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Fastest Way to Improve Search Engine Rankings for Nonprofits

Published by Nathan Hill

Fastest Way to Improve Search Engine Rankings for Nonprofits
Getting on Google’s first page is not easy. But this marketing hack can help you quickly improve your website’s search engine rankings.

Andy Crestodina

Today, I wanted to share an excerpt from Andy Crestodina’s 2018 NIO Summit session on “Search, Conversion, and Content Optimization.”

Because Andy’s session was absolutely packed with actionable advice, there’s no way I could fit it into one blog. To watch the entire session, check out the video below.

And if you want to be there next time for more high-quality, field-tested wisdom like this to optimize your digital fundraising success, sign up for the next NIO Summit!

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Driving Traffic Long-Term

From optimizing email acquisition pages to donation pages, we’re obsessed with answering the question “Why do people give?”

But before you can optimize conversions, you have to have a steady, sizable flow of traffic to your website. Otherwise, there’s little to no people to convert into donors, right?

Now there are a lot of digital marketing channels you can use to generate traffic to your website. These include email, organic social media, paid social, search ads, and display ads, and a ton more.

But these channels are (generally speaking) short-term traffic boosts.

For example, if you send out an email campaign to drive traffic to a blog post you wrote or to a landing page, it should generate a spike in traffic to the URL you’re sending them to.

But what happens when the campaign is over? You can’t keep sending emails to continue driving traffic to the same page. People will stop opening and clicking. And you’ll burn out your list.

However, there is a marketing channel that can reliably bring traffic to your website day after day, year after year…


SEO: The Sail on Your Boat

Think of your digital marketing strategy as a boat navigating the waters of building your organization’s brand.

Your boat has four primary means of propulsion:

  1. PPC (Pay Per Click advertising)
  2. Email
  3. Social media
  4. SEO

PPC does a lot more of the heavy lifting for you. But PPC can gobble up your budget. It’s a lot like the gas-hungry motor on your boat.

Image of a boat, with SEO as the sail, PPC as the gas-guzzling motor, and email and social as the oars.

Email and social media take a lot of grunt work, but they are way cheaper than PPC strategies. They’re the oars on your boat.

Oars and motors can really move you forward, but eventually you run out of fuel and strength to keep them going.

In the same way, it’s normal to see an initial spike of traffic due to an email, social media, or PPC campaign within the first week, but then traffic dwindles to a trickle of visits per day.

Image showing traffic to a landing page from SEO over time

So how do you keep traffic streaming to the page you created?

Like a sail for your boat, SEO can move you towards your traffic goals for free. It’s pure organic traffic.

And content that’s been optimized for search engine rankings can bring your website visits day after day without your ongoing effort. At this point, the search engines are working for you.

Even better, you can put an unlimited number of sails on your boat!

Just keep adding new pages of content that are optimized for the keyword phrases you want to rank for. Over time, these pages accumulate visits to your website. And ultimately, organic search can become a primary driver of new visitors and traffic for you to cultivate, acquire the emails of, and convert into donors.

Image showing how a page with good search engine rankings accumulates major traffic growth over time

That’s the long-term idea behind SEO, but what can you do with the content you’ve already got?

Search Engine Rankings Hack

Here’s what I think is the most valuable thing that Andy gave us in his session. Step by step, I’ll walk you through Andy’s SEO hack to improve the search engine rankings of content you have already published.

Step 1: See what keyword phrases you’re currently ranking for.

Getting this information is easier than you might think.

Go to your Google Analytics account. Click on “Acquisitions.” Click on “Search Console” and then “Queries.”

Image from Google Analytics showing search queries and your search engine ranking for those terms

Step 2: Identify which phrases you’re ranking for on page 2 of Google Search results.

To do this, you need to filter the phrases you’re ranking for on your queries page. Go to the search bar above the table with the phrases you’re ranking for and click the “Advanced” link.

In the advanced filter that appears, set the filter to include pages with an average position greater than 10.

Image showing how to view page 2 search engine ranking pages in Google Analytics

If your content has a search engine ranking of 11 or higher for a keyword, that means you’re on page 2.

The bad news is…

Your content is on page 2 of the Google search engine rankings results. Almost nobody clicks on the second page of the search engine results, so the chances of your content being found is close to zero.

The good news is…

The content you have showing up on page 2 of your Google search engine rankings are low hanging fruit. It doesn’t take too much tweaking to optimize them so they’re more likely to show up on page 1.

Which leads us to the final step in Andy’s SEO hack.

Step 3: Optimize content with the phrases for which they’re ranking.

On the left of the Google Analytics report, you’ll see the list of keyword phrases for which you are almost ranking high.

Image showing how to find the pages you can most easily optimize to grow their search engine rankings

Go to each page on your website that is ranking for these phrases and see if they are optimized for those keyword phrases.

More than likely you’ll find many pages on your website that rank phrases that do not appear on the page at all. These are “accidental rankings.”

So if you’re showing up on page 2 accidentally, getting to page 1 purposefully should only take a small amount of tweaking.

  1. Edit your pages to include the keyword phrase they are accidentally ranking for. This will improve your page’s relevance for that phrase.
  2. Look at the bottom of the Google search results page for searches related to the keyword phrase and try to include these phrases as well into your article.
  3. Answer the best questions regarding the topic you’re writing about.
  4. Make your page the best page on the Internet for that topic.

These relatively small changes can have a huge impact on your search engine rankings and get you onto page 1 of Google’s search results!

That means that more search users will find you and come to your website. And with your traffic optimized, you’ll then be able to optimize your site’s conversions.

More free tips and strategies to boost your fundraising and marketing

Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization SummitEvery speaker session from the 2018 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit, and all other NIO Summits are available to you watch for free. These speakers have tips and ideas related to search, analytics, data, copywriting, recurring giving, advertising, and much more.

You can watch every session from past NIO Summits for free here »

Published by Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill is Vice President, NextAfter Institute.