SEO for Nonprofits: Detailed 12-Step Guide for More Traffic

by Outranking
Updated On: August 17, 2023
SEO for Nonprofits: Detailed 12-Step Guide for More Traffic

For Non-profit organizations, attracting users to their websites is necessary to draw attention to these crucial services. However, achieving a steady flow of traffic requires a strong focus on the website’s SEO. To optimize your efforts effectively,  your non-profit organization should develop a fantastic SEO content strategy and provide users with high-quality content to maximize SEO benefits.

But where do you start? This article has you covered, with valuable SEO tips and best practices to bring more awareness to your cause.

Why Search Engine Optimization Matters

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an effective strategy for attracting prospects to your website and converting them to your clients through quality content, expertise, trustworthiness, and experience. Implementing SEO for your non-profit organization offers several benefits:

  • Make it easier for people to find and access your content through improved SERP rankings and visibility of your non-profit website.
  • Attract more organic traffic from search engines and increase potential conversions.
  • Generate revenue and achieve sustainable results and attract visitors without incurring ongoing advertising costs.
  • Build authority on your organization’s website and establish your nonprofit as a credible source of information in your field.

12 Steps to Greater Ranking With SEO

Building a comprehensive SEO strategy can feel daunting, but it’s worth it for boosting your organization’s success. Here are 12 steps to guide you on your journey:

Step 1: Create Website Architecture That Complements Your Nonprofit’s Core Service Areas

The first step is to understand your organization’s core mission and programs offered. The keywords used in your SEO strategy need to appropriately reflect these areas to attract your target audience.

Next, identify your organization’s main areas of focus. For example, if your nonprofit focuses on providing education to underprivileged children, your core offerings may include “Education Programs” and “Child Sponsorship.” This is your core mission area.

Infographic of potential core mission areas and their relevant subareas as they relate to a nonprofit organization.
Be specific – what does your organization do for your community?

Now, you can expand your focus on each program’s relevant sub-areas. For instance, “Education Programs” may include “Literacy Programs”, “STEM Programs”, and “Scholarship Programs”, while the extended list of sub-areas for “Child Sponsorship” may include “Sponsor a Child in Need” and “Child Sponsorship Benefits”.

Here’s an example of what this may look like for your organization:

Core Mission AreasExtended List of Sub-Areas
Education ProgramsLiteracy Programs, STEM Programs, Scholarship Programs
Child SponsorshipSponsor a Child in Need, Child Sponsorship Benefits
Community OutreachVolunteer Programs, Fundraising Events, Community Partnerships
Parental SupportParent Education Programs, Counseling Services, Support Groups

Step 2: Conduct Keyword Research

Keyword research for your non-profit organization can be broken down into three simple steps:

  1. Gather the list of keywords in each of the core areas of your website.
  2. If you have multiple core areas or sub-areas of focus, repeat the keyword research step for each one.
  3. Use a keyword research tool, like SEMrush or Outranking, to gather keywords and exclude irrelevant or outdated ones to focus on the most important ones.

You can use tools like Semrush or Outranking to make this step as easy as possible. Now, let’s take a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing education to underprivileged children, for example.

Method 1: Use Semrush to Gather Keywords

  1. Go to Semrush and enter “education for underprivileged children” as your keyword.
  2. Select the relevant country and language.
  3. Semrush will provide a list of related keywords.
Screenshot of keyword results for "education for underprivileged children" in Semrush.
Which keyword here best represents your nonprofit’s programs?

4. Exclude irrelevant or outdated keywords by using the keyword filter function.

Screenshot of possible keyword filters through Semrush.
Keep your list as refined as possible.

5. Download the CSV file and combine it with other CSV files for easier management.

Method 2: Use Outranking to Gather Keywords

  1. Go to Outranking and enter “education for underprivileged children” as your keyword.
  2. Outranking will provide a list of related keywords and automatically take you to the next step of keyword refinement.
  3. Refine the keywords by selecting the most relevant ones and excluding irrelevant or outdated ones.
  4. Download the refined list of keywords.

Step 3: Cluster-Related Keywords

Once you’ve collected your keywords, it’s time to group them together. Keyword clustering is a process of grouping similar keywords together based on their semantic terms and intent. Nonprofit or charity websites can use keyword clustering to improve their SEO and content strategy. By clustering keywords, your organization can identify the most relevant and popular search terms that potential donors or volunteers are using to find your website. This can help you customize your content to cater directly to the needs and interests of your audience.

Sticking with our example from earlier, let’s say that your nonprofit organization focuses on providing education to underprivileged children. Your keyword list may include terms like “education for underprivileged children”, “donate to education”, “volunteer for education”, and “education charities”. By using a keyword clustering tool like Outranking, you can group these keywords into clusters like “donations”, “volunteering”, and “education programs”, allowing you to tailor content that addresses the intent of the users searching for those keywords.

Grouped keywords based on their meaning and intent.
“Donate to Education” and “Educational Charities Donation” can ultimately lead users down the same path.

When you’ve organized your clusters, you can easily pick a group of keywords that best represents your organization. Also consider factors like your ability to create better content than your competitors, the number of backlinks your competitors have, the knowledge gap or underserved area in the intent, and your topical authority. 

You can use a tool like Outranking to analyze the competition and measure their own topical authority. By analyzing the competition, you can identify your organization’s dominant competitor for their relevant keywords and try to outperform at least two of the top competitors. This can help you determine which keywords are less competitive.

As a nonprofit organization, you’re already going above and beyond. If you find yourself too busy to tackle SEO on your own and don’t have an in-house SEO or marketing team, consider hiring someone who knows what they’re doing.

Step 4: Create a Compelling Content Calendar

To prioritize keywords for creating and optimizing content for a nonprofit or charity website, you can follow the steps outlined by Outranking. First, create a list of primary keywords and groups related to the organization’s mission and goals. Then, use these keywords to map out a plan and schedule for the content.

Outranking can help with prioritization by providing a priority-setting feature from high to low. The three priorities that can be set are High, Medium, and Low.

Use this table to help your nonprofit prioritize keywords:

PriorityKeywords ContainingWhy
HighDonate, Volunteer, Fundraising, SupportThese keywords are crucial to the organization’s mission and goals. You can define the organization as a thought leader and support important pages for the flow of information.
MediumEvents, Community, Outreach, AwarenessThese keywords can place the organization among many competitors and help to increase visibility and engagement.
LowHow-to and Educational Guides, News and UpdatesThese keywords can define the organization as a thought leader and support important pages for the flow of information, but they may not be as crucial as the high and medium-priority keywords.

Step 5: Establish a Content Production Process

As a nonprofit or charity professional looking to improve your website’s SEO, it’s crucial to have a well-defined process and detailed SOPs or content briefs in place. Here are two tips to ensure a thorough content creation and optimization process:

Screenshot of an SEO brief on Outranking.
Your content production process is the star of the show!

1. Create Solid Content Briefs 

Before creating any content, outline what you want to achieve with it. A content brief should define the content’s purpose, target audience, tone, style, and desired outcome. Having a solid SEO content brief for your nonprofit organization ensures that everyone involved is on the same page and working towards the same goal.

2. Set Up Workflows for Tasks 

An optimal workflow ensures that everyone knows what they need to do and when they need to do it. It also identifies any bottlenecks or delays in the process so timely adjustments can be made. These workflows for tasks can help to streamline the content creation process and ensure that the content is produced efficiently and effectively.
Outranking’s content planner helps to ensure the success of your SEO plan, allowing you to keep track of every document with a customized workflow, create content using the Kanban view, and access any of your documents easily. Outranking also has predefined workflow statuses that you can customize to fit your needs. This can save you time and effort in creating your own content planner from scratch.

Screenshot of a customized workflow.
Keep an eye on where your content is and when.

Step 6: Focus On Creating SEO-Optimized Content

Creating SEO content is crucial for nonprofits and charities to ensure that they are spending money on content that will yield results. By optimizing content for search engines, you can attract more organic traffic to your website, leading to increased donations, volunteers, and awareness for their cause.

Screenshot of SEO details for the article titled "SEO for Nonprofits: Detailed 13-Step Guide for More Traffic".
Everything looks great here, we just need a few more links.

Outranking’s AI SEO Quality Content Writing and Optimization Tool can help busy nonprofit leaders who have limited time and resources to write and optimize their pages for the highest possible organic exposure. With its real-time optimization and on-page SEO benchmarks, title tag and meta description tags, outlines, word count, common NLP terms, unique entities, list and tables, statistics, competitor visualization, media, internal and external links, and featured snippet optimizations, Outranking can help your charity create content that ranks each and every time. 

You can learn about Outranking’s features from the below video:

Step 7: Optimize Your Organization’s Internal Linking

Optimizing existing pages with better internal linking can help improve the overall traffic of your non-profit organization’s website. By analyzing the pages that are already ranking between 1 and 10, and have some authority, you can borrow their authority and transfer some over to the page you want to rank for more keywords. This can be done by getting more internal links from those pages, which will help to increase traffic to the pages that are ranking between 4 and 14 positions.

For your nonprofit’s website, we recommend optimizing pages with keywords that relate to your cause or mission. For example, if your organization is focused on animal welfare, pages with keywords such as “animal adoption”, “animal rescue”, or “animal rights” should be optimized for the best results.

Outranking can connect to Google Search Console and identify the pages that are ranking between 4 and 14 positions for specific keywords. It can also show internal linking opportunities by suggesting pages that have a lot of light and dark green and highlighting the Optimize internal links icon. Suggestions for internal linking will load, and the AI will rewrite the passage with the anchor text added to the keyword. This can help to improve the website’s ranking and overall traffic.

Step 8: Acquire Backlinks and Local References

Acquiring local citations and backlinks is crucial for the local SEO of nonprofit or charity websites. Local citations are mentions of your organization’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) on other websites, while backlinks are links to your website from other websites. These help search engines verify the existence, legitimacy, and trustworthiness of your organization.

Screenshot of Goodwill's Yelp profile in Toronto, Canada.
Here’s an example of a strong charity profile on Yelp.

Local citations can help with local SEO by increasing the visibility of your nonprofit or charity website in local search results. Search algorithms favor websites with citations as one of the five most important ranking metrics for local queries. Getting listed on relevant and trusted websites where people expect your organization to be listed can increase your website’s credibility and authority.

There are two types of citations: structured and unstructured. Structured citations list your organization’s NAP information, while unstructured citations are contextual mentions of your organization. Both types of citations are important for local SEO.

To build citations, nonprofit or charity organizations should follow these four steps:

  1. Data aggregators: List with Acxiom, Neustar Localeze, and Data Axle. These companies distribute your organization’s NAP information to various directories and websites.
  2. Core sites: Your organization should also submit its NAP information to other core sites such as Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, and Yelp. These sites are essential for local SEO and can help increase your organization’s visibility in local search results.
  3. Popular industry and local sites: Consider submitting your charity’s NAP information to popular industry and local sites. These sites can vary depending on the organization’s niche and location. For example, a nonprofit organization focused on animal welfare may submit to sites like Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet.
  4. Unstructured citations: Pursue unstructured citations by getting mentioned in blog posts, forum posts, or as a result of press mentions. These mentions can help increase your organization’s visibility and credibility.

Here’s a table with a list of data aggregators and websites your nonprofit or charity organization should receive citations from:

Data AggregatorWebsites to Get Citations From
AcxiomYellowPages, SuperPages, CitySearch
Neustar LocalezeFoursquare, Apple Maps
Data AxleBing, Yahoo, MapQuest, Facebook
Screenshot of a nonprofit's Yellow Pages profile.
Where are their photos and hours of operation?

Step 9: Optimize Page Speed and Website Experience

Optimizing page speed and your website’s functionality is necessary for better rankings in 2023 as it can improve user experience, increase engagement, and ultimately lead to more donations and support. Quick optimization can be achieved by using better and lighter themes, such as those found on Codecanyon, and Nitropack-like WordPress plugins that optimize website performance.

Step 10: Track Your Nonprofit’s Rankings Using Google Search Console

Connecting to Google Search Console and tracking your website ranking is crucial for increasing organic traffic and reaching a wider audience. By using the ranking data, nonprofit leaders like yourself can optimize existing content, uncover new areas for fresh content, and improve underperforming pages to better align with user search intent.

Step 11: Optimize and Leverage Google Business Profile

Google My Business is a free service that allows your non-profit organization to provide detailed information when it appears in search results, including photos, videos, business hours, and links to reservation services. You can optimize your listing for local search by creating a Google My Business account, selecting the appropriate category, adding a description, and verifying your location. Here are some expert SEO tips to improve your charity’s Google My Business listing:

  1. Use accurate and consistent information: Make sure your organization name, address, and phone number (NAP) are accurate and consistent across all online directories, including Google My Business. This will help improve your local search rankings and ensure that potential donors and volunteers can find you easily.
  2. Add photos and videos: Use high-quality photos and videos to showcase your nonprofit or charity’s work and mission. This will help potential donors and volunteers get a better sense of what you do and why it’s important.
  3. Encourage reviews: Encourage your donors and volunteers to leave reviews on your Google My Business listing. Positive reviews can help improve your local search rankings and build trust with potential donors and volunteers.
  4. Use keywords in your description: Use keywords related to your nonprofit or charity’s mission in your Google My Business description. This will help improve your local search rankings and ensure that your listing appears when people search for relevant keywords.
  5. Post updates and events: Use the Google My Business platform to post updates and events related to your nonprofit or charity. This will help keep your listing up-to-date and engage with potential donors and volunteers.
  6. Monitor and respond to reviews: Monitor your Google My Business reviews regularly and respond to both positive and negative reviews. This will show that you value feedback and are committed to providing excellent service to your donors and volunteers.

Consider hiring an agency: If you’re not familiar with Google My Business or local search optimization, consider hiring an agency to help you optimize your listing. An agency can help ensure that everything is done correctly and provide personalized advice and support for your nonprofit or charity.

Screenshot of Google search results for "nonprofit organizations in Boston"
How can you help your nonprofit rank at the top?

Step 12: Remember the Ultimate Goal: Increasing Awareness and Donations

Most websites focus on organic traffic because it’s a cost-effective way to attract potential clients and customers. For example, a short-tail keyword like “donate” may bring in a lot of unrelated traffic, but a more specific keyword like “donate to cancer research” may attract a much-targeted audience.

It’s important to focus on leads and conversions because, at the end of the day, the goal of your organization’s website is to generate support for your cause. While traffic is important, it’s not the end all be all. By focusing on leads and conversions, your website can better understand its audience and tailor content and offerings to meet their needs.

How to Evaluate an Agency for SEO Help

Expertise, Reviews, and Results

When evaluating an agency to help with the SEO of your nonprofit or charity’s website, it’s important to consider their expertise, reviews, and results. Here are some ways to evaluate an agency:

  1. Check their expertise: Look for an agency with at least 5-10 years of real-world experience, preferably working with websites in your nonprofit or charity’s niche. Ask for examples of their work and strategies they’ve implemented to help their clients stand out from the competition.
  2. Read their reviews: Look for reviews from other nonprofits or charities they’ve worked with. Check their website, Google My Business, and social media profiles for reviews. A good agency should have positive reviews that highlight its expertise, communication, and results.
  3. Evaluate their results: Look for an agency that employs a proven process and customized approach to SEO. Ask them about their process and how they tailor their strategies to fit your nonprofit or charity’s unique competitive position. Look for examples of their results like increased website traffic, higher search engine rankings, and improved conversion rates.

SEO Services Offered

When evaluating an agency to help with SEO for your nonprofit or charity’s website, there are several key factors to consider:

  1. Proven Process and Customized Approach: Look for an agency that has a proven process and principles that can be applied universally when performing website audits and search engine optimization, but also applies a customized approach to analysis and strategy design tailored to the unique competitive position of your nonprofit or charity.
  2. Creativity and Innovation: The best SEO agencies are highly creative and innovative. Ask the agency what creative strategies they’ve implemented to help their nonprofit or charity clients stand out from the pack.
  3. Results: Ask the agency for examples of successful SEO campaigns they’ve run for nonprofit or charity clients. Look for statistics such as increased website traffic, improved search engine rankings, and increased engagement with the nonprofit or charity’s mission.
  4. Communication and Transparency: Look for an agency that communicates clearly and transparently about their SEO strategies and tactics, and provides regular updates and reports on their progress.

Contract Duration and Flexibility

When evaluating an agency to help with SEO for your nonprofit or charity’s website, it’s important to consider their contract durations and flexibility. Here are some tips to help you make the right decision:

  1. Look for an agency that offers flexible contract durations. As a nonprofit or charity, you may have limited resources and need to be able to adjust your marketing budget as needed. An agency that offers month-to-month contracts or shorter contract durations can give you the flexibility you need to make changes as necessary.
  2. Consider the agency’s experience with nonprofit or charity websites. An agency that has worked with similar organizations in the past will have a better understanding of your unique needs and challenges. Ask for examples of their past work with nonprofits or charities and the results they achieved.
  3. Ask about their communication and reporting processes. As a nonprofit leader, you need to stay informed about the progress of your SEO efforts. Make sure the agency you choose provides regular updates and reports on their work and results.
  4. Look for an agency that offers personalized strategies. Your nonprofit or charity has its own unique mission and goals, and your SEO strategy should reflect that. A good agency will take the time to understand your organization and develop a customized plan to help you achieve your objectives.

Need an SEO Strategist to Set Your Nonprofit Up for Success?

If you’re short on time and resources, consider hiring an SEO consultant to help you develop a solid SEO plan before hiring an agency. An SEO consultant can provide valuable insights into your audience and keyword research, conduct a content audit, and create content briefs for new articles. They can also monitor the effectiveness of your SEO strategy and ensure that you’re getting the best results possible for your time investment. 

Outranking’s SEO consultant and strategist can help you with strategy, planning, and execution to ensure everything goes smoothly and you get the right results. With their expertise, you can rest assured that your nonprofit’s SEO efforts are in good hands. 
Contact Outranking now to kick-start your website for a greater cause!