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One of the most effective ways to gain exposure for a nonprofit is by appearing at the top of online search results. It's practically free advertising to appear in a search results list when a donor, partner, or constituent "googles" phrases that are related to your organization's services.
According to a recent study, the first five search results get over two-thirds of the clicks. There are tried and true methods for getting to the top of the results list, but they rely on proper execution, and this is where things get tricky.
This post will offer five "tricks" to improve your website's visibility in organic search (Google, Bing, and other search engines' results).
Search engines aren't actually all that smart. They look at key elements of a website (more on those later) and index them in a giant database. When someone types a query into a search engine, the search engine matches that query against its giant database and returns the results that the search engine "thinks" are the best match.
For a practical how-to on thinking like a search engine, check out this presentation from Nonprofit Tech Week, a three-day nonprofit technology learning event organized by our friends at Tech Impact and HandsOn Tech.
There are actually many components that go into how search engines rank results. We're just going to focus on the ones you are most likely to have control over.
Write content that uses the words people are likely to use when they search for your mission or service. Put yourself in the shoes of someone looking for you: what would that person be searching for? Use those words in your content.
A search engine doesn't know that "high-quality, evidence-based early childhood literacy interventions" are the same thing as "helping children learn to read." If people are looking for "learn to read," use "learn to read" in your content.
Trying to "invent a market" with unique phrasing and words only works when unique words are included alongside the standard terms people use to discuss similar products or services.
Learn to label website pages according to the rules provided in many free guides online, like Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.
Load keywords in all the important places — page titles, meta descriptions, and headlines.
For all of these locations, my advice is to make sure you can read the phrase out loud in a way that would be clearly understood by a teenager. Include what you're doing — for instance, saving animals in a particular location.
All page titles and meta descriptions on a website need to be unique or different from each other.
Ask your website person to provide a report of the web page titles and meta descriptions on your website's most important pages.
Don't have a website person? Don't be afraid to look at your own website code. It's not as complicated as it may seem.
In a browser, hit [Ctrl] + [U], or choose View page source from the browser menu. This view shows how the search engines see the page. You're looking for page title and meta descriptions, which search engines rely on to understand what your website is about.
Here's how to find and read website page titles and meta descriptions:
Try searching online for the services your organization provides. If your organization isn't near the top of the results list, look at the top-ranking pages for other websites. See how they successfully do page titles and meta descriptions.
A little attention can go a long way towards making your site pop in search results, and the rewards for attaining top three placement related to a cause or service can have a profound impact on any organization.
You will have success in your efforts by implementing some basic practices consistently over time. Using good search engine optimization (SEO) practices helps a website slowly climb the charts. It is easy to do and can provide your organization with stronger impact.
If you're just getting started, request TechSoup's GoDaddy offer and get the "get found essentials" package at reduced cost. It is a good website registrar that provides solid, fast DNS (domain name server) address services that make your site more attractive to the search engine bots that Google, Bing, and other search engines use to find and rank websites.
James Metzger is TechSoup Global's online marketing and analytics manager.
Image / Alexis Wilke / CC BY-SA
Meta description tag doesn't help in ranking any more....but it will in increasing CTR if you are on first page.
I would rather say this safely that meta description, title, and H-tags are the most valid search engine ranking for google.. this onpage seo works fine..but google is a lot more intelligent nowadays, so even a meta description can become questionable if you are only optimising such tag. perhaps more is needed aside from that, and that includes relevancy.
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