SEO for Nonprofits: The Key to Online Donor Engagement

The Keela Team • Dec 08, 2020

More than ever, donors are looking up, engaging with, and donating to nonprofit organizations online. To speak to donors on the preferred platforms, nonprofit organizations have to grow their online presence and optimize their websites by implementing search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. 

For nonprofits, SEO is essential for building donor engagement and boosting online fundraising now and in the future.

Table of content:

  1. What is SEO?
  2. Why is SEO essential to your nonprofit
  3. SEO improves your donor engagement
  4. What is on-page SEO?
  5. What is off-page SEO?
  6. What is technical SEO?
  7. How to audit your nonprofit website’s SEO

What is SEO?

SEO is a marketing strategy that improves your website’s visibility. It earns quality traffic from search engines to your website. 

Search engines — such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Baidu — are built to provide relevant and accurate responses to search queries. These responses are sorted, ranked, and displayed on search engine result pages (SERPs) as links to websites with quality content. 

When looking up information online, seven out of ten donors click the top three ranked links on SERPs. Ideally, you want your website to be one of the first three links your donor sees when entering related search queries. This may seem like an impossible task, but don’t fret. You can position your nonprofit website to rank high on SERPs by implementing essential SEO practices  described in this beginner’s guide.

This article discusses all you need to know about your website’s SEO. You will learn about different SEO strategies and how you can start implementing them in your organization. Most importantly, you will learn tips and tools for auditing and improving your website’s SEO right away. 

Why SEO is Essential For Your Nonprofit Organization

Your website is an integral part of your nonprofit management and marketing strategy. SEO leverages your website to promote your brand and mission, engage supporters, volunteers, and donors, and collect donations. It ensures the continuous flow of traffic from search engines to your website. 

With the rise of online giving options, like Keela’s donation forms, more donors make donations through nonprofit websites.

nonprofit online revenue statistics

This percentage will keep rising as members of younger generations become more active and frequent donors. The next generation of donors will more likely donate via your nonprofit’s website than at an in-person fundraising event

Your website’s content and design play a significant role in delighting your supporters and encouraging your donors to contribute to your organization. SEO factors into content development practices and technical design processes that improve your donor engagement and website’s user experience

SEO Improves Your Donor Engagement

SEO is just as crucial for attracting quality traffic from search engines to your nonprofit website as it is for improving your donor engagement and experience. Search engines use over 200 ranking signals to determine the relevance and ranking of websites on SERPs. Amongst the top ranking factors are the quality of a website’s content and user experience. 

Four out of ten of your website’s visitors will stop engaging with it if your content and layout are unattractive and difficult to navigate.

By publishing quality content on your website and optimizing your site architecture, you can improve your donor engagement and retention. Simply put, SEO practices optimize your website for both search engines and search engine users. 

Google is the biggest driver of search traffic. As of July 2020, Google’s search engine drove 86.86% of all search traffic to websites. Chances are, the majority of your donors use Google as their primary search engine. In this article, we’ll focus primarily on SEO strategies and best practices specific to Google’s search engine. 

We can categorize SEO strategies into three: on-page, off-page, and technical. Each category has a somewhat different SEO approach, but collectively, they make up an integrated and efficient digital strategy. None of these categories are more significant than the other, but you should focus on your on-page SEO first.

What is On-page SEO?

Your website is the first point of contact between your nonprofit and donors who enter search queries related to your organization — so it makes sense to start there. 

On-page SEO refers to practices that help your nonprofit earn search traffic by improving your website’s quality. From your choice of words to your website’s uniform resource locator (URL), on-page SEO factors all the nuances that can make your website stand out.

Start with keyword Optimization

Keywords are the words within — or contextually and semantically similar to — your donors’ search queries. Search engines use these words, or phrases, to provide donors, and other search engine users, with a list of relevant and accurate responses to their search queries. 

Before displaying this list, search engines crawl over several webpages and select those that include, or use, these keywords in a context related to the search query. If your webpage has and uses keywords in a context related to your donors’ search queries, chances are your webpages will be displayed as one of the listed responses. 

When selecting these pages, Google’s search engine algorithm, Googlebot, considers the relevance and context of the words used and the search intent (the Why behind a search query). With this in mind, as you create content for your website, you should use keywords that answer the most pressing questions of your target audience, supporters, or donors.

Use keywords that answer the most pressing questions of your target audience, supporters, or donors.

To do this, set clear goals for your nonprofit’s SEO marketing strategy. Conduct keyword research that narrows down the topics your donors and supporters are interested in and searching for online. Use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to assess the monthly search volumes of relevant keywords in your local area.

For example, a nonprofit organization committed to improving child literacy could use keywords like reading activities for preschoolers, teach my kid to read, or donate books to kids near me. These are words and phrases that this nonprofit’s potential donors and supporters may search for using Google’s search engine. 

You can also use SEO tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, or Moz to study keyword data and create keyword clusters. Your keyword cluster should include keywords relevant and specific to your target donors’ search queries, related to your nonprofit’s mission or mandate, and have sizable local search volumes. You can include semantically related search terms, i.e., words that are contextually your keywords. 

For example, an article that uses animal sanctuary as its main keyword could use pet rescue center as one of its semantic keywords. Although they are different words, they both mean the same thing. 

Mind Your Keyword Usage, Density, and Insertions

Your choice of keywords is half the battle; the other half has to do with keyword usage and insertions. How and where you use keywords in your content matters. For starters, you should only use keywords that are meaningful and useful to your donors. Your donor and their search queries are your primary focus when determining the usefulness of your keywords.

Whatever you do, avoid keyword stuffing. Think of keyword stuffing as spamming. Shoving so many keywords in your content does more harm than good. Instead, use one to five keywords in a way that flows naturally with the essence and structure of your content. 

For example, one of the main keywords targeted in this article is donor engagement. Did you notice it, and did you find it jarring? You never want your keywords to stick out like a sore thumb. Use them sparingly and only when necessary. 

To keep track of how often you’re using a keyword, consider using SEMrush to measure your keyword density, i.e., the percentage of your content that are keywords.

Experts recommend keeping your keyword density somewhere between 2% and 5%.

As with keyword usage and density, you should be strategic about your keyword insertions. Insert your primary keyword in your content tags. Your content tags include your URLs, titles, meta description, headers (particularly your H1 tag), alt-text, and, finally, relevant anchor texts. These aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but they can help you get the most out of your SEO efforts. 

Nonprofit Websites Should Be Mobile and User Friendly 

In the past year, the number of donations coming through mobile devices and desktop browsers increased by 50%. In that time, half of all nonprofit website traffic came from mobile devices.

It has never been more critical for nonprofits to have mobile-friendly websites. By optimizing your nonprofit website for mobile browsers, you’ll be keeping in step with Google’s SEO recommendations. 

Google’s search engines use a mobile-first approach to indexing and ranking. This is called mobile-first indexing. Googlebot primarily considers the information, layout, and user experience of your website’s mobile version, over the desktop version. It uses this information to determine if and where it displays your website on Google’s SERPs. 

A mobile-friendly nonprofit website is accessible and easy to navigate on a mobile device. This goes a long way to enhancing your donor engagement and user experience. Additionally, your user experience gets better as your website’s usability and efficiency improves.

To do this, you should focus on these five features of mobile and user-friendly websites

1. Accessibility: Use readable fonts for texts, improve your site’s loading speed, add alt-tags to your images, and have a clear contrast between your website’s background and text.

2. Identity: Donors and supporters should see impressions of your nonprofit brand identity right from your homepage. The colors on your webpages should reflect your brand colors. Your tagline, mission statement, and other important information about your nonprofit should be easy to find. 

3. Navigation: If your website’s navigation feels like solving a calculus problem, you’re doing it wrong. Anyone who visits your website should quickly know where to go to find the information they need. Logos, navigation labels, buttons, links, and the site search box should be easily identifiable. 

4. Content: Are your URLs, titles, and headings descriptive? Is your copy concise? Are banners in the way of important information? Use these questions to assess the quality of your website’s content.

5. Links: Make sure your anchor texts are descriptive, and your links point to relevant content on your website or other credible websites. By linking relevant content, you’re giving visitors more resources and information. This builds trust in your nonprofit’s expertise and credibility.

Actions to take:

✔️ Conduct keyword research and create a keyword cluster for your nonprofit using Google   

       Adwords Keyword Planner. 

✔️ Use this tool to check if your website is mobile-friendly

What is Off-page SEO?

Off-page SEO refers to the efforts you make outside of your website to earn quality search traffic to your website. While on-page SEO involves making changes to your website, off-page SEO doesn’t require any modification to your nonprofit website’s design, content, pages, or structure.

Backlinks Boost Your Nonprofit Website’s Credibility

Backlinks are the most critical part of your off-page SEO strategy. These are links from other relevant websites to your website. Googlebot uses these links’ quality and quantity to determine your website’s credibility, relevance and ranking on SERPs. These three criteria make up your website’s domain authority. 

Domain authority is a score that predicts your website’s credibility, relevance, and ranking for specific topics. The score ranges from one to 100, and the higher, the better.

Increase your website’s domain authority score by getting backlinks from other credible and relevant websites in the nonprofit industry.

Tools like SEMRush and Moz can help you measure your domain authority score and set a goal to increase it. 

Your backlink strategy should go hand in hand with a guest blogging strategy. Guest blogging is all about building relationships. Connect with nonprofit bloggers, consultants, industry experts, and organizations and offer to contribute to their websites by writing relevant content for their blog pages in exchange for backlinks. 

Backlinks are like votes of confidence from nonprofit professionals and websites; we can say the same about online reviews. When published on your nonprofit’s Google My Business profile or other review platforms, reviews help potential supporters and donors make decisions about engaging with and donating to your organization. Reviews are increasingly becoming a critical local ranking signal for search engines. Googlebot considers the ratings, quality, and quantity of your nonprofit’s online reviews as it ranks your website.

Actions to take:

✔️ Check your domain authority score with this tool

✔️ Check Keela’s consultant directory for potential guest blogging opportunities.

✔️ Create a link for donors to add reviews on your Google My Business profile

What is Technical SEO?

As the name suggests, Technical SEO is a mechanical approach to your SEO strategy. It earns quality search traffic by optimizing your website to meet search engines’ technical requirements. It ensures your webpages are found, crawled, rendered, and well-indexed by search engines. 

There are several measures to take into account when improving your technical SEO. Still, for the sake of this article, we will briefly discuss a critical aspect of technical SEO: site architecture. 

Site architecture refers to the way your website is structured. It is the sum of webpage hierarchy, URL structure, internal linking strategy, and sitemap. 

You should be strategic about your website’s navigation, URL, and how one webpage links to another. Here’s a list of best practices for improving your site architecture:

1. Webpages should be easily accessible: Within three to four clicks, donors who visit your website should be able to reach the page they are looking for.

2. Your URL structure should be concise and consistent: Keep your webpage’s URL short, and include keywords for the page’s content in the corresponding URL. This makes it easy for search engines to crawl and index your webpages. 

3. Link relevant pages to each other: Your navigation menu or labels should link to relevant category pages and individual pages. For example, the ‘About’ menu header could link to a page that includes another link to the ‘Team’ page. This makes it easier for your website’s visitors to find the information they need.

4. Use a sitemap: If your website has a lot of content, use a sitemap to visualize your content. Sitemaps help you learn how your content is connected. They give search engines the information they need as they crawl your website. 

Unlike on-page and off-page SEO, technical SEO requires an advanced level of expertise and knowledge. Once you’ve started achieving success with your on-page and off-page SEO strategies, you should hire an SEO specialist to audit and improve your website’s technical SEO.

Actions to take:

✔️ Use Google Search Console to check that your website is indexed correctly.

Audit Your Nonprofit Website’s SEO

The future of donor acquisition, engagement, fundraising, and donation is online.

Improving your SEO is really about delighting your donors and supporters and increasing your donor engagement now and in the future. SEO is a long-term strategy that positions your nonprofit to successfully develop its online presence, earn quality traffic, and engage more donors online for years to come. 

SEO strategies may seem complicated, but in practice, all you need to do is take the first step of auditing your nonprofit website, and you can get the ball rolling. Armed with information, you can start building your SEO strategy and attracting more donors and supporters to your website.

Use this Free SEO Audit Tool to check the health of your website