Nonprofit Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Mar 26, 2015 | Search Engine Optimization

Your ultimate guide to SEO aimed at helping your nonprofit rank higher in search engine results and generate new leads.

SEO for Nonprofits

Search engine optimization, the process of improving your presence in search engines, is just as important for nonprofit organizations as it is for other businesses. At the end of the day, a nonprofit wants to be found by new leads just as badly as a sales company, doctor’s office, or restaurant does. The difference is that a nonprofit is most likely looking for new donors, volunteers, and community partnerships. For that very reason, SEO requires a slightly different approach for nonprofits. Below is your ultimate guide to SEO aimed at helping your nonprofit rank higher in search engine results and generate new leads.

On-Site Factors

On-site factors are things you can do to your website to help improve your SEO. These include things like site content and HTML updates.

Quality Content

As a nonprofit organization, your goals are slightly different than those of for-profit organizations. Rather than sell a product or service, you are seeking donors, volunteers, and awareness. Your site content should reflect this.

Quality content for a nonprofit means sharing your story, your passions, and your successes. It also means telling visitors why they should invest in your organization.

Make sure that your nonprofit’s site content is:

  • Valuable
  • Grammatically Correct
  • Persuasive

Fresh Content

Having fresh content is important for any website looking to improve their SEO. Search engines have software that crawls your website in order to index the content and determine how you should rank for specific keywords. The more often you update your website, the more often these “bots” will come back and the higher they will rank you in search results.


Keeping a blog or a news section are two great ways to keep your site content fresh. Here are a few ideas to help you get started blogging:

  • Share stories
  • Recap events
  • Explain how donations are used
  • Discuss the problems facing a particular group that your nonprofit helps
  • Answer frequently asked questions


Determining keywords can be a real challenge for a lot of companies, but it is one of the most important parts of search engine optimization! And ever since the Google Hummingbird update back in 2013, long-tail keyword phrases (i.e. how do I change a flat tire?) are more important than ever.

To determine your nonprofit’s keywords, you will need to conduct a little research. We recommend the following tactics:

Once you have identified your keywords, you will want to use them throughout your content. You will also want each keyword to have its own landing page, specifically if your keywords pertain to services (i.e. Food Drives). Use your targeted keyword 3-5 times on its respective landing page as well as in the page title, meta description, and header.

Responsive Design

Responsive design describes a responsive small.jpgwebsite that dynamically resizes to fit the width of the device or browser that it is being display on. With more and more people accessing the web from their mobile devices, responsive design has grown increasingly popular and important. So much so, that Google is releasing an algorithm update on April 21st that will penalize non-mobile-friendly sites in search results.

According to MobileCause, 51% of people who research your website before giving do so on a mobile device. That means that if your site isn’t responsive, you could lose half of your potential new donors before they even have the chance to learn about your organization! For this reason, we recommend going responsive as soon as you are able.

Page Titles

Page Titles are HTML tags which define the title of a webpage and appear in 3 primary locations:

  1. Browser Tab
  2. Search Engine Results Pages
  3. External Websites

page title 2015.png

Page titles are very important for SEO and in order to best optimize yours, you will want to incorporate your targeted keywords within them. This is useful for both readers and search engines! If branding is important for your organization, include your company name in each page title, and if location is important, include your city as well. Current standards recommend that page titles are no longer than 56 characters. Nonprofits can use these page titles to feature their key services, organization name, and a call to action (i.e. Set up a Food Drive | Your Nonprofit’s Name)!

Page Descriptions

Page descriptions, or Meta descriptions, are HTML attributes that communicate to search engines what a specific page on your website is all about and appear in two primary locations:

  1. Search Engine Results Pages
  2. External Websites

Again, best practices recommend that you incorporate your targeted keywords into your meta descriptions and keep it under 155 characters. Use this space to describe what is on a particular webpage but keep the content unique from what is actually on that page. Since people will see this content in search results, include a call to action, like “Donate Now!”Meta Description 2015.png


Every webpage should have a header tag (H1) and only one. This is typically the name of the page (i.e. About Us or Services) and may or may not include keywords. While it is great if you can include keywords, it isn’t always ideal. These Headers are what tell both search engines AND visitors what they can expect on a page and you don’t want your keywords to clutter or confuse.

h1 our story small.png

Off-Site Factors

Off-site factors are things you can do outside of your website to help improve your SEO. These include link-building and social media, among other things.


Link-building refers to the process of gaining more external links that point back to your website. These can come from social media, directories, or other organization’s websites. When possible and relevant, ask organizations that you work with to add your logo and a link to your site, on their website. Since links are viewed as “votes”, this will help Google see you as a relevant and trusted website.

Social Media

Believe it or not, social media plays an important role in search engine optimization. While the effect isn’t necessarily direct, the more active you are on social media, and the more others engage with you, the better you look to search engines. We understand that managing social media sites can take time and resources that nonprofits do not always have available. But we recommend joining at least one social media site and working your hardest to garner engagement. Not only will this spread awareness about your organization and open up the lines of communication between you and your donors, but it will improve your SEO over time!

View the rest of the nonprofit digital marketing blogs from this month:

5 Ways Nonprofits Can Use Social Media for Fundraising
10 Features of a Successful Nonprofit Email Design
6 Reasons Your Nonprofit Must Be Blogging

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