You can have the most amazing nonprofit website on the planet, but if nobody can find it, it’s crickets. Nothing. No visitors, no engagement, no action, no (gasp) donations.

That’s why it’s important to optimize or adjust the content on your nonprofit website to play nicely with search engines like Google. Optimizing your website for search = more organic traffic or the people who find you via search terms, not paid ads or sponsored content placement.

The great news is you don’t need to pay an expert or spend countless hours working to boost your nonprofit website’s SEO; you just need to understand some SEO basics.

Here are six things you can do on your own to improve your nonprofit site’s ranking and get you closer to the top without having to pay, which should boost that coveted organic traffic.


1. Define a keyword list and be sure to use them in your content.

List the specific terms that people might use to search for your organization. You can do a little keyword research and check the traffic for each term with a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner. However, keep this in mind: Terms that are too general may have high search traffic, but don’t necessarily improve your ranking in search results. It’s better to focus on targeted keywords that are specifically relevant to your organization. Once you determine the appropriate keywords for your organization, sprinkle them strategically throughout your content to help improve your nonprofit website’s ranking. Include them in the copy, the headlines—wherever it makes sense and seems natural.

Here’s an example: A local humane society might decide to use keywords like adopt a cat, pet adoption, animal in need, rescue dog, <your location> animal shelter or adopting a cat. These are the terms that people could use when they’re searching for a humane society, which are exactly what you want your keywords to be: specific search terms. Just don’t go overboard. Using too many keywords amounts to keyword stuffing, and Google might penalize you.


2. Remember to include ALT tags.

ALT tags are HTML elements used to display alternative text when the element they are applied to, like images and photos, can’t be rendered. ALT tags can have a strong correlation with search rankings, so when you have images and other elements on your nonprofit website, always use a descriptive ALT tag with targeted keywords. In many content management systems, you can update both the title text and ALT text of your images as you’re uploading them to your website. Search engines may not “see” your images, but they do index the image names.

Another bonus: ALT tags make your website more accessible—they enable screen readers to tell users what’s in the image, which is especially helpful for those who are visually impaired. Google’s algorithm favors accessible websites, so whatever you can do to make your site user-friendly for everyone, regardless of ability or disability, is a win-win.

Which takes us to the next point.


3. Be sure your website is user-friendly.

What’s good for your users is good for Google—in other words, Google favors websites that are created and designed for user-friendliness. A few things you can do to make your website more loved by the online crowd:

  • Optimize page speed: No one wants to visit a slow site. Check your page speed using Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool.
  • Use thoughtful anchor text: When including internal links on specific webpages, make sure that the anchor text indicates the topic of the content that the link is directing the visitor to.
  • Prioritize website design: Another thing people like to see is an aesthetically pleasing site. Work with a design team to ensure your brand colors and tone are consistent throughout your site, and for the love, please make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. Nobody likes to pinch and zoom around a clunky website on their phones, which is where much of your traffic is likely to come from.
  • Break up text: Content structure is an important ranking factor for the Google search algorithm, so be sure you don’t have text-heavy pages. Break up blocks of text with bullet lists or images.

4. Have a link building strategy.

In basic terms, link building means getting other websites to link to your nonprofit website. You want links that are relevant and from sites that search engines tend to rank high. How do you do this?

  • Ask local businesses and nonprofit partners to endorse or mention your organization along with a link to your nonprofit site. (Pro tip: Links from relevant and topically similar websites are generally better than those that aren’t.) You can also take some time to see where your org is mentioned currently and contact those places to ask them to add a link—it’s a simple request that can make a difference.
  • Post your stories and articles on major industry websites and include links back to your website.
  • Become a featured columnist or a guest blogger on blogs that are relevant to your organization, and include a link back to your site. If you’re interested in writing a guest post for a blog that doesn’t solicit guest bloggers, ask anyway! The worst they can say is no, and if they say yes, you’ve just landed a great link building opportunity.

5. Get social.

Social signals reflect the engagement—likes, shares and comments—your content receives on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Social signals can impact your nonprofit website’s SEO more than you might believe, considering that Google has said they’re not a direct ranking factor. They may not have a direct effect, but studies indicate they have a significant indirect effect. The more your content gets shared, the more likely it is to be seen by more people, which can lead to a wider and more populous audience viewing and linking to your content. And that can end up having a big impact on your Google rankings.

6. Create original content.

This is helpful in so many ways, including establishing thought leadership in your space, but Google definitely prefers content that’s “by people and for the people” over content that’s simply written with search engines in mind. In other words, create evergreen content that’s actually helpful and useful for your audience. This could be in the form of blog articles, e-books, videos, landing page content—wherever you’re talking to your audience, make it more about them than you, and definitely prioritize the people reading your content over the search engines that you want to get in good with.

If all this SEO talk has made you eager to learn more, you’re in luck: You can sign up whenever it suits you to watch our on-demand webinar, Be Found: The Secrets of SEO for Nonprofits.

You’ll get more tips, tricks and ideas for how to optimize your content and boost your nonprofit website’s SEO and get it climbing in the ranks of search results in no time.