Digital marketing for nonprofits part 1: SEO

Welcome to the first of our Digital Marketing 101 Series. Over the next few months, we’ll be publishing beginners’ guides to a host of digital marketing topics. This week, we kick off with a post that covers off everything you ever wanted to know about SEO (but were too afraid to ask).

What’s SEO – and why is it so important for charities?

Let’s start with the basics. Search Engine Optimisation (otherwise known as SEO) refers to the processes through which you improve your website’s page ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). In other words, it’s how you make sure that, when someone types in “Brisbane charity fun run” into Google, your event appears on the first few pages of search results, and isn’t buried somewhere on page 39.

It’s an especially valuable exercise for charities operating on tight budgets because optimising your website for SERPs won’t cost you a cent. While there are specialist agencies out there who will do it for you, improving your organic search rankings is something which can be done in-house – provided you’re willing to invest some time and effort.

What’s the difference between SEO and SEM?

SEO is part of the broader practice of SEM (or Search Engine Marketing), which uses a combination of paid and unpaid methods to increase your brand’s visibility on the SERP and drive traffic to your site. SEM will typically generate more immediate results, while SEO is more of a long-term investment in building the reputation of your site. It takes time and you won’t see results overnight, but if you’re consistent, the benefits will be significant.

How to improve your SEO: the basics

There’s a little term you may have already heard of, called the “Google algorithm”. This is the process through which Google indexes web pages on the internet and reports on the value of each page, so that we, the users, can view the most relevant results.

To improve your Google search ranking, you need to be able to demonstrate to the search engine algorithms that the content on your site is relevant, credible and authoritative. Here are the four key elements Google uses to assess your site’s value.

High quality content. If you’re regularly publishing great content, your user engagement metrics should be high. This is a key indicator of ‘relevance’ for Google.

Shareability. Are your visitors sharing your content elsewhere on the internet? If so, then that’s another tick in the box. Shared content indicates credibility and authority on a subject.

Content clustering. Publishing content that shares similar themes is also important. This is how you demonstrate your authority around a specific topic.

Technical onsite elements. A well-structured, well-maintained site is critical for good SEO. While the above are all good indicators that your site will provide users with a good experience, technical elements are also part of the equation.

If this is all starting to sound a little too technical for your skill set, talk to your web developers about it or sign up to Google’s free Search Console service. It’s designed to help you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results and is ideal for helping beginners wrap their heads around what is admittedly a pretty complicated topic.

Four fast tips to get your SEO on point

Now you’ve got to grips with how the world of SEO works, here are a few useful pointers to apply to your SEO strategy.

  1. Original content is king. By now it should be pretty clear that great content is one of the fundamentals of SEO – but there’s a catch. Your content needs to be original. Don’t waste time republishing other people’s content (albeit with a few words tweaked here and there). The Google algorithm favours fresh, unique content over repurposed stuff every time.
  2. Be consistent. There’s no point publishing a flurry of great content and then doing nothing for the next three months. Publishing consistently is essential to staying in the algorithm’s good graces. Make sure you keep your blog, news and events sections current.
  3. Don’t keyword stuff. If you think including the phrase “Australian children’s charity” as many times as possible on your page is the secret to improving your site’s search rankings, you couldn’t be more wrong. This practice actually damages your search ranking as it doesn’t provide a good experience for readers. Be subtle and strategic with your keyword usage – include them in your headers for example, and where they naturally fit.
  4. Use internal links. When your content links to another page within your site, you’re showing search engines that your content has value. An added bonus is that it also encourages visitors to stay on your site by clicking through to other relevant pages. Inbound links (where an external site links to yours) are even more valuable: ask your partners, sponsors, supporters and the media to include links to your website wherever possible.

Found this article useful? Look out for the next post in our Digital Marketing 101 series which will be dropping in the next few weeks.