In spite of the apparent domination of social media, your organization’s website is still your main identity online. While it may not be where you engage with supporters, it is where they’ll go when they want more from the relationship. There are many ways to drive traffic to your website, including email marketing, social media and traditional public relations. Although these approaches are useful and effective, they are most successful to reach people who aren’t looking for you. So what about those who are? This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in.
SEO affects how your website shows up in search results returned by search engines. Most users only click on the first few results, so if you don’t rank at the top, you’re losing opportunity for support. Optimizing your site for search boosts your website’s visibility and helps you reach people when they are looking for you. This brings more opportunities to influence prospects and convert them into supporters who are likely to donate, volunteer, or become involved with your cause in some way. Whether you’re launching your site for the first time or improving an existing one, there are certain things to keep in mind for your SEO strategy. To get started on improving your SEO to benefit your organization, here are four ways to make your website more finable with SEO.
1. Research and define your target keywords.
Learning how to identify and use keywords effectively is a key part of SEO. First, you’ll need to understand how your supporters search for your cause. Think about how they talk about you, what information they might be looking for, and what questions they might have. Identify keywords that match up with your cause, service, product or offering — including terms that are working for your site and terms you’re not ranking for. After you’ve determined some related search terms, decide which you want to rank for and research them. Enter these keywords in Google to see what it suggests as you type. You can also try out Google Adwords Keyword Planner, to see which terms people search for most often.
After researching, clearly define the keywords you want to target and include these throughout your site as much as possible. Keywords are important for your entire website, not just the text on your pages. Include them in your page titles, section headers, page URLs, image tags, title tags, and meta descriptions. But be careful – using keywords too often can actually hurt your results. Over-using may cause search engines to think you’re spamming, so exercise caution. Make sure your keywords are frequently included within the body of your content, but don’t exceed a keyword density of more than about 3 percent.
2. Make sure your page titles match your keywords.
The first thing users come across when searching for your keywords is the page title that appears on the search engine’s results page. Strong page titles are vital to your SEO success. This tells search engines and users what content they can find on your site. It’s important to make sure that each of your pages has a good title, and that these are optimized so they work with your keywords.
When writing page titles, make sure they include your targeted keywords since search engines will rank your site based on these. Page titles for SEO can differ from the actual title or header on the page. Make sure titles are written correctly so they display well in search engines. Most search engines only recognize up to 60 characters, so keep them short. Anything longer will be abbreviated, and you don’t want your title to appear incomplete or have your keywords cut off. Put keywords you want to rank for toward the beginning of your title. This will optimize how you show up in searches and users will more easily notice your title as they scan through results. While titles should include your keywords, avoid overstuffing them with every term you’re trying to target. Remember that titles aren’t just for search engines, but also your users. Titles should be specific and relate directly to what’s actually on your page. Avoid getting too creative with wording or else you risk being overlooked by search engines or not standing out to users in results. Try to think from your audience’s perspective and stick with the language they use.
3. Generate fresh content regularly.
Even the best keywords and titles won’t help your SEO unless you have the content to match. One of the most effective tools to incorporate into your long-term SEO strategy is good content. It doesn’t matter how small or large your organization is, if you’re not posting new content regularly, search engines won’t be able to find you and your ranking will drop. The more interesting and unique content you publish, the more visitors are drawn to your site to read it. A larger audience of readers also brings an increase in the number of inbound links from other websites and more shares on Facebook and other social media platforms. Search engines use all of this information to assess how valuable a piece of content is. By continually creating fresh content, you’ll keep both search engines and your readers happy.
Try maintaining a running blog and continually update various sections of your site. If you want to rank highly on a particular keyword, make sure it’s a topic you actually mention on your pages. Write and post content about your keyword topics regularly, and over time your ranking will go up. However, be sure to use original content – copying from another source can get you penalized or banned. The key is to generate lots of original content and do so often.
4. Utilize analytics for continuous improvement.
You’ve selected your keywords, tailored your titles, and written your content. Think you’ve done all you can to improve your site’s SEO? Not even close. Your battle with SEO isn’t over. The more you know what’s working and not working on your site, the more you can tweak it for better results.
Use a web analytics program like Google Analytics to monitor your results and make sure you stay on target. These programs track how users get to your site, what they look at on your site, what they spend the most and least time with, where they leave your site from, what keywords they use to find you, what sites refer them to you, and more. Review and apply what you learn from this data to adjust things on your site to get even better results. Many web analytics tools are free and easy to use, so even if your organization is low on budget or resources, there’s no excuse not to analyze your online traffic.