SEO has been the hottest topic in the online world for years now. Everyone seems to be talking about it, but not many people fully grasp its importance, or, those who do, have no clue where to start. And I don’t blame them! SEO seems to be, at times, an elusive and temperamental boss changing the game every couple of months.
In this quick guide to the fundamentals of SEO, you’ll learn what it is and staple best practices you can start applying to your nonprofit organisation’s website.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This is, in simple terms, the conversation between your online presence and Google -there are other search engines, but Google rules.
Google uses 200 ranking parameters to determine where each page on your website should rank for keywords. From all these 200 parameters, some are more relevant than others, operate at different levels, and can have a different impact on your website traffic.
SEO is a world on its own. Its landscape changes as technology evolves to provide a better user experience. It all boils down to how people surf the web, the terms they use to find answers to their questions, and what they intend to do with these.
What’s the goal of SEO?
The idea is that someone looking for something on the web should find great content that answers a query on Google’s first pages.
Another acronym for you: SERP -Search Engine Results Pages. The SERP is the way Google displays each URL responding to a specific keyword -aka queries. Here’s what Google wants to serve users on a silver platter:
- easy to read,
- on topic,
- mobile friendly, and
- authoritative content.
When you are creating a marketing strategy for your non-profit, all these items need to be weighed in! Following the best SEO practices will trigger better rankings, more website traffic, and will build on your non-profit’s relevance and authority.
SEO fundamental #1: Keyword research
Keywords are the words people use when surfing the web. From ‘how to boil an egg?‘ to ‘who would win a fight between batman and superman‘ to ‘best charities to donate to.’
For most topics, people type in phrases with 3 or more words. These are called long-tail keywords.
So, keyword research entails finding the words the people you want to attract use to ask things on the internet. There are MANY tools to help you do this, from the staple -and free- Google Keyword Planner to paid tools like Keysearch, SEMRush, and Ahrefs. All these will tell you roughly how many people are looking for certain words per month.
It can be quite surprising how sometimes the words you’d use are not the ones people actually type on Google. The big picture behind keyword research is to find these phrases and weave them in your content.
The best use of keywords on a site or blog post is a topic on its own! But to give you a hint, you should choose keywords relevant to your non-profit, and use them as the starting point for your content plan.
Some would suggest using keywords with thousands of searches. Yet, if you operate a local non-profit, that may not be the best strategy, as you’d end up being a tiny fish in a huge pond. If you go local then you can target folks around your area, and become the big fish in a small pond. Keep your non-profit’s goals at heart and plan around them.
SEO fundamental #2: Backlinks
Backlinks are all the links from other websites pointing to yours. If you write a blog post for a reputable site within your niche, and they share a link to your own domain, then they’d be passing on what’s known as ‘link juice.’
The whole point is that if Google sees highly relevant sites referring to yours, then you must also be a trustworthy source. Getting backlinks to your non-profit’s website is one of the most effective strategies to increase authority and improve your rankings.
Backlinks also expose your site to new audiences, which is a great way to create awareness around your project. Bear in mind a successful backlink strategy is not a sprint but a marathon. It takes time but builds up over time!
SEO fundamental #3: Content
Having a blog on your site is one of the best ways to drive traffic. It signals Google that you are on it, builds your authority, and, if created strategically, works wonders around your keywords.
It’s a bit like adding doors to your house. People can start finding you and entering your site through different phrases -doors- simply by typing them on Google search.
Google favours longer content as it will likely fully resolve a query. That said, it’s not always the case as you may not want to read a 3000-word blog about ‘how to boil and egg.’ If 300 words are enough, then you may end up ranking first!
Staying on topic and writing original content also affect how Google ranks your articles. If someone gets to one of your blog posts and it’s poorly written, has no headings and repeats the same over and over, then the person will leave your site.
When it comes to weaving keywords in, you need to prioritise user experience. Don’t repeat the same exact words over and over. Use variations, and make sure the article flows.
Creating content consistently around your niche will reinforce your topics, and E-A-T…wait, what?
SEO fundamental #4: Establishing E-A-T
Here’s the last acronym of the day, promise! This is hot right now.
- E: Expertise
- A: Authoritativeness
- T: Trustworthiness
For example, we are a Digital Marketing Agency helping non-profits gain exposure and succeed by building amazing websites for them. Just knowing this guides how we approach content creation. SEO, strategy, marketing…these are our ‘zones of genius,’ hence related, fresh, and great content reinforce our expertise.
What’s more, niching into certain topics also tells Google what you want to rank for consistently. Laying out you E-A-T entails way more than blog content. A professional about page will support you E-A-T. Having logos of major media outlets where your non-profit has been featured and adding testimonials also prove how awesome your organisation is.
SEO fundamental #5: Types of SEOs
I wanted to wrap up this article about ‘what is SEO’ with a quick overview of three types of SEO, or ‘big boxes’ as I call them. There are different ways to categorise SEO, but grasping these concepts will help you have better conversations with your marketing team.
This relates to all the things you can do on each page of your site to abide by the SEO fundamentals mentioned above. Great content that’s easy to read, provides clear answers, has images to break the text, links to more of your content and to other websites -if relevant.
How you build your authority within your niche beyond your website. Basically, these are your Social Media mentions and having links from relevant sites pointing to yours. A backlink strategy belongs to this category.
Technical SEO refers to the more technical aspects of your website -duh!- without necessarily delving into coding. There are many things you can do to improve technical SEO:
- Faster loading times -eg: getting rid of heavy plugins,
- optimised images -images that weigh MAX 400 or 500 kb-
- properly set headings and subheadings,
- a safe website with an SSL Certificate -this is when you have the ‘https’ before your site’s name,
- remove broken links.
Even though these are just some of the parameters, all of them combined will have a huge impact on your non-profit website’s rankings.
Why is SEO important for my non-profit?
Great SEO is like having the best store, in the best street, with the most efficient shop window, attracting the best buyers! It’s one of the elements that can ‘make it or break it,’ and you must build it into your overall marketing strategy. Staying on top of it and planning for ongoing search engine optimisation is a fundamental part of a website’s growth.