bristol’. Local keywords can help you connect with supporters in your area and improve your visibility in local search results. Like long-tail keywords, they bring a more select audience that gives you better conversion rates.
E. Evaluate and Adjust Regularly
SEO is not a set-and-forget strategy. It requires regular evaluation and adjustment. Analyse your website’s performance using tools like Google Analytics to understand which keywords are driving traffic and conversions. This is an important step and helps fine-tune future SEO strategies and plans.
#3: Setting the Stage for SEO
SEO isn’t a one-off task but a continuous process that begins even before your website goes live. It is similar to setting the stage for a grand performance that unfolds over time. When it comes to SEO for charities, things like tags, content categorisation, and a user-friendly site structure become more important. These elements come together to create a charity website that not only appeals to search engines but also engages visitors and nudges them towards supporting your cause.
A. Mastering the Use of Tags
Tags serve as signposts that guide search engines in understanding the content of your site. You can think of them like a book’s index, offering a synopsis of sorts of what lies within. Title tags and meta descriptions play a vital role in this context.
The title tag is the clickable headline that appears in search engine results, serving as the first impression of your content. It should be a concise and accurate representation of your page’s content. For instance, a title tag could be ‘About Us | [Your Charity’s Name] | Working for Animal Welfare in Manchester’.
Meta descriptions, on the other hand, provide a brief summary of your page (usually 150-160 words are recommended). They appear beneath the title tag in search results and should be compelling enough to encourage users to click. Including a call to action, like ‘Learn more about our impact and how you can help’, can be effective here. You can use various free online websites to help understand which title or meta is better. Simply type in headline analyser and you will be able to see quite a few decent options on the first page of search results.
B. Categorising Content Strategically
Categorising your content helps both users and search engines navigate your website. Good content categorisation enhances user experience by making it easier for visitors to find the information they want. For search engines, it helps understand the structure and content of your site. This improves your chances of ranking well for relevant searches.
Your categories should be based on your audience’s interests and how you want them to interact with your site. For a charity, this could include categories like ‘Our Work’, ‘Get Involved’, ‘Donate’, and ‘Success Stories’.
C. Devising an Intuitive Site Structure
A user-friendly site structure is paramount for successful SEO. Imagine entering a bookstore where books are strewn everywhere with no clear organisation. You would likely leave frustrated without finding the book you need. The same principle applies to your website.
Your site should be easy to navigate, with a clear and logical hierarchy. This includes having a well-structured menu, clearly defined paths to important pages such as donation or volunteer sign-up forms, and breadcrumbs that help users understand their location within your site.
An intuitive site structure benefits SEO by making it easier for search engines to crawl and index your website. But more importantly, it improves user experience, making visitors more likely to engage with your content and take action. This action may be making a donation, signing up to volunteer, or simply learning more about your cause.
In essence, setting the stage for SEO is all about making your site welcoming and easy to understand – not just for search engines but for your human visitors too. It is about paving the way for them to engage with your charity, support your work, and become part of your community.