Is your nonprofit website low on visitor traffic? Are your ads and blog articles not generating enough clicks? We have all experienced what it’s like to spend time and energy producing great content only to see it slip under viewers’ radar. But how do you fix it to get better results and a greater return on your investment?
You’ve probably heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)—aka, tweaking your website and other online content to achieve greater visibility and better audience engagement. But if you’re like the average computer user, SEO might seem like an advanced concept better left to the experts.
While it is true that SEO has a learning curve, there’s actually an easy way to start seeing better results almost immediately, no CIA-level computer hacking skills required. It’s called using keywords.
What are keywords, and why are they important?
In a nutshell, keywords are words or phrases you generate each time you produce content that lives on the internet (this includes your website). And they play a big part in “informing” search engines whether your content should appear in search results and on which page (i.e., how early).
When you enter a search query into Google, the algorithm does its best to provide results that are relevant, specific and reliable to your search. If it didn’t, navigating the internet would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. As such, content that clearly aligns with searcher intent is “rewarded” by the algorithm by appearing earlier on the search engine results page (SERP).
Why is this significant? Because SERP placement heavily influences click rate. In fact, research shows that a SERP’s first organic result (i.e., the first result that is not a paid ad) gets a whopping 30% of first clicks, while the first three organic results overall get nearly two-thirds.
How do you make your website or content rise through the rankings and into the coveted click zone? You could hire an SEO expert to boost your performance. Until then, you can make progress simply by being more strategic with your keywords. Let’s find out how.
How to boost visibility and engagement using keywords.
If search engines reward content that matches searcher intent, a great starting point for boosting your SEO without an expert is ensuring your website and online content contain plenty of commonly searched-for keywords.
For example, if you run a shelter for stray cats, you might want to make sure terms like “feline rescue” or “cat shelter” appear prominently and frequently in places like:
- Your homepage
- Page headings
- Within blocks of text
- In the titles of blog articles, etc.
Note that this doesn’t mean you should overstuff your content with keywords until it becomes a turnoff to viewers or an obvious ploy to search engine algorithms. There is, in fact, an entire body of research devoted to optimal “keyword density,” which you can explore. As a general guideline, we recommend keeping the words “often and prominent” in mind.
Think Like a Searcher
Not all keywords are created equal. That’s why it is important to think like a searcher.
To broadly illustrate, let’s go back to our example of stray cats. Let’s say one rescue organization decides to optimize headings and text on their website with popular search terms like “stray cat rescue” and “feline adoption.” A second organization with the same mission ignores popular search terms in favor of marketing lingo like “meow house” and “loving paws.”
Who do you think will show up earlier in the SERP rankings?
The first organization, of course! Imagine you sat down to research feline rescues in your area. Would you be more likely to search for “stray cat rescue” or “meow houses near me?” This seemingly extreme example is probably more common in essence than you think—and it illustrates the importance of “thinking like a searcher” to select high-ranking keywords.
How to choose the right keywords
Luckily, nonprofit marketers do not have to rely on intuition to decide which keywords will perform best. There are tools for that!
For example, get to know Google’s Keyword Planner. This free, easy-to-use program allows you to input keywords related to your subject. It then generates a rank-ordered list revealing how many times users searched those and related terms in a given period. You may discover, for example, that “volunteer food pantry near me” ranks many places higher than “soup kitchens near me,” and you could immediately put that insight to work in your content. (Speaking of “near me,” always make sure your location is listed prominently on your homepage, in your Google Business Profile and elsewhere if you want to show us as part of local searches).
Putting it all together
Now that you’re a keyword expert, it’s time to take a fresh look at your content—including but not limited to your website—and ask yourself a few questions:
- Have we optimized our content using the right keywords? Do they occur often and prominently?
- Have our keywords been checked for search popularity using a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner?
- Is our location listed on our website and Google Business profile?
- When we create new content, are we “thinking like a searcher” and optimizing our titles, headings and text accordingly with high-ranking keywords?
The next step is to address any deficiencies you find. Then, give it time for your new keywords to start boosting your content’s visibility and click rate. Remember: SEO takes time and effort and keyword optimization is just the beginning. For more support, you can always talk to an SEO expert about an in-depth performance evaluation and overhaul. Until then, you can rest well knowing that by leveling up your keyword game, you’ll be well on your way to better search engine rankings—and, subsequently, to better progress.
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