Before joining Anvil Media, I worked for almost three years at a local nonprofit here in Portland, Oregon. Coming in fresh out of college meant that I was the youngest person in the organization, and by default, in charge of all online and email marketing. I knew very little about search engine marketing (or that it was even called that), so I spent most of my time optimizing the look and feel of the site instead.
Had I known then what I know now though, my day-to-day work would have been much different. Instead of focusing my time making the site as pretty as possible, I would have spent it targeting keywords, link building, and developing robust social media communities to drive as much traffic as possible. Here are the three things I would focus on if I was still working at a small nonprofit with limited resources:
- Optimize your site with specific keywords. It’s search engine optimization 101, but very few (especially small to mid-size) nonprofits do it. Most nonprofits already have a pretty good sense what they want to be known for, so put those keywords on your site in title tags, content blocks, and image file names, among other spots. (Tip: use Google Webmaster Tools to identify duplicate title tags, making sure each page has a unique tag.)
- Keep an eye on your competitors. There’s a sense of congeniality among nonprofits which is great, but at the end of the day you are competing for donor dollars the same way for-profit businesses compete for dollars. Identify your top three nonprofit competitors, see what they’re doing well in terms of search engine marketing, and aim to beat them at it. (Tip: The free version of SpyFu can give you a quick snapshot of what your competitors are up to in paid and organic search.)
- Use social media, but have specific goals. Social media is wonderful for nonprofits, but many think it’s free and that just throwing a profile on Facebook will lead to the dollars rolling in. Bottom line: if your staff is spending time on it, it’s not free. By all means dive into social media, but figure out first how you’re going to measure success. Is it more email newsletter signups? More donations? You need some metric to track (even if it’s only one number) to gauge if the staff time is being well spent. (Tip: set up free real-time Google alerts, and use free tools like Social Mention to get a quick snapshot of how people are talking about you.)
- Bonus tip! Get on LinkedIn. Too many nonprofits aren’t on LinkedIn, and it’s the place where most business connections are getting made now. Set up an organization profile, and make all your employees set up personal profiles as well (it’s completely free, except of course for the time to set it up).
With limited resources, nonprofits need to spend their staff time wisely, especially when it comes to their website. Keep the above tips in mind as you think about how to drive more traffic to your nonprofit site, and don’t be afraid to embrace the world of search engine marketing — it can often make a difference in ways nonprofit leaders never thought possible.
What’s the best tip you have for nonprofits who don’t have a lot of money?