March 7, 2011

How to improve your nonprofit’s ranking on Google

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Image by Greenpeace Finland (CC BY on Flickr)

 

Help your supporters find their way to your organization’s key pages in the Web forest

Guest post by Matt Metten

The day or week after a website launch, someone will inevitably notice that they can’t find the site on Google, Yahoo! or Bing. This might seem funny or inevitable, given that there are thousands of websites launched each day, but it also shows a underestimation of what is required to be found online.

However, this isn’t as funny when your organization’s site has been online for a while and is still not being found. You know your website was indexed by the search engines, but it is listed on page 10 in Google – and no one will ever see it! What do you do?

There is a multibillion-dollar industry around the science of search engine optimization, so it’s not surprising that lots of Web managers are confused. What the search engines are looking for changes constantly, so unless you are committed to staying up with it all, getting ranked is going to take some help.

There is hope!

10 things to start improving your rankings right now

  1. Get an analytics tool. Ensure you have some sort of analytics tool installed on every page so you can see how people are getting to your site, what they’re looking at and spending the most and least time with, where they leave your site from the most, what keywords they are typing in to find you, what sites are referring them to you and a whole host of other data. I recommend Google Analytics — it’s free and quite comprehensive.
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  3. Ensure your pages load quickly. If there is something that takes forever to load on your page (a Flash movie or some JavaScript function, for instance), your rankings will drop. Try out your site on multiple browsers, on multiple operating systems, in as many different ways as possible and keep tweaking your pages until they are running quickly and efficiently. Another great free tool is Google’s Webmaster tool. Load that up and let it help diagnose any problem areas!
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  5. Validate your pages. Make sure they are all clear of errors, and are “correct” according to the industry standards that are out there. There are plenty of resources online to help with the process. Start with the W3C Markup Validation Service — you may need your tech staff or a contractor to help with this. If your site is not browser compatible, for instance, your SERP (Search Engine Results Page) rating will drop. Take the time to make sure everything in your control is as dialed in as possible.
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  7. Make sure each page has a good page title. A strong page title will tell the search engines what content users can find there. The page title can be different from the actual title or headline on the page (talk to your Web developer), but the page title is critical to your SEO success. Most content management systems have a place to define your page title.
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  9. Define your keywords. Clearly define the keywords that you are trying to rank for and then ensure that as much as possible you include those keywords in each post. This can also hurt your chances if you over-use your keywords, but just make sure that as much as possible your keywords are included within the body of your content. Note: these keywords should also dominate your page titles and section headers.
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  11. Have images in your posts and articles work for you! Make sure you include an “alt” tag in each image that is rich in your desired keywords as well. Note: make sure your images are set to 72 dpi and set exactly to the size you want them. The quicker your images load, the better for your optimization.
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  13. Link to other articles and posts you’ve written. Use your site to promote your site! When you are writing something and reference a concept you’ve already written about or an event you are promoting, link to it.
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  15. Link correctly! When you are linking (either internally or externally) ensure your link contains keywords that you value. For instance, instead of just using “Click here,” make sure your link contains relevant keywords. Note: much like the “alt” tag in images, use the “title” tag in links for better SEO muscle.
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  17. Post often. No matter how big your organization is, if the search engines cannot find new content when they come to spider through, your ranking will drop. Content is and will be king for a while.
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  19. Work to get higher ranking websites to link to you. When they do link to you, make sure they link to a specific page on your site (one that has relevant content), and make sure they use good keywords in their links to you. One good way to achieve this is by having guest posts by well-known authors. Note: “reciprocal linking” is not as much a factor these days as it has been so abused in the past. What matters with linking is having reputable websites that reference your site for greater validation.

Are there any other key factors you think should be considered? Please chime in!

Matt Metten works with Blackbaud as an Internet Solutions consultant delivering both functional solutions and Internet strategy. With a background in digital marketing and Web development, Matt helps nonprofits match business objectives with fundraising technology and online marketing best practices. Follow him on Twitter at @mattmetten. This article originally appeared at NetWitsThinkTank, an online resource for nonprofits.
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  • Excellent article. Very useful for charities too. Thanks.

    Also, what do you do when you bounce rate is high (ex: 50%) do you have some advice?

    Best regards

    • Hey Lily,

      There are a few things you can do…one would be to install Google Webmaster tools and see if there is something specifically that is either taking too long to load (so people leave) or a broken script, etc. The other thing is to really analyze the keywords people are using to find you. It could be that right now you're getting traffic for the wrong audience as you're ranking high for something un-related. Lastly, I would suggest making sure your site is set up to encourage interaction…lots of "Read More" options or calls to action on the page so they get pulled in quicker. Hope that helps!

      • jdlasica

        Thanks, Matt. I also tell people not to stress too much about bounce rates. It can mean you're getting a lot of referrals from new sources — just make sure there's something on the page or in the sidebar that gives people the option to subscribe to your newsletter or to take some other call to action.

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