Nonprofits are always looking for effective ways to attract new donors and volunteers.
With over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. alone, it can be very difficult to stand out.
It even becomes more difficult when your nonprofit addresses an issue that is local or not very noticeable, rather than an issue that is popular on a national or global scale.
There are many ways nonprofits can attract the attention of organizations and individuals.
Some of the most common ways include running a fundraising event or getting active on social media.
With strategies like fundraising, you are going out to look for these donors.
It can also be expensive and time-consuming.
Won’t it be more effective if your target donors can locate your non-profit with little effort on your part?
This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play.
SEO is an effective strategy that increases the visibility of your brand on search engines.
There are two main categories of SEO; traditional SEO and Local SEO.
Difference between traditional SEO and local SEO
Both traditional and local SEO focus on improving your visibility and rankings in search result pages. While the two of them have the same goal, at their core, they have different functions.
Traditional SEO focuses on improving the visibility of your website or brand on a national or global level.
Local SEO focuses on improving your visibility in local search results.
Businesses that have a physical location or serve a specific geographical area should focus on local SEO.
While both use similar strategies, local SEO employs special measures to help businesses connect with individuals making searches in their area.
Why Nonprofits need a local SEO strategy
Local SEO allows nonprofit organizations to connect with prospective donors and volunteers within a specific geographical area.
Most nonprofits thrive from the donations they get from their local community.
It is important your organization rank in search results when local constituents make searches related to your cause.
Here are some interesting stats that show the value of local SEO:
46% of all the searches in Google have “local intent” (Source).
29% of all Google SERPs contain a local pack in the results (Source).
“Near me” or “close by” type searches grew by more than 900% over two years (Source).
76% of consumers that perform local searches on their phone visit the store that day (Source).
These stats show the importance of having a local SEO strategy.
If you can get your nonprofit to rank locally, there’s a significant chance that donors and volunteers will be contacting you regularly.
Another thing to note is that local searches have high buyer intent.
People making local searches are doing so because they are ready to make a purchase or conduct a transaction.
For example, if a person searches for “animal rescue shelters near me”, Google will use their location to find out the nearest animal rescue within that area.
However, if the individual is more interested in how an animal shelter works or how their donations help, they will search “how animal shelters work”.
This search query is not location-based.
Google will provide search results that are relevant to the question regardless of the location.
Compared to traditional SEO, local SEO is more effective in helping nonprofits attract potential donors and volunteers around the community that are ready to take action to support their cause immediately.
7 local SEO tips for nonprofit organizations
So, how do you ensure that your organization is visible in local search results? Here are a few tips to help you get started:
1. Optimize your Google My Business (GMB) listing
When people search for terms related to your nonprofit organization, it is important that you show up at the top of the search results.
Many benefits come with claiming your listing on GMB. Here are some of them:
#1: You show up on Google Map searches
One of the factors that donors and volunteers will take into consideration when deciding which nonprofit to work with is proximity to their location.
So they are more likely to use “near me” searches to narrow down nonprofits that are close to them.
By listing your nonprofit on GMB, your organization will begin to show up on Google Map and near me searches.
#2: Show up in Google’s local 3-pack result
Getting featured in Google’s local 3-pack result can significantly increase the visibility of your nonprofit on Google. Creating a free GMB listing increases your chances of showing up on the local 3-pack results.
Why should you care about the local pack?
When a local search is made, the local 3-pack appears in the #1 spot 93% of the time.
Also, 46% of all searches on Google are related to local searches.
#3: Earn the trust of potential donors
Reports show that businesses that are searchable on Google are seen as 2.7 percent more trustworthy by customers (in this case, donors).
Donors will trust your nonprofit more when they can easily find information like contact details and address online.
It is very easy to create a Google My Business profile for your nonprofit organization. It will just take a couple of minutes to set up.
The most important thing is that you put in the correct information when filling your listing.
Choose the right category for your organization and write a clear description.
It is also important that you fill in as much data as you can. Google will display a score to show how complete your listing is.
Aim for a score of 100. The higher your score, the higher your chances of ranking.
2. Conduct keyword research
If you want prospective donors to find your organization, you need to target the right keywords to help boost your site’s visibility and traffic.
You first need to identify the keywords that you want to rank for.
The easiest way to start keyword research is by listing out the causes your nonprofit wants to serve.
If your organization will also offer services, list them also.
For example some of the services an animal shelter will offer includes:
- care for animals needing protection
- find homes for homeless animals
- reunite lost pets with their owners
- animal health services
- behavioral evaluations of the animal
- and animal training
Targeting these keywords in your articles can help prospects find your organization.
You can use an SEO tool to help you identify the keywords that are worth ranking for.
What do I mean?
Not all keywords are created equally.
Here are some factors you should consider when choosing which keywords to target.
Relevancy: the keywords you target must be relevant to the mission of your nonprofit.
Search volume: it’s best practice to target keywords that have a sizable number of monthly searches
Keyword difficulty: some keywords are difficult to rank for.
If your nonprofit website is relatively new and has a low domain authority, it’s best to target keywords with low keyword difficulty to increase your chances of ranking.
Another way you can boost your chances of ranking is by targeting long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords are more specific and see less competition. They also make up a significant amount of web searches.
So instead of using a keyword like “animal shelter”, use “animal shelter in Illinois”.
3. Collect reviews
Online reviews play a key role in determining which nonprofits people work with.
Volunteers and donors will want to work with organizations that have positive reviews online.
Reviews also improve Google search rankings
According to MOZ’s Local Search Ranking Survey, online reviews make up 10% of how Google decides what to rank in local search results.
Here are two ways to curate online reviews for your nonprofit organization:
#1: Set up a profile for your nonprofit in review websites.
Review websites like Yelp attract users that have made millions of reviews online.
A misconception that people have is that review sites like Yelp are only useful for finding places to shop and eat.
This is false.
Reviews on establishments other than restaurants make up two-thirds of the reviews on Yelp.
They even have a popular Community and Nonprofits category.
The reviews that people leave about your nonprofit on Yelp will show up in the search results
#2: Ask for reviews via social media and email
You can send out an email campaign to your lists inviting your supporters to leave a review of your nonprofit.
You must segment the emails you send out. Do not send the same email to volunteers and donors.
For example, an email blast going to volunteers should ask them to leave feedback on their experience volunteering at your nonprofit.
The email blast to donors should ask them to leave feedback on what made them donate to your nonprofit.
They should also comment on their experience so far.
Tip: If you receive a negative review online, make sure you address it quickly and professionally.
4. Submit your nonprofit site to local directories
Submitting your nonprofit website to local directories can boost your local SEO visibility in search engines.
Here are three reasons you should submit your site in a local directory.
#1: Google indexes the directory entries
The entries made in directories are indexed by Google and might show up in Google search results.
The key thing is to submit your site to directories that are acknowledged by Google.
They are thousands of directories online, be selective of the ones you choose.
#2: Possibility of increasing your domain authority
Most reputable directories have high domain authority.
Getting a backlink from them will help boost your domain authority and subsequently your site’s performance in search engines. If you are lucky, the backlink might be do-follow.
#3: Your target audience are checking directories
Local directories are an easy way for donors and volunteers to learn about the nonprofits
If you are not listed in local directories, your organization might be missing out on a ton of potential supporters.
5. Get local online coverage
Getting online coverage from local news sites and media houses is an effective way to boost local SEO.
Many of these sites will also link back to your website.
The best part is that news sites usually have high domain authority.
So getting backlinks from these sites will significantly improve your search visibility.
Also, since the online coverage is from local media houses and news sites in your geographical area, Google will begin to associate your nonprofit with that location.
6. Create a sitemap
A sitemap is an XML file that lists the URLs for a site.
It is created for search engines.
It offers important information about a URL such as when it was created, last updated, and how important it is when compared to other URLs.
If your nonprofit website does not have an XML sitemap, you need to create one.
Why does your nonprofit website need a sitemap?
There are millions of new content added to the web daily.
Google algorithms are constantly looking for content that is worth indexing.
Sitemaps tell the search engines the web pages that are important and should be crawled.
If Google cannot crawl and index your website, it will be impossible to rank.
If your website was built using WordPress, you can use a plugin like Yoast SEO to generate a sitemap.
7. Add full NAP on your site’s contact page
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number.
They play a key role in helping your website show up in local search results.
You must include a NAP on your website’s contact page.
Not only does this information make it easy for people to contact you, Google also takes it into account when deciding which web pages to show in geo-targeted results (for example: “Animal shelters in Manchester”).
This is a good example of a NAP listing from Blue Corona.
From the image, you can see the address of their business locations.
They even went a step further by adding a map.
Adding a map on your website also improves your chances of showing up in the local 3-pack results.
Tip: It is important that your NAP listing is consistent with your GMB listing.
Ensure that you have the same company name, address, and phone number in both listings.
By implementing a local SEO strategy, you can significantly boost your nonprofit’s online presence and begin to attract donors and volunteers that support your causes.