Earlier this year, the Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index found that 58 per cent of charities lacked basic digital skills – yet 75 per cent of donors used the web to research charities before donating. This makes search-engine optimisation a vastly under-exploited aspect of the marketing mix. Good SEO means your target market will come to you, and also offers long-term gains for a relatively small cost.
At SOS Children’s Villages, a charity that supports orphaned and abandoned children, we have focused on SEO for the best part of a decade. Doing so has allowed us to punch above our weight in web searches and helped us generate substantial income despite our low level of UK brand awareness. But while there are plenty of SEO resources out there, I’m perplexed by the lack of knowledge-sharing in the charity sector.
So to get the ball rolling, here are five tips for improving your charity’s SEO.
Decide on your target keywords
You can’t start optimising until you have something to optimise for. When an internet user runs a Google search, Google checks its index to find out which results are most relevant. If you have a web page that sells child sponsorship, your target keyword is probably "sponsor a child". Knowing your target keyword allows you to follow best-practice optimisation techniques.
Follow best practice
Google looks for quality and relevance, and you should provide as much information as you can to show that yours is the best page to return for your target keyword. To start with, you should make sure your keyword is included in all the right places – the URL, the page title, the heading, the first 100 words and so on. This is just a start, but there are plenty of resources that list on-page best practices – such as the brilliant Moz Blog – and you can work through them systematically.
Use analytics software
It is important to monitor the effects of your SEO work to establish if your changes are having the desired effect, to make further improvements and to identify problems. Analytics software will enable you to see traffic from different sources – search results, direct type-ins, links from other sites – so you can see if your SEO is helping you attract more visitors.
In April, Google rolled out a search algorithm update that means websites are penalised in search results for offering a poor user experience on mobile. Since a rapidly increasing proportion of web traffic comes through mobile, it is vital you do well in mobile search. Many websites achieve mobile friendliness by reacting to browser size.
Continually improve the on-site experience
Google looks at how well your visitors engage with your website to help determine a page’s search position. This includes data such as the number of pages users visit and how long they spend on your site – all of which can be monitored using analytics software. Simple user tests can also be run to find out what bothers visitors about your site and to help inform content and design changes. This will also help with the related concept of conversion-rate optimisation – the process of increasing goal-completion once users are on your site.
There is far more to SEO than these five points, but I hope you find it a useful starting point.
Jamie Goodland is digital marketing manager at SOS Children's Villages. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org