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How to Increase the SEO Presence of Your Charity on a Budget

SEOWebsites

By: Owen Baker, content marketer for Right Inbox, and Voila Norbert

If you run a charity website, you might have mixed feelings about search engine optimization (SEO). To many people, doing SEO feels like cheating Google or inflating search results. While it is true that SEO is all about raising your search engine rankings, it’s not just about inserting random keywords that match what people are searching for.

Doing SEO for a charity differs a bit from doing SEO for for-profit organizations. Not surprisingly, the biggest difference is funding, especially if your charity has only a handful of full-time workers. Digital marketing agencies are expensive. Fortunately, there are ways you can boost your organization’s profile on a budget.

Understand your charity website’s goals

Before deciding on an SEO strategy, you have to clarify your goals. Do you want to receive more donations? Do you want more people to come to your events? In other words, how do you determine the success of your marketing efforts?

For example, The Mississauga Food Bank website seeks to help hungry people in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga in two ways. First, the website lets people donate cash and food online. Second, people who rely on these services can use the website to find healthy food options through a database of food banks, after-school clubs, and breakfast clubs.

The ultimate goal of the Mississauga Food Bank is to reduce hunger. In SEO terms, their mission translates to donations and click-throughs to the food bank database.

Your own organization’s website may have different success metrics, such as newsletter subscriptions, or the number of volunteer applications you receive. Your SEO strategy should align with those goals.

Define your Content Marketing Strategy

If you’re going to put a lot of effort into content marketing, it’s important you start on the right foot. The best way to make sure you’re targeting the right keywords is to review your current content marketing strategy from the ground up. I like to begin by creating a client/member persona.

The client persona will include details like age, interests, and pain points of your members/ donors. Creating a client persona will help define the person you are creating content for.

Once you’ve defined your client persona, it’s important to create content for each of the five stages of the client journey:

  • Awareness: the client is aware that there is a need to be filled.
  • Consideration: the client starts looking at solutions and comparing them with other options.
  • Purchase: the client decides to use your nonprofit’s services to fill the need, or the donor decides to donate to your nonprofit
  • Retention: the client/donor  continues to engage with your organization
  • Advocacy: the client/donor becomes a spokesperson for your nonprofit, telling others about your mission and services.

The client/donor journey starts with awareness. Clients in that stage tend to search in more general terms. For instance, if they are looking for a charity to support in the greater Toronto area, the search terms they use may include “charity in Toronto area”, which is not so specific and easier to get high search rankings for.

As we go through the client journey, the search terms get more and more specific. When we get to the “purchase” phase, we can start seeing the terms “Mississauga food bank”, which, while harder to rank for, has a higher probability of conversion because it is more specific and targeted.

A content marketing strategy should include a mix of keywords related to each stage of the client journey. This will help you attract visitors to your site who are interested in your mission and are ready to support your cause. 

How to Find the Right Keywords

The process of finding the right keywords for your content and audience is called “keyword research”. There are dozens of tools that you can use to do keyword research and analytics, such as Google Analytics Keyword Planner, and Keywords Everywhere.

When you do keyword research, you are looking to find search terms that your ideal client/donor would search for that are relevant to your cause. What you want to find are terms with a high search volume.

To illustrate how you can find the search volume, I used the Keywords Everywhere browser plugin for Chrome. When we searched for the phrase “charities Canada”, the plugin churned out a list of keywords related to the search term and the search volume.

Going through this process will help you come up with a content marketing strategy that is aligned with the interests of your audience. This is a crucial first step to review before starting the next step: guest post outreach.

The reason you should undertake link building is because there is a direct correlation between the number of quality links your content has, and where it ranks on Google. I’ll show you how to build these links in the next section.

Reach out to website editors for guest posts

Not all websites were created equal when it comes to boosting your SEO presence. Here are some rules of thumb you could follow when looking for prospective sites for your backlink building campaign:

  • Domain Rating: Try to get into sites with a minimum DR of 60 or higher
  • Traffic: Try to target sites with a minimum of 3,000 visitors a month
  • Relevance: Try to get into sites that are relevant to your niche 
  • Country: Target sites where the majority of visitors come from a relevant country

At this point, you might be asking yourself where you can find websites that fit all four criteria below. You can start by doing a simple Google Keyword planner search on charities that operate in the same location and advocacy, then using the backlink checker from Ahrefs to check their domain ranks and backlink profiles.

For example, you can check Ahrefs for FoodRescue, a charity that collects excess food in Toronto and other Canadian cities to redistribute to those in need.

You can see that the top website in terms of traffic to FoodRescue.ca has a Domain Rating of 63. This is not surprising as FoodRescue is a project of Second Harvest. However, scrolling down the backlinks shows that FoodRescue has been featured in a number of high-domain rating sites, like Forbes, Canada.ca, and NowToronto.com, all of which also enjoy high monthly traffic.

Now, those are the kinds of websites you should partner for guest posts. If you feel intimidated trying to get a guest post on those sites, it pays to aim high, even if it’s just your first time. 

If you’re not sure if a website accepts guest blogs, you can search for the website name and the keywords “write for us”, “guest blogger”, or “contributor”. Most editors are more than happy to accept guest posts, provided that they are written well, comply with the blog’s style guide, and provide something of value to their readers. 

The first thing you must do when you propose a guest blog is to find out who to reach out to. It’s not enough to just know “someone who runs the website”. You need to know who controls the content that is posted in it. 

LinkedIn can prove to be very useful when you start searching for the person who is in charge of content for a website, such as an editor or content manager. Just look for the name of the website and the job title, then check out the profiles that appear in the results. 

When it comes to getting in touch with people that matter, email* is still the best means of communication. An email lookup tool comes in handy when you verify the contact details of the content editor of a website. This will help reduce emails that get sent to the wrong person or to an inactive address.

*NOTE: Just be sure you are in compliance with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation!

Example guest post template

Start with introducing your charity. Who do you work with? How do you work? How is your charity relevant to the organization? Who are your sources of funding, if applicable? If you already have an existing blog or have written guest posts for other websites, you can mention them to establish your credibility.

You can’t expect to get a lot of replies, so you have to be prepared to send email to multiple editors.

When you email an editor of a website where you’d like to submit a guest post, you can follow the format below:

Hi NAME,

I hope you’re having a great day.

This might come out of the blue, but I write engaging content for sites in the content marketing niche like TechSoup and the Montreal Gazette. I’ve got some great guest post ideas for your website. 

Are you accepting guest posts right now? I’d love to pitch you some of my ideas.

Regards,

YOUR NAME

It's relatively easy to find websites where you can pitch your ideas for guest posts and to get in touch with the right people. Once you’ve sent emails to editors, the waiting game begins. It’s good to be ready with a list of topics you can actually pitch to an editor as soon as they give the go-ahead.

It's relatively easy to find websites where you can pitch your ideas for guest posts and to get in touch with the right people. Once you’ve sent emails to editors, the waiting game begins. It’s good to be ready with a list of topics you can actually pitch to an editor as soon as they give the go-ahead.

Write quality content frequently

Did an editor approve your guest post pitch? If so, congratulations are in order! However, this is just the start of your content journey.

Editors are very meticulous about the content they feature on their site. They need to adhere to their website’s standards while ensuring that their contributors’ voices still stand out. If they see that your submitted content does not meet their standards, they will not publish it. If you’re lucky, they will request just a few revisions. If they don’t feel too charitable, they may reject your future pitches.

Here are some guidelines for producing quality content:

  • Be relevant: Your goal is to build quality backlinks, so your guest posts should link back to relevant content on your website. That being said, you need to have great content on your website that you can link back to in your guest posts. They should also be related to the keywords that you are targeting.

  • Be organised: Nonprofits’ time is already limited, so don’t create a piece that struggles to find its footing, rambles through the ideas, and stumbles to its conclusion. Outline your ideas before committing them to writing will help you organise your thoughts and let you highlight the things that you feel are important. 

  • Write clearly: When you write, you are selling an idea. Your readers have to know what your idea stands for and what you intend to do with the support that you get. Using terms anyone can engage with will go a long way in selling your idea to your readers. For example, I like to imagine my target audience as a university educated person who speaks English as a second language, in order to guide my writing style.

  • Show and tell: Unless the website that you’re guest posting on follows a strict “text only” policy, try to incorporate images into your content. The type of images you choose should depend on the overall tone of the website and the content you’re writing. If it’s a bit light-hearted, an amusing GIF file will help keep your readers entertained.

  • Use Relevant Sources: The arguments you make are more powerful when they are backed by data. When writing content, try to include relevant data, for example studies and statistics, to back up the points you make.

The goal of a backlink campaign/guest posting is to showcase your organizational knowledge and direct traffic back to the key pages on your website. All those links will help make your content rank on Google.

Keep measuring your progress against your goals

Even after you’ve published guest posts, optimized your website with SEO keywords, and received quality backlinks and social media mentions, your work is not yet done. You still have to determine if your strategy was successful.

While traffic is a good indicator of success, it is generally not considered actionable data. You need to know what’s working and what’s not working. 

To measure your SEO performance, you need to refer to the goals you defined at the start. Did you notice an increase in donations or newsletter subscriptions? Where did the additional traffic or donations come from? Is there a direct link between your content and your website’s improved performance? Did your domain rating go up?

There are a number of tools you can use to track your progress. Google Analytics is by far the most popular tool. Its powerful reporting suite lets you see how visitors found your website, what websites backlink to yours, and which links on your page visitors click on the most. Using the insights that you get, you can make tweaks to your SEO strategy or change it completely. Just remember that your SEO strategy should not be static, and by following the best practices outlined in this post, you should be able to continuously improve and optimize your SEO. 


About the Author

Owen Baker is a content marketer for Right Inbox, an email scheduling tool, and Voila Norbert. He has spent most of the last decade working online for a range of marketing companies. When he’s not busy writing, you can find him in the kitchen mastering new dishes.