One of the best things you can do to attract and retain donors is to have a great website that is properly optimized. If your website is outdated, poorly designed, or just plain sucks, you will be missing relationships and donation opportunities.
Think of it this way…
If someone is looking to support an organization like yours. Yet, you are number 8 on a Google search; guess who will get the donation or the volunteer? The lower you are in the rankings, the lower your support.
Gone are the days when we could build a website, and they will come. If fact, in some cases, Google will not index you if your website is improperly optimized. Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a critical factor in creating websites these days.
If we are going to talk about how to create a motivating nonprofit website, we will need to talk about SEO. In this article, we will still cover how to plan and structure your website, including some trending best practices, but we will get a bit technical.
STEP 1: WEBSITE KEYWORD RESEARCH
Before we do anything, I want to get keyword research out of the way. Even basic research is better than no research, and it isn't that hard.
There are plenty of great videos on YouTube out there if you want to geek out on this topic, but here is a super quick example:
I just pop over to my Google Ads account and go into the Google Keyword Planner tool.
I type in a few keyword examples. Say I am an animal welfare organization. I will enter animal welfare, animal rights organization, animal rescue, etc.
Note: There is a difference between shorttail keywords (short one-word keywords, which are highly searched for but have WAY too much competition) and longtail keywords (more specific sentences, which are less searched but have less competition).
Export the results to a .cvs file and start playing around. I sort the spreadsheet by volume first and remove keywords with low search volume. Next, I sort by competition and pick out the lower competition keywords. In this situation, I would use the term animal shelter and synonyms as my home page's primary keyword.
WATCH THIS VIDEO FOR EXAMPLE:
STEP 2: WEBSITE PLANNING & TOOLS
You will need a few things, aside from a keyword research tool like Google Keyword Planner.
WordPress or Wix/Godaddy platform to create your website and host. Whatever it is, just make sure it will be responsive and mobile-friendly. Often, you get what you pay for with web design platforms.
A domain name and most of the web design platforms offer that service. Think long and hard about your domain name. It should ideally contain one of your keywords. Again, using the animal rescue organization as an example. I would make my domain name XYZAnimalShelter.com.
Graphics editing software like Canva or PhotoShop to customize photos, buttons, header images, etc. I also have video editing software called Filmora because videos are becoming more essential on websites nowadays.
Any integrations like your donor database system and/or email system like HubSpot that connect directly to your website.
Some extra goodies, like security, speed tests, audit tools, etc. I always recommend a program called SemRush, which does it all.
I am old school, so I start every website by drawing it out. I begin with my homepage and logically think about how it will flow.
Here is a basic example of a typical website in this day and age:
HOMEPAGE – XYZAnimalShelter.com
Call to action (Donation button, sign up, register now, etc.)
Logo (clickable back to the homepage)
Great headline 6 – 12 words
Hero shot or video
There is a trend nowadays to add more information that used to be in separate links directly to your homepage.
Contact – More and more, we are seeing contact info in the footer
Site map – quick connect
Newsletter sign up
Social media links
Services – xyzanimalshelter.com/adopt-a-dog
Services – xyzanimalshelter.com/cats-for-adoption
Impact/stories - xyzanimalshelter.com/best-animal-rescue-to donate-to
As you can see by the example above, each page should have a URL structure that includes your keywords.
ABOUT PAGE: xyzanimalshelter.com/about-xyz
Teams & Board
GET INVOLVED PAGE: xyzanimalshelter.com/donate-to-animal-rescue
Donation page (there is a whole methodology to this which is beyond the scope of this video)
Other ways to give (Planned giving, p2P, Sponsorships)
Another key to SEO is something called 'domain authority.' Blogs help you build authority because of backlinks, user experience, more visits, and more. Not to mention all the other marketing and positioning benefits!
STEP 3: GET WRITING WEBSITE COPY
Each page should contain a header. Like any copy you write, your header or title needs to grab attention. Like 'Thanks to our supporters, we saved 652 lives last year with our Animal Shelter.'
Next, we start writing our copy naturally using our keywords. Google likes lots of words, so make sure your image to text ratio is on point.
Tip: We recently started using an AI program for writing fantastic copy. Check out Jasper to see how it can save you hours writing all kinds of documents.
Just a couple of other tips when writing your copy:
- Write for your audience. Hopefully, you have done your persona work
- Simplify your language
- Break up text with bullets
- Show your impact – It is okay to brag
- Stories and stats
- Compelling imagery
- Clear calls to action
STEP 4: LAYING OUT YOUR WEBSITE
Get your brand guidelines now that you are ready to put the website together. Your website is your brand, so ensure that colours, fonts, imagery, and voice/tone reflect your organization.
Once you have developed the layout of your new website, let’s go back and do some more SEO. Below is a checklist for some basic search engine optimizations.
- Our URL structure includes keywords
- We have our header as H1 on each page
- Copy contains our keywords and variations of the keywords using natural language
- Images are optimized for size – no more than 500kpg
- Images contain alt text to let Google know what the image is
We also want to ensure that our 'snippet' is adequately optimized. A snippet is what Google shows for your search result. The content of a snippet matches parts of the search query, and you'll see your keyword highlighted in the snippet description.
- URL Slug, which is the URL structure we set up earlier
- Title tag with keyword
- Meta descriptions with keywords - no more than 160 characters
NOTE: Most programs have SEO tools. In this example, I am using Wix, but you can use Yoast if you are WordPress
So much goes into SEO and a great website, but this should get you started. We didn't even cover SLL certificates, schemas, internal links, backlinks, robot text, site maps, etc. This article aims to get you thinking about how important SEO is for your nonprofit website.
As always, please feel free to call us anytime with questions.