If you own, manage or contribute to a website for your organisation, chances are you’ll want people to find it on a search engine such as Google.
People who know your organisation’s name but not the URL will likely be able to find your site if you have a basic website, but if you have products or services that you want more people to access, then your number one marketing investment should be into search engine optimisation, or SEO.
90% of customer journeys start with an internet search, according a Tech impact webinar on SEO. And we all know how rare it is to venture past the first page or two of search engine results, so a high ranking for at least some of your content will be key to reaching new audiences.
What is SEO?
SEO is the process for making your website as easy to find on search engines as possible. It’s best thought of as an ongoing process rather than a once-off task.
Among its competitors, Google is still by far and away the most widely-used search engine, which is why your SEO efforts should concentrate on improving Google results.
Google uses algorithms to rank the answers to the questions we type into the search bar. These have become extremely sophisticated, personalising and contextualising search results based on your location, search history, device, language, and other data it might know about you, for example from your Gmail or your Google Calendar. Its use of data is now so sophisticated that every time you search, it uses your experience to get a little bit smarter.
Whilst the evolution of Google is a constant game of catch up, the SEO recipe remains broadly the same.
Three critical ingredients to SEO
1. On-page content
Your content needs to be genuinely interesting, relevant and high-quality, offering real value to your audience. Even just one piece of brilliant content can drive thousands of high-quality, high-intent visitors to your site for months or years to come.
Google has become so sophisticated that it can understand the relationships between topics and can infer what the page is about from its relationship to others. It connects groups of phrases or topics into “entities”. This means your pages can rank for a search term that is not even mentioned in your content. Ten years ago, you could “stuff” content with keywords you wanted your pages to rank for, and it would often work. Now, natural language and authority is key, which means there is no replacement for doing the hard work to create genuinely interesting content that people need.
To know where to focus to create content people need, there are a few steps to follow:
- Work out the phrases people would search to find your services. For us at The Infoxchange Group, it might be 'Client and case management systems for not for profits' or 'Cyber security for not for profits'.
- Once you have a list of phrases, group them into related concepts, or entities. Google will send traffic to your site because it knows that “client information storage” is related to “secure data management”, for example. You can use something like the Keyword Explorer from Moz to give you related terms and questions based on what people have searched for.
- Prioritise which entities you want to focus on creating great content for – you can’t be all things to all people.
- Conduct searches using these phrases yourself and study the content that ranks highly to see what’s there and what’s not there and how you could create something even better that meets the intent of the searcher.
- Create natural content based on these entities that is:
- uniquely valuable
- comprehensively researched
- accessible and easy-to-read.
Google ranks pages highly that it believes could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability or safety. This is called Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trust, or EAT. This is where not-for-profits have a huge advantage when it comes to SEO because most can offer these three qualities in spades.
So, in addition to the already brilliant content you have created, leverage your expertise to make it even more valuable by:
- publishing original research
- be cited by reputable publications
- if you present at conferences, upload slideshows, audio content and/or videos
- source content from experts who have qualifications or a trusted reputation, for example academics from well-known, credible institutions, and link back to them
- position yourself as a thought leader.
Google is trying to connect users with answers, so the more you can position yourself as a credible, trustworthy source of those answers the better off you’ll be.
2. Technical – can the search engine crawl your site and understand it?
- Making sure pages are crawlable is part of the website’s backend. Popular website builders like Wix, Weebly and Wordpress should ensure the backend code is optimised. If you have a developer, check that they have set up your website appropriately.
- Ensure your site is secure – that means seeing if the URL starts with https:// rather than http://. Speak to your developer if it doesn’t.
- Google penalises websites that take longer to load, so make sure your website’s pages load quickly. Some of this is up to developers, but one way to help is to ensure images are properly sized for the web. Large images will take a long time to load.
- Ensure all links in your website work. No broken links, as this is another element the Google algorithm penalises.
- You can check if your site is optimised from a technical perspective by running a core web vitals check. This will check for indexing, security, individual URLs, broken links and page speed. Importantly, it will only check results on mobile, as your website should work on mobile phones as a default.
3. Links and credibility – how do others perceive you?
Google will look to find authoritative sources and credible websites who are linking to you. This tells the search engine you are trustworthy.
- Ask other, credible organisations to link to you from their websites. For example, if you spoke at a conference, partner with another organisation or have published some research which is cited elsewhere, make sure the websites for these organisations are linking to yours.
- Google does read the text that makes up the link, so having the link text worded like, ‘this is the best information for not-for-profits' will be better than ‘information for not-for-profits’. And a link with negative language in it may be detrimental.
Remember, this is an ongoing process. Just as Google is constantly getting more sophisticated and evolving its algorithms, so too should you refine your content to make it even more relevant to your audience.
If you want to know more, watch this great Tech Impact webinar. It is 120 minutes long and worth watching if you want to go to a greater level of depth.