Search engine optimization (SEO) can be tricky. That’s why we invited Jay Wilkinson, CEO of Firespring, to share some best-practices of nonprofits who have mastered the art of driving traffic to their websites.
In this webinar, Jay covered the basics of search engines, why they matter, and reviewed the five steps of mastering SEO: keyword research, website optimization, link building, fresh content and analytics. In case you missed it, you can watch a replay here:
Steven: Jay, are you with us?
Jay: I am with you, Steven. I was on the other side of the building, and
had to sprint over to my phone to take it off mute, but I am
Steven: You are a fox. You’re a sprinting fox.
Jay: A sprinting fox.
Steven: All right. Well, I’ve got 2:30. You want to get started?
Jay: I am ready to roll whenever you are.
Steven: Cool, let’s do it.
Well, good afternoon to everyone there on the East Coast, and good
morning. Just barely good morning if you’re on the West Coast.
Thanks for joining us for today’s webinar, “The Reality of SEO
My name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the VP of Marketing here at
Bloomerang. I’ll be moderating today’s discussion. Today I’m
just really excited to be joined by Jay Wilkinson. He’s the
founder and CEO over at Firespring. Hey there, Jay.
Jay: Great to be here.
Steven: Yeah, thanks for joining us.
And for those of you who don’t know Jay, Jay is considered to be a
leading authority on the proper use of the web as a tool to
enhance the core mission of any enterprise. Jay serves on the
board of several nonprofits, and he’s appeared on CNN and other
news programs, discussing how emerging technologies can affect
nonprofits. His company Firespring is a Nebraska-based marketing
and Internet services company with over 3,000 clients on five
clients. So, this is just a real treat to have someone of Jay’s
caliber on the Bloomerang webinar here to talk about websites
and web design and SEO. So, thanks again for joining us for the
Jay: It is my pleasure.
Steven: So, what we’re going to do today is Jay’s going to run through
his presentation. He’s got a really great presentation. It’s one
that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live in person. He’s going
to talk about search engine optimization, a topic he’s a really
big expert on. So he’s going to be spending the next 60 to 90
minutes just sharing his knowledge, and hopefully everyone
listening will get a lot of takeaways from it.
So I’m going to turn it over to him. And then what’s going to happen
at the end of his presentation is we’ll jump right into a Q&A
session. So, while he’s speaking, feel free to send any
questions or comments through the chat window right there on the
I’ll see those, and I’ll be able to field those to Jay when it comes
time for the Q&A session. So, don’t be shy at all in using that,
and we’ll get to as many questions as we can before the 4pm
Eastern hour. So, I’m not going to waste any more time. I’m
going to hand it over to Jay to get us started. So, Jay, go for
Jay: Thank you so much, Steven. I am really, really, really happy to be
here for today’s session. This relationship Firespring has had
with Bloomerang in trying to shake up and make a huge difference
in the way that nonprofits manage their donor data and integrate
with their web presence is just something that we’re very
And I’m really, really happy to share this information with you
today. Everything that we talk about – we will be able to
provide a copy of the session, the information you see on the
screen, and Steven is also running a recorded version of the
session that you may be able to share with others in your office
or others maybe even outside of the organization that you may
want to share the information with. So, that will be available
after the session. You just need to request it.
If you’re tweeting today, if you’re on Twitter and want to make your
information palatable and salient for everyone else and create a
conversation online, I would encourage you to use the hashtag
#Firespring just for the course of the session. That way, other
people can track what you’re saying, as well. My handle on
Twitter, by the way, is @JayWilk.
This topic of leveraging search engines and optimizing search for
nonprofits is something that’s very near and dear to my heart.
It’s all about being found and giving yourself a presence when
people are looking for you online. And it’s a really important
facet in the arsenal of things that we need to be considering
when we’re talking about branding, promoting, and expanding our
organization. So I’m really excited to share this information.
We have been researching not only this area, but all facets of how
nonprofits brand and market themselves for over 10 years. At
this point, we’ve put more than a thousand constituents into
focus groups, and we’ve asked them the question, “If we were to
build the perfect website for your organization, what would need
to be built into that website for the end-user to really have an
optimal experience?” And then how do you optimize your website
so that people can find you, so that it’s searchable? And I have
the answers to those questions for you today. We’ll be sharing
some of the best practices we’ve learned over the years.
Before search engine optimization, though, we have to start with the
great website. So I’m going to start by setting the foundational
elements of how to build a great search strategy, which is
having a website that has a payoff once they land on it after
doing the search. What search engines are and why they matter.
We’ll talk about the five fundamentals for SEO success, which
include keyword research, website optimization, link building,
fresh content, and analytics. We’re going to dig into each one
of those and kind of dip our toe into the rabbit hole in each
one. And then as we’re wrapping up, we’ll talk a little bit
about the tools of the trade and finish up with action steps.
One other thing that we’ll touch on at the very end of the session,
something we’re excited about at Firespring, is a partnership
we’ve created with an independent organization called the
Digital Community Foundation that’s providing grants for
nonprofit organizations to help take their website to a new
level. So, we’re excited to share that with you as well.
Before we roll on search engine optimization and dig deep into that,
as I said a moment ago, I want to start with the foundational
elements of our website, where nonprofits tend to struggle more
than nearly anywhere else. Of the 88% of nonprofits today who
have a website, nearly three quarters of those design their own
website or use something donated by a volunteer or public
agency. And herein lies the issue that causes so many challenges
for nonprofit organizations. It goes to the heart of how
nonprofit organizations are wired.
And so, ask yourself, how many times inside the walls of your
organization have you heard people say the words, “We’ve got to
do more with less. We have to figure out how to do more with
less”? We hear that almost spoken as a mantra in so many
organizations, and I think we should just abolish that phrase
completely, because it ends up wreaking so much havoc on
nonprofit organizations in terms of how they think about things
when it comes to search, when it comes to the website, when it
comes to branding and marketing and fundraising – in general,
really leveraging the organization for greater success.
The biggest downfall that most of us have is we’re so focused on what
things cost – “How much is it going to cost me to do that?” –
rather than what’s the return on investment going to be. If I
had a great donor database tool, for example. So many of us are
thinking, “Well, that’s going to cost X amount per month or
year,” instead of “If we put this in, what’s the return on
investment going to be? If we spend $1,000 a year, are we going
to get $2,000 back in increased donations, increased efficiency,
decreased expenses, whatever?” And that’s where we need to be
But the reason we’re struggling on this website thing is we’re trying
to do DIY it – do it yourself. And we’re trying to bring in
resident geeks, which exist in every organization on the planet,
whether it’s an official position or an unofficial title that
someone carries as a badge of honor. We all have go-to geeks in
Sometimes they’re paid professionals that we bring in. Sometimes
they’re the executive director’s really smart nephew with a
computer, just now graduating from middle school, and so he’s
got this figured out. And we slide over and we say, “Why don’t
you guys take the website? You take this and deal with it.” And
that’s where the problems come.
And in the last couple of years, the biggest challenges we’ve seen
with nonprofit organizations that are trying to build a powerful
presence online is this proliferation of WordPress, which was
intended to be a blogging platform. Now we’re using it as a way
to build out our websites, and it’s created so much frustration,
because in WordPress, it’s really difficult to build in the
functional tools that we need to do business as an organization
for people to engage with us. Things like event registration
tools, where people can connect with us and the ability for
volunteers to come and connect and engage.
These kinds of tools, when we plug them in as widgets that we get
basically free from WordPress, and when they don’t work – even
if we’re paying someone in our community to build it for us in
WordPress and then turning the keys over to us – there’s no one
to point your finger at when something doesn’t work. “Well, it
was a free utility. They said it would work. I don’t know why
it’s not working.” There’s no one to take accountability for it,
so it’s really frustrating for a lot of nonprofits. So, be
careful as you’re navigating this realm.
But focus in on the important thing. The important things are the
five required elements of a viable website. I’m going to share
those with you right now. This is the foundation. Again, it
doesn’t matter how great of a job we do being found, how much
work we do with social media and search engine optimization. It
doesn’t matter if when people land on our website, there’s
really no payoff for them. There’s nothing there that’s going to
grab their attention and compel them to take some kind of action
with our organization. And that’s really what SEO is all about.
It’s about driving action to our website, where they can take
And if you follow these five elements that I’m going to share with
you now, you’ll knock it out of the park. As I’m going through
these, think about your own website. Grade yourself. Evaluate
your website – see how you’re doing.
Number one on the list of the five is site structure. Structure
refers to the way your website is built so that people can find
their way around. And a lot of us refer to this as “navigation,”
where we’re thinking about, “Okay, how do you get from Point A
to Point Z.”
And here’s an example of a website that does a really good job with
this. First of all, there’s a high-level hierarchy where you’re
clicking on the buttons. You like the “About Us,” the issues,
all the different high level hierarchy things that we’re focused
on first out of the gate. And then in addition to that, in this
particular website, they have this foot map, this thing at the
bottom that has a list of keywords – and we’re going to dig into
this today and talk about the importance of those keywords – so
you can navigate you way around this site.
And they also have a search tool. You type in a keyword and you
search on this page or on this website and it’ll deliver all the
results, the different places where you can go on this
particular website to navigate your way around.
And the thing that this website does really well is they have options
– different ways to navigate. All of us should build our website
so that if I go to your website, I should be able to get from
where I am to wherever it is that I want to go in three or fewer
clicks. If we can’t get there in three or fewer clicks, then
it’s not built properly and we need to go back and start over
and figure out how to do it. So that’s the first of the five –
structure – making sure that we provide these ways to navigate
and make it simple and seamless for people to do that.
Number two refers to the design of our web presence. Now, design is
all about telling the story of your organization. You should be
able to look in the mirror and it should reflect your mission,
your purpose, your passion as an organization.
The example that I’m putting on the screen for us here – I’m very
deliberately sharing an example that doesn’t make you gasp for
air and say, “Wow, that’s beautiful.” This is not a particularly
beautiful website – too many colors going on – there’s some
competing things. But when we put this particular website in
front of focus group recipients, and they’re telling us, and we
watch them and we track their eyeballs and where they look, the
first thing people see when they come to this website is this
graphic, the children holding the fruit to their eyes.
And then they’ll either look at this headline on the right,
“Providing Early Care and Education for Children,” or the one
right underneath, “Ensuring Children in Childcare Receive
Nutritious Meals,” and instantly they’re going to know who this
organization is and what they’re about. The combination of the
photo and the headline tell the story of the organization. And
that’s what good design will do. Every page on your website
should tell the story of your organization.
Number three refers to content. And as they’ve said since the early
days of the Internet, content is king. It really is all about
the content we provide on our website.
Here’s an organization that does a great job with content –
www.ChildrensRights.org. You click on their “Issues + Resources”
page, and it has deep, diverse information on child abuse and
neglect and foster care, reunification, and kinship here.
Everything that you could possibly want to know, and it’s
organized in a way that makes it really easy to find what you’re
looking for. This organization does a great job with their
content, but the most important thing as it relates to content
isn’t the actual content itself. It’s how do we get that content
into the website in the first place.
In today’s world – we’re almost to 2014 – nonprofit organizations
-every one of us – should have a content management system that
we build our website on top of. And not just any content
management system, but one that makes it possible for us to
update and modify the information on our website, on our own
time, on our own schedule, without having to go through our
resident go-to geeks. And I say this with all the love and
admiration I can muster up, because I’ve been the go-to-geek in
many organizations in my lifetime. That’s kind of the role that
I’ve served in the organizations I’ve connected with and been
And I’ll tell you straight out that it always starts out great in the
beginning. For the first couple of months, I’m able to make the
updates really seamlessly. After maybe six months to a year, I’m
busy, so it may take me a week. It may take me two weeks. And
some of us get to the point where it takes a year. I’ve heard
stories where it’s taken over a year for someone to make an
update when we wanted to make a content change or just add a
simple page on a website. It’s very frustrating. And what are we
going to say? These people are donating their time. It’s free.
We can’t really get upset with them when they’re helping us out.
So, it’s very frustrating for many organizations that go through this
cycle, where the average nonprofit organization has to restart
the development of their web presence every two to two and a
half years because we’re dealing with this kind of cycle where
it’s starting over. But having a website and a content
management system like this, makes it so easy to come in and
say, “This is the page that I want to update right here.” And I
click on the section that I want to update and copy and paste
the text out of a Word document or out of an email, and boom,
it’s done. It’s updated. Point and click, drop and drag –
I have the opinion that every nonprofit organization should have a
minimum of three people in our organization that have the
ability and the access to update and modify information on our
website, including the ability to add a page.
The single most important thing for nonprofits today, as it relates
to all the things we’re talking about today with search engines
and websites, are something called landing pages – having pages
where people land when they come to your website, that makes it
possible for them to take action on something. And we’re going
to talk more about that as we move forward. And the ability,
with the content management system, to add a landing page is
critical so that we can constantly keep our website evolving and
make sure we’re focused on the right things.
The fourth element is functionality. Functionality refers to the
tools that are available on our website that not only make it
possible, but in some cases actually make it necessary for
constituents to engage with us, using these tools on our
website. So, this is simple. These are things like a place where
you can go and sign up to volunteer, because I want to get
involved in your organization. I can access the program for the
event calendar and see all that’s going on.
Online registration is the most important tool of all the functional
tools. It’s the one that in time after time, study after study,
the ability for constituents to come and actually register for
events right on your website by going to the pages or pages they
want to interact with is critical.
And I want to be clear on this, too. Having a PDF file on your
website that allows people to download that PDF file, fill it
out, scan it, and email or fax it to you – that is not online
registration. That’s providing a PDF form online that they can
manually use to register.
Online registration means I can come to your website, I can enter my
credit card information, and all the details that you need, and
I can register for the event. I get an instant email and
feedback on the website or response that says “Thank you for
registering.” It provides me with the venue details and a
timeframe of all the things that I need to know. And then,
automatically, your system is going to send them an update a day
before or two days before, saying, “Here’s a map to the event,”
It’s that system we build in to do event registration that’s so
critical for us. That’s a really important tool. We’re going to
be digging in and talking about some of these other important
things as we move forward, but functionality is critical.
Number five is vitality. Simply put, vitality is the perception of
the freshness of content. So, what we’re saying here is that the
information on the website needs to give the perception that the
content on the entire website is constantly evolving and
Here’s a great example of that. You go to MichaelJFox.org. Right
there on the front page he has a blog, and at least once every
week – never longer than every 7 days – they post content. And
it shows three recurrences, and you can see that the content is
constantly evolving. My brain tells me when I see this, “Wow,
this entire website must be updated all the time.”
You know, when you and I visit a website, we make a decision in less
than five seconds if we’re going to a) click past the
“Favorites” menu and never come back to it, or b) bookmark this
to our “Favorites” menu and come back to it. We make that
decision in five seconds or less, and it’s based almost entirely
upon the perception of the freshness of content. So, having this
dated content on our front page is critical, and it’s also
critical for search.
As we dig into search and start talking about it more today, one of
the things that is really important is having this dated content
that shows repeated posts on the front page. It carries a lot of
what they refer to as “search juice.” And it creates this image
from the search engines. The headers stuff change in here all
the time, and that’s a good sign. It creates a vitality
component in terms of the way that the search algorithms work.
So, wrapping up on the website, think of these five elements,
structure, design, content, functionality, vitality, serving
right at the core center. It’s your website. You do all five of
these things well, and you build a website so that no matter
what we’re doing and how we’re thinking about this – if we’re
talking about Facebook or blogs or maybe your appeal letters –
any direct mail, postcards, LinkedIn, newsfeeds, Twitter, email
marketed newsletter, and then of course search engines, which
we’re talking about today – all of these things ultimately point
back to your website.
They all lead people back to your website. It is the core center of
your brand, the core center of your marketing universe, and we
need to put our time and attention there first. If we don’t
start with this foundational layer, it’s a fruitless endeavor.
So, that’s laid out. Let’s talk a little bit about search engines,
and starting with what is a search engine. Well, first of all, a
search engine has three components. The first part of it is that
it kind of serves as a spider. It’s out there crawling around
the web, and the algorithms that they built are proactive
algorithms. They go out and find websites that are housed on
servers that are connected to the backbone of the Internet, and
it’s just searching and finding everything.
Once it finds it, it puts it in an index, like a big filing cabinet
in the sky. So, every website that the search engine finds, it
takes them and it indexes them and puts it in its place,
wherever it is it thinks it belongs.
And then the third part of that is the query that we type in to find
the information that’s in the index. So you type in a keyword
and it pulls up all of the references, the result about that
particular search term. It’s really that simple. It’s crawling
the Web, indexing everything that it finds, and then you can
access that information by typing a query, and it will return
the results to you in the order that it thinks that they are
relevant to the query that you typed in.
So, why should nonprofits care about SEO, and what kind of nonprofits
should? Well, if your organization has any one or more of the
following characteristics, then you should care about search
Number one, if you have a regional, national, or international reach.
It’s more important to people that fall into those categories,
rather than the really hyper local small community nonprofits.
If your organization provides information or research or has
data that helps people, whether it’s research or specific
information on helping them cope with an illness or an issue or
a challenge they have.
If your organization is naturally wired for web engagement. There are
some organizations that simply support a cause and revolve
around a cause that’s more engaging to people, where people are
talking about it even if they’re at the office or at the ice
cream store or over a table. Those kinds of organizations really
need to focus on SEO, because they’re heavily engaging topics
that people are searching for information on.
If you raise money for a cause, you need to care about search
engines. If you raise money, especially if you have an online
component. We have an entire session built around online
fundraising and digging into email marketing, which are some
really fascinating things that are going on in that space. And
if you want to be found online and then raise money for a cause,
it’s really important that you’re focused on those things.
But that’s the last one – wanting to be found. If you just simply
want people to find you online, it’s important that you focus on
search engine optimization, at least a little bit.
So, there are five fundamentals here: keyword research, website
optimization, link building, providing fresh content to your
website, and the analytics. And we’re going to dig into each of
those. We’ll start with keyword research. And keyword research
is basically about taking a word that people use when they think
of the challenges they have, the services you might offer, or
the issues you support, and they tie those words to things that
they’re searching for as a way to connect with your
And to illustrate the challenge and the issue that so many nonprofits
have with keywords. I’m going to use a very common example of a
product that most of us are aware of and are familiar with. When
most people see a picture of what is on the screen here on the
left, they would say, “Well, that’s a marker. That’s a pen. It’s
a pink pen. It’s a Sharpie.” Those are the words that people
would use when they see that photograph of what that is. They
would call it a pink Sharpie, a pink pen, pen, marker, whatever
it is. Those are the words that come to mind.
Well, if you go to a search engine and you search for “pink Sharpie,”
there are 7.3 million results that come back. A lot of those are
totally non-relevant or people who were writing a blog post in
1999, and they happened to say something about a pink sharpie,
and it has really nothing to do with the product. And some
people are talking about “Sharpie” and then the word “pink,” and
they both appear in the same text, so that’s showing up. So
there’s a lot of non-relevant stuff here, but that’s a lot of
results for the word “pink Sharpie” that have built up over
So, think about the word “pink Sharpie” here and about all of the
different things that are available online and the way people
can find it. And then let’s look at the lineup of all the
different things that Sharpie offers – the purple marker, pen,
markers, pink pens, pink Sharpie fine point. These are the words
that people use when they think of the Sharpie, when they’re
thinking about what are those tools.
And here’s where the disconnect happens with nonprofits. I’m using
this example because it’s really easy to track and understand.
Think about what would happen if Sharpie were to promote and
optimize for search, instead of using words like “pink Sharpie,”
that they used the words that they actually use inside the
company when they’re internally discussing their products.
We were curious about this, so we actually called and talked to a
marketing director at Sharpie and asked them a lot of questions.
And what she shared with me was, “The way we refer to everything
internally is by tips and then by style.” So, the tips can be
ultrafine, chisel, a fine point, micro. There’s all these
different types of tips. And then the barrel or body of the pen
is referred to as barrel, accent, button, whatever it is.
So, the marker we see on the screen here is a fine point barrel pen.
So, how many hits do you think Sharpie would get if instead of
referring to this as a pink Sharpie, they called this a pink
fine point barrel? Obviously, no one would find it. There’s no
one searching for “pink fine point barrel pens” on the
marketplace. They’re searching for “pink Sharpie.”
And this is exactly what nonprofit organizations do, is they tend to
identify things and choose their keywords based on how they see
their world internally, based on how they’re extending their
concepts and their challenges and their departments. So, they
might have a marketing team or a development fund coordinator
and all these things, and then they think of all their services.
They have this internal language that they use when they’re
referring to the things that they do for the community, the way
that they’re making a difference.
And if we focus on optimizing those terms, oftentimes we’ll end up
getting nowhere. We need to focus on optimizing the terms that
people on the outside use when they look into our organization,
rather than the terms we use from the inside out. And that’s the
key discerning factor that I wanted to make sure was very clear
– focusing on good keywords that make it possible for us to
focus in the right ways on the things that really matter and
that people are searching for.
So, there’s a great tool online. I’ve included the link to it here.
http://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanner. Now, this is
possibly changing. Google has made announcements that they’re no
longer going to make their keyword tool available in the future.
Because they want to make more money, they’re going to get
people to pay to use these tools.
So, right now, these are all free. They haven’t announced any
timelines or dates. We don’t know when this is going to change.
But for right now, you can still go and use this keyword tool.
So I would recommend you jump on this soon, because it may only
be a couple more months, maybe even a couple more weeks before
they take some of these tools away from us that are free of
So, when you come to this link – you go to
http://adwords.google.com/ko/KeywordPlanner – and you come here,
click on this button that says “Search for a new keyword and add
group ideas.” Click on that, and type in something like, for
example, “feeding hungry children.” That’s the term that I’m
going to use as my example today – “feeding hungry children.”
So, we’re going to search for that.
And when we come down here and we say, “Let’s get ideas on feeding
hungry children,” it’s going to share with us all of the
keywords that are related to that keyword. It’s going to tell us
exactly how many monthly searches are being made for each of
those terms and what the suggested bid price on each one is in
terms of how much do you have to pay if someone clicks on that
word. Is it three dollars a click? Is it one dollar? Is it ten
cents? How much is it?
And that’s really how Google works, is you pay per click. So, when
someone comes in and they’re searching for a keyword, you can
bid on that, and it will tell you how much it’s going to cost to
really optimize that key term.
Now, if you’re currently not using Google Grants – and we’re going to
talk about that here in a minute – you can use that to pay this.
So, instead of paying $2.51 for a keyword like “starving,” or
maybe if you want to use the “child poverty,” which has 1,800
searches a month, that costs $2.31 every time someone clicks on
that link for your ad to show up.
You don’t have to pay cash for that. You can get that free if you’re
a 501c3 by using Google Grants, and I’m going to come back to
that here in just a moment. But it’s really important that we
use these tools to understand what are the options and the
opportunities and the ideas to create and use these keywords.
Also, consider – before we go to Google Grants – consider using
negative keywords, as well. And what a negative keyword is is to
say which words we don’t want to come up. I’ll give you an
example of what I’m talking about. Firespring – that’s the name
of our company.
What we do is we provide websites, donor tools for nonprofit
organizations. We have more than 3,000 clients all over the
world that use our product. So, when someone looks for
Firespring, we want to know what they’re looking for us. We want
them to find us when they look for that term or when they have
anything that has “Firespring” in it.
But we found out that there’s a church – I think it’s North Carolina
– that’s called the Firespring Church. And we found it in all of
our search results. We were using things like Google Alerts to
be alerted every time someone was blogging and saying something
about Firespring. We noticed all this stuff showing up for
So, we used a negative keyword for the word “church,” because we
don’t necessarily want those results to come to our website. So,
what we’re saying is, if someone’s searching for “Firespring,”
we want them to find us. But if they include the word “church”
in their search, then exclude those results. So that’s what a
negative keyword would be. There’s lots of different options and
ways to use those.
So, let’s talk about Google Grants. This is really important. If
you’re a 501c3, and you’re currently not signed up for Google
Grants, shame on you. There’s no good reason not to be signed up
for this program. It’s absolutely free. It’s a little bit
arduous to go through the process. It takes a couple of weeks.
You have to get one of your go-to geeks on it and someone with
patience who’s going to follow the guidelines and rules, but
once it’s setup, it gives you $10,000 per month in in-kind ad
words. And that’s really important.
Here’s what we mean by ad words. Say you’re searching for Alzheimer’s
support – all of these ads at the top are ads paid for by paid
advertisers. The stuff down here below that is referred to as
organic search results. So, without paying for it, these are the
people that have optimized the keywords on their website,
created a lot of inbound links for their website, and they rate
really high in the search engines and the algorithms that they
use. When you type in the words “Alzheimer’s support,” these
guys have done the best job of optimizing they’re content so
that they’re found.
But the ones over here on the right, this is where you have an
opportunity. These ones on the right – those are all AdWords
participants. So, for example, this one here – “Memory Care
Communities – www.sunriseseniorliving.com.” The ad says
“Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care. Sunrise Senior Living Official
Site.” So, these people – every time someone types “Alzheimer’s
support,” and they see this over here, and they click on this
link, they’re probably paying somewhere around $2 per click.
But they’re not actually paying for it. It comes out of their $10,000
in free Google AdWords, and it’s driving traffic to their
website. So it’s a way to get pay-per-click, or PPC advertising,
paid for for nonprofit organizations. And again, there’s no good
reason not to do this if you’re a nonprofit organization. It has
a huge upside and very little downside.
Let’s talk about website optimization. Once we identify what those
keywords are – part one is the keyword research – we need to
make sure that we optimize our website to accommodate these
keywords in a way that drives results to our website. So this
goes back to the things we talked about – structure, design,
content, functionality, vitality – having all of that built out
properly. And you use keywords in text all over your website.
So you have words like “adopt” and “pet” and “adoption program” and
“animal in need.” So, they’re using keywords throughout this
website to make sure that – this is the Capital Humane Society
in Lincoln, Nebraska, by the way – and it’s those keywords that
are really critical, used in context and as part of the website,
that optimizes the results when, again, the algorithms are
It’s important that you don’t overuse Flash or animated GIFs. First
of all, there’s really no way for the search engine to catalog
and characterize Flash. I don’t see this being as much of a
problem as it used to be. Most nonprofits have figured out that
they don’t want to just do a whole bunch of fancy pomp and
circumstance on their website without a lot of real, true
structure and a lot of substance. So, don’t overuse Flash and
Avoid pages that are loaded with little or no content. So, for
example, here’s one of the page from the Capital Humane Society
that isn’t done well. They actually have a link to their
brochure, and it links off to a PDF file. It would be far more
effective from both a search strategy perspective, as well as a
design strategy in terms of just how easy it is to interact with
this content. It would be far more effective to actually take
the content from the PDF file and post it in the body of this
message rather than posting a PDF file that I have to download.
So, avoid those kinds of pages that just have a PDF attached to it
and say, “Okay, good luck if you want to download this.” Put the
actual content on the website where possible.
And then you have your search engine titles. So, when you go to a
website, there’s this page at the top. Right up here it says
“How much does it cost to start a nonprofit? Nonprofit Hub.” So
we went to our friends at the Nonprofit Hub, and said, “How do
you do really good search title tags?” So, this is how they’re
So when you see in the name, NonprofitHub.org, the name of this
particular website is “How much does it cost to start a
nonprofit?” That’s the actual name of the article, and that’s
the way they titled that page. So, they’ve actually named the
And then up here at the top, the title tag itself reflects the same
as the headline, the same name as the domain structure they
used. You want to keep those title tags to 70 or fewer
characters and fewer than three keywords in each title tag to
really optimize how that works.
So, in pretty much any content management system, I’m going to share
with you the way that you would title that title tag. And I’m
going to use Firespring as an example because it’s the one that
I have access to and that I know, but pretty much every content
management system you would use works in almost the same
You would come in, go to where it says “Manage content,” you click on
the page or pages that you want to update the details of. In
this case, it’s going to be the introduction of the “About Us”
page, and you say “I want to configure this page.” You click on
that, and right there, there we have the search engine title.
You enter that search engine title so that now it will be
updated on your website. You can also here add a search engine
description so that you can actually use relevant keywords to
optimize the page that this content shows up on.
I think most people have no problem understanding how to go in and
update the content in terms of the page. But how do you update
the title tag and the search information that lies underneath
that? This is where you would go to do that. So there’s a way to
do that. And every time you update a new article or a landing
page or you build a page or add a page onto your website, you
need to update these tags on the backside to make sure that it’s
optimized for search and you’re really focusing on that.
Also, make sure that your images are named with a graphic description
of what the picture is, rather than whatever name your camera
gave the photograph when you took it. You know, Picture 1, 2, 3,
4 or today’s date or whatever. This particular picture should be
named whatever – Leo the dog or whatever descriptive words to
describe the photograph.
This is also important in terms of building in ADA requirements of
your websites from the American Disabilities Act, to make sure
that sight-impaired visitors that come to our website have a
really great experience. When they’re scrolling around the page
and they scroll over this photograph, rather than hearing read
to them to the device they have on their computer, “Picture 1,
2, 3 4,” it’ll say “Leo the dog.” So, it’s really important to
make sure that all of the visitors have a really nice experience
on our website when they come to it.
Also, make sure you include a site map or a footer map of some sort
at the bottom of the page or as a separate page with all of the
keywords, because it really helps optimize the findability so
that when this page is indexed and the spider comes across it
and finds everything to throw it into the index, everything is
there. And use navigation links that are comprised of keywords,
not “Click here.”
For example, if I click on this button, this “Adoption Cats” button,
and I right-click on it, it pulls up a window that says “Open
link in a new window,” “New tab,” so I can go directly to that
website. Like, if you’re writing your text, instead of saying
“Thank you for considering to adopt a shelter animal. If you
would like to find out more about shelter animals, click here.”
If you optimize and you actually put the hyperlink that goes to the
website underneath the words “Click here,” you’re going to get
downgraded in terms of how the algorithms work, when it’s
assessing the ability for your site to be found. So, actually
optimize and put the hyperlink under the words that describe
what it is you’re linking to. Don’t use the words “Click here” –
which we see a lot of nonprofits do.
So, all this really great stuff, but don’t get carried away. Don’t
get to the point where you’ve got so many keywords built into
your text, and it just sounds unnatural if you’re trying to read
it. If someone comes to the website, they should be able to read
through the text like a human would read the text and feel like
it’s contextually relevant to them. If you just try to load up
40 keywords in a paragraph, it’s going to sound awkward and the
search engines will definitely pick that out.
They’ve become really good at figuring out how to program the
algorithms and the search engines to exclude people that are
just loading up a bunch of text links in their copy without
really having it say much. Don’t get carried away with all of
that. That’s two – website optimization.
Let’s move on to number three, which is all about link building. Now,
link building is essentially just getting websites to link to
yours. Simple as that. You want other websites to link people
back to your website, and in return, you’ll reciprocate and link
from your website to others. I mean, that’s just the way it
works. A few basic principles here – choose quality over
quantity. It’s always more important.
If you can get one really good link from, say the local university,
which would have a really high search credit or a big company or
a news source like the local television station or the
newspaper, it’s much better to have that one link than it is to
have a hundred links from websites that get very little to no
And anchor text matters. Again, this goes back to what I just talked
about a moment ago. The anchor text is the text that you click
on when you’re linking. So, in other words, if someone else,
let’s say one of your board members, agrees to let their company
link back to your nonprofit website, you want them to link from
What is the core mission of your organization? What is the cause or
the challenge that you’re solving? What are you solving? What
are you fixing in the community? What is it that you do? And
focus on those keywords and have them use those keywords. So:
“To learn more about how to get help with Alzheimer’s, visit
Alzheimer Support Center.” And when they click, they can build
the anchor text under the words “help with Alzheimer’s.” So then
if someone searches for “help with Alzheimer’s,” that link is
going to help maximize the return on where it links to.
So, again, the anchor text is the actual word used that people click
on that link back to your website. And topicality is key. It’s
all about topicality. And by topicality, if links come from
sites that are not related to yours, they’re not going to carry
much weight. So, your brother’s electronics website linking to
your organization’s website doesn’t seem really relevant to
search engines, so it’s not going to get as much credibility.
It’s a link, sure, but the quality is questionable. It’s not
necessarily a topical connection. So, it doesn’t hurt to have
them. You’re not going to get downgraded because you have a link
from your brother’s electronic store, but you’re going to get a
lot more credit if another Alzheimer’s group links to you, for
example, because the topicality is in alignment.
And lastly, the diversity of linking domains is what counts. Again,
if you have 30 different links from the same website even though
they’re spanned across different pages and linked to different
pages all over your website, the search engines really don’t
care. It’s considered basically one link that comes from a
website. So it’s really more diversity. And it kind of goes back
to the quality over quantity. You want more powerful websites
rather than less powerful websites. And when it comes to
diversity of linking, you want as many different websites to
link to yours as possible.
So, let’s jump into a few things that I really think will help you do
this. There are some really good tips here that we’ve learned
from years and years of helping nonprofits really optimize these
links, and I would encourage you to take some notes on these and
take some action on some of the things I’m about to share with
you as soon as possible. It will make a profound and immediate
impact on your findability as a company if you follow even five
of these eleven that I’m going to share with you.
The first of the eleven is the Yahoo! Business Directory. Most
directories, to be blunt about this, are a total waste of your
time. This one is not. Unfortunately, you need to pay for this
one. The Yahoo! Business Directory is one of the only that
requires you to pay. It’s a couple hundred dollars one time, but
the link you get from Yahoo is mighty powerful, and it will
impact your website’s authority and your search engine rankings
to a great extent. So, this is the one that’s worth it, the
Yahoo! Business Directory.
Number two, see if you can get the Local Chamber of Commerce to refer
to you. Chamber of Commerce websites have tremendous value in
the hierarchy of the way search engines work. It ranks them
pretty high in terms of credibility. So, it’s a powerful link.
See if you can get your chamber. And most chambers have a
nonprofit membership available. Sometimes they’re free, but
they’re almost always lower cost than for-profit businesses.
Most chambers offer membership to nonprofit organizations to
some extent. Try to get a link from your chamber. That’s a
really good link.
Number three, local and/or association directories. So, if you’re
part of a network in the nonprofit realm, and you’re one of the
members of this particular organization, ask them if they’ll
provide a link to you and offer to link back to them. Most
people will be all over that. It’s about reciprocating links.
And we’ll talk more about that here in a few minutes. But these
association directories can be very helpful.
And local directories – all you have to do to find those is just go
to the search bar – to Google, Bing, or whatever you want to use
– type in your city name and the various terms that people would
use to search for your organization. What words would they use
to search for your organization or organizations like yours? And
you’ll see tons of these random compilation lists – local
directories that have search results in them.
Make sure you’re listed on them. Just send an email. Usually there’s
a link – “Contact Us” or some kind of link on the directory.
Send them a note. That’s what they’re trying to do. They’re
trying to create credibility by having as many links as possible
and get listed on those local directories.
Number four – this is interesting. We had a nonprofit organization
that tested this out where they just made a reciprocal
agreement. I thought it was a fascinating experiment, and it was
amazing how much of an impact it made. There was a group of
nonprofits that were kind of working together in a group to just
really optimize their fundraising efforts, share best practices,
to learn from each other, and to grow and make an impact in the
community and help each other do that.
And I believe there were 10 or 12 members in the group. So, what they
did is all, say 10 of them made a commitment to donate $100 from
their organization to the other. And they all did it for each
other. So, it cost each group $1,000, just using an example. So,
10 is an easy number. I think it was actually 11 or 12 that did
this. And they donated, but each of those organizations donated
right back to them. So at the end of the day, it was a wash.
They had a few percentage points in credit card transaction fees
or processing fees, depending on whether they wrote a check or
used a credit card or whatever, but for the most part it was a
And the interesting thing is, once they did that, they added a page.
“We are proud to support fellow nonprofit organizations in our
community.” And they would list the organization that they
donated to. And each of the other organizations did that. The
organizations in whole had upwards of 16% increase in
findability based on keywords that they were optimizing within a
week of doing that. It was fascinating. So, just donating to
another nonprofit and asking for a reciprocal donation, and then
asking for a good link that stems from those causes – it was
pretty interesting to see how much of an impact that made.
Number five is to spotlight a donor or a board member. In terms of
becoming a thought leader, in writing a blog, in creating
content, once you’ve created that content, make sure that some
of the content focuses on a person – a donor or a board member
or some other person that contributes to your organization – a
Why is that? Because what happens if you write an article where it
highlights a person? What do they do with that information? Most
of them will share it. Most of them are going to say, “Hey, this
is really cool. The St. Baldric’s Foundation” – in this example
– “just did an article about my pushups” – whatever it was.
So, this person’s idea was to do 270,000 pushups in one year. He
raised $100,000 to cure childhood cancer. And of course, this
kid, Derek Eyler, the person who did this, you know exactly what
he did. He posted this on Facebook. He probably tweeted about
it, and so did his mother and his girlfriend and other people
that he was connected to. So, when you spotlight volunteers,
donors, board members, whomever, they will typically spread and
perpetuate that message, and that optimizes search, because the
more places it appears, the more credit the search engines are
going to give it.
Number six – write guest blog articles. Have an arrangement with
other organizations where you contribute a blog post for them
and let them contribute a blog post to your organization. And on
the footer of the post, say your name and the organization
you’re with, with a link back to your website. So, you end up
with a reciprocal link on their blog, and they’ll end up with
one on yours. It’s a really great way to perpetuate those links.
Number seven – find people that have mentioned you. If you have 30
minutes over lunch, grab a cup of coffee, sit down at your desk
with a sandwich, and start searching on Google for your name and
your organization and/or names of people on your leadership team
– your Executive Director of Development, professionals,
Just start searching, and if someone has mentioned you, mentioned
your organization, then send them a note and say, “Hey, I
noticed you were writing about the Capital Humane Society. Would
you be able to put a link to the Humane Society on your website?
We would appreciate that.”
And the reason this makes sense is, if they’re already talking about
you, if they’re already engaged – of course, in a good way – if
they’re saying bad things, then you don’t want to reach out to
them, but that will never be the case, right? But if they’re
saying good things about you, if they’re mentioning you in a
blog post or in a posting that they made on Twitter, whatever,
reach out to them, and ask them if they’ll add a link from
whatever their website is back into your website. It’s a great
way to find people who will connect back to your organization.
Number eight – send out a press release. If you’ve got exciting news,
make sure you send it out to local journalists. This continues
to fascinate me over the years. Most of us have given up on
press releases, sending stuff to the newspaper. I have lots and
lots of stories about organizations who thought years ago or a
month ago, “I’m never going to send another press release out,
because no one will ever do anything with it. If you want to
post something in a newspaper, they want you to pay for it. They
want you to pay for the article and pay for the information,
because they’re desperate for money. They don’t have
subscriptions anymore. They want you to pay for publishing
But then, the ones who stick to it, that hold out, and send out 7, 8,
10 things, never get a mention, never get a post – the 11th or
12th – I’ve heard about the 30th or 40th time that they send a
press release out about a new employee they just hired or a new
cause that they’re supporting, whatever it is, a reporter has a
really slow day. They’re looking through the pile of stuff of
options and things to write about. And they pick up the phone
and they make a phone call, and they choose your organization
and they write something about it. I’ve heard time after time
after time these stories, so don’t give up on them. Don’t give
up on press releases as a way to propagate your message and get
the word out.
Number nine – if there are awards that are out there. Your
organization is awesome. I have no doubt. Well, there are
regional organizations. There are foundations. There are
consortiums and associations all over the place that give awards
for things and grant money and things. It’s kind of the same
concept. The sponsors of these awards, even if you aren’t
selected will oftentimes post the finalists or the people that
are being considered to win this award. And it will give you a
reciprocal link. It will give you a great link into your
website. So, if there are opportunities to nominate your
organization to be recognized in whatever way, consider
nominating your organization because it will be a good way to
get the word out and to get those links.
Number ten – ask your local university or college to promote your
next event, to post something. The next time you have an event,
a gala, a walk for whatever, or anything that’s going on where
you’ve got something going on in the community, ask someone from
the university – send a note to the webmaster or to the “Contact
Us” form on the university’s website – and ask if they would be
willing to just make a mention somewhere on their website.
This is another fascinating thing to me. The credibility that comes
from an .edu domain from an institution that has a lot of
students is remarkable. Get your local college or university to
get a link sent back to your website, and it will have a big
impact on the way that the algorithms work and categorize you.
It’s a really cool, easy thing to do.
And the last one, number eleven – participate in online discussions
and blogs. Don’t just go out and find a whole bunch of
conversations that are going on on LinkedIn or whatever and just
post random words and then post a link back to your website.
That’s going to end up penalizing you, and the search engines
will recognize that.
But the search engines are really good at recognizing if there’s a
conversation going on somewhere online about, using my example
again, Alzheimer’s, and you’re participating in the discussion,
and in a natural way, not just “Hey, if you want to learn more
about this discussion, visit XYZ website” and link people back,
but say, “Here’s something that we found. We have a story about
this, by the way, on our website. And if you just go to read
more about Julie Smith…” And the anchor text leads you back to
an article or blog post that you wrote about that person or
about their challenge or their issue.
So, figure out ways to implement links back to your blog and your
website through these online discussions. It’s magical in terms
of creating these juicy and low hanging links, as we’re talking
about them. Really cool stuff.
Lastly, don’t partner with link spammers. There are companies out
there who will say, “Pay us a couple hundred dollars a month for
a year, and we will get you tons of links. We will get you all
kinds of links.” Well, avoid those at all cost. It’s not worth
it. They’re almost always going to hurt you more than they’ll
So, defer to the wise. Now that you know about links and the
importance of creating these inbound links, don’t partner with
link spammers, the people who say you can pay them and they’ll
give you tons of links. It’s better to build these organically
one at a time and build them through a really concentrated
effort on behalf of your team to go out and find these.
And remember that link building is not a one-night stand. It’s an
ongoing event. You have to continue building over time. It’s
never going to stop. You’re never going to get to the point
where you say, “Well, there we go. We’re done. We got enough
links.” As your organization grows, your credibility grows, your
findability expands, you’re going to want to continue adding
more and more links. The more, the better. And you’ll find all
kinds of really exciting results as a result of it. So, that’s
number three of the fundamentals of link building.
Let’s move to number four, which revolves around fresh content. This
one is a lot quicker. We’re not going to spend a lot of time on
this, because it’s pretty clear and obvious what we need to do
with fresh content. It starts with having people on your staff
who understand how to become a thought leader, who are out there
building content, and you have a strategy behind it.
And it’s pretty simple. You write exceptional content, content that
stands out, that allows your organization to part ways from the
crowd. It’s maybe a little bit provocative, a little bit
interesting. It can’t be the same old boring drivel that people
can find and go to everywhere. Be interesting, be exceptional,
and just put content out there.
We have an entire session that I lead that’s dedicated to social
media and blogging, which is basically becoming a thought
leader, creating a blog, how to blog, because most organizations
screw it up. We don’t write, because we’re having the wrong
people blog in our organizations. And I walk you through the
step-by-step process of setting up a blog that’s sustainable,
that actually works, and then how to share that information
through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and grow your content
strategy. We have an entire session dedicated to that.
But postdated content, as we talked about earlier with our website
discussion, once a week on your website, and it has a big impact
on that freshness of how things feel when people come to your
And remember, think from the mindset of your constituent and write
for people, not for search engines. I’m talking over and over
about getting keywords and making sure that the algorithms can
find you. You’re still writing for people, not for the search
engines. The minute you start trying to write for search, your
content will lose its validity and will lose its edge, and the
search engines will sense that. So write for people and attract
people so that when they read it, it’s interesting and
comfortable for them.
And we’re going to finish this section up by talking about landing
pages. As I said earlier, it’s the most important thing that
nonprofits should be thinking about today, and most of us don’t
even know what landing pages are. Landing pages are very simple.
It’s a page that once you click on a keyword in a search tool
like Google, and you click on that link, and you go to that
organization’s website, where do you land? We don’t want to dump
you off on the front page and make you fend for yourself and
find your way to the article that you’re interested in. we want
you to go to a page that allows you to take action right there.
So, here’s an example of a really good landing page. It’s from the
International research Center. The question posed: “Do you have
mild to moderate persistent asthma? Find out about a clinical
research study.” Name, number, email, and best way to contact
you. “Do I qualify” is the question. So, you know what the call
to action is, right? Very clear. The call to action is “Do I
qualify?” And you know what information they’re asking for. It’s
easy to understand.
Here’s a good landing page from St. Baldrick’s. “Be a shavee.” The
action step is “Find an event near you.” That’s a really good
example of a good call to action.
The Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition. We’re just going to randomly
add this. I read an article about this organization. This
landing page, they had more than a hundred thousand people come
and fill this out. Fascinating how simple the landing page is.
Join the coalition. Email address, join. A very simple call to
action and a very simple message. It has a strong anchor
graphic, minimal text, minimal copy, no other ways to take
action, nothing else that’s distracting you, just join. So,
really well done.
And lastly here, for our landing page examples, you can also build
landing pages out in Facebook. Very simple to add a landing page
in Facebook. You can simply build it out in the Tab structure.
I’m going to go in and click back over to this one and see if
that’ll take us so we can see.
So, if you’re on the No Kid Hungry Facebook page, you see there are
131,000 people who are connected to this organization on
Facebook. And they have these tabs, these landing pages built
right into their Facebook structure. So, I can take the pledge
to dine out by clicking on this tab, for example, and it will
ask for my name, my email, and zip. So, they have a landing page
built right into Facebook. And that can be a really useful way
to extend the usefulness of Facebook and social media as a way
to build landing pages through social media tools.
So, here’s some ideas on landing pages in action. These are the kinds
of things that you can build in. Different calls to action – how
you get people to take action, it shouldn’t always be about
“give us money,” which for a lot of nonprofits, that’s the only
call they have. It could be donate a good or service, show your
support, sign our petition, take the pledge, sign up for our
email list, sign up to volunteer, register for our event, learn
more, connect with us, join our team – all of these different
things that you can build landing pages.
And every nonprofit organization should have a minimum of five. If
you don’t have at least five landing pages, all with separate
and distinct calls to action, you’re missing the boat. You’re
causing yourself some structural harm in SEO, in search engine
optimization, because you’re not building enough landing pages.
So, you should build these out on your website and then keep adding
them. If you add a new page every time you have a new
opportunity, the more of these you can add, the more structure
and credibility, and again, link juice you’re going to build
back to your website.
In the fifth and final fundamental of SEO is the analytics. Analytics
are all about assessing and understanding how people are using
your website and how they’re accessing your website through
search and just other things. It’s really understanding how
And with analytics, I’m going to go ahead and use an example from the
Capital Humane Society. We’ve gotten their permission to share
some information with you. On the Capital Humane Society,
they’re a Firespring client, so it was easy for me to ask them
for permission and get them to agree to – shoot, I’m not going
to have my link here.
I’m going to break this for just a second. Sorry about doing this on
you, but my link’s not coming through loud and clear, so I’m
going to go in here and see if I can manually key this in and
get that to work. One moment. There we go. Now we’re in.
So, now we can see the analytics for their particular website, for
the Capital Humane Society. And this is a wide look. What we’re
looking at is live online right now as it’s happening. And as we
scroll down, we can see – well, let’s just click over here to
“Visitors” first of all. You can see right now it’s 2:35 Central
Time. And at 2:33 Central Time, these were the people that were
logged in, and these are the five actions they took.
So, we can see real-time interaction, how people are interacting with
the content right now on the website, but here’s the thing that
I wanted to share with you. If you scroll down here and you look
at searches, these are the keywords that people are keying in to
look for the Capital Humane Society in Lincoln, Nebraska. And
you can see that the vast majority of all the searches, if we
click over here on keywords, they’re using the word “Capital
Humane Society” or “Lincoln,” a geographic identifier, nearly
Yet when you go down that list, the word “animal,” “adoption,” and
then misspelled “capitol,” which is kind of interesting, that
they’re misspelling the word. It’s good to know how people are
misspelling the word. But the ones that are most key would be
the words “animal” and “adoption.” Those are the keywords that
people are using to find this organization outside of the name
of the organization and the geographic location of the
But it has very few – seven in the last month and five for adoption –
so, you have 12 people who searched for the word either “animal”
or “adoption” who ended up landing on this page. But it’s a
really good way to know how people are looking for you and what
they’re looking for when they come. And you can learn how long
they’re staying on what page, but it’s a really good indicator
of understanding how people are searching.
And it’s a really good lesson to learn, too, that the average
nonprofit organization across the company – in fact, I would
even drop the average and say the vast majority – the vast
majority of every nonprofit organization is found almost
indefinitely and primarily by the name and the geographic
So, if you go back to my example that I used earlier, they’re typing
in “Alzheimer’s Association of Lincoln, Nebraska,” or in this
case, “the Capital Humane Society Lincoln, Nebraska.” That’s
what they’re typing in when they’re looking for you. They’re
probably not as much looking for you by other names and by other
It’s really important to remember that, because when we’re optimizing
all of the text, the content, the links, and everything on our
website, we want to make sure that we’ve optimized our name and
our geographic location as much as possible on our website so
that people can find us when they type those things in.
And I just wanted to share with you one more thing. There is a couple
of tools before we go down our action steps, and I’m not going
to go in and dig into each one of these separately, but there
are links here that you can use. After the session, we’ll send
you a copy of these and you can go and research these on your
own. It’s the Google AdWords Keyword Planner that we’ve talked
about already. There’s another one called KeywordI.com,
Wordstream.com/keywords, and then Semrush.com. These are all
really good tools.
We also have a relationship and affiliation with the Nonprofit Hub.
We’ve provided a lot of content to the Hub over the years. They
have a really great resource that, again, is a clickable link in
the presentation that you can click on and go see all of the SEO
tools the nonprofits need in order to be found. Some great
resources here, and I would highly recommend you check them out
to really dig in and learn more about applying search engine
strategies for your nonprofit.
Now, let’s talk about a few action steps before we take any questions
here. Use Google AdWords to learn keywords and research those.
Optimize your website with your keywords. Make sure you’re
focused on building in those keywords throughout all the text.
Work with others to build links back to your website. Continue
adding fresh content to your website.
The best way to do that, without question, is a blog post, if you can
build in a sustainable blogging strategy. Monitor your analytics
and adjust your strategy based on what you learn along the way.
Optimize and maintain a team blog for your organization. It is
by far the best way for you to develop a great content strategy.
And sign up for the Google Grants program. It’s free. There’s no
reason a 501c3 should not go through and sign up for that
process unless you simply don’t really care about search engine
optimization at all. And if you’re on this session today,
there’s a reason you’re learning about search. You must think
that there’s some relevancy to the organization, so you should
be on Google Grants.
Use free or low-cost web tools to be more effective, the tools to use
to search. And I’ve provided you several examples in the
clickable links that you can go back and dig into those and
learn about those tools on your own.
And use a content management system on your website. If you want to
add landing pages with point-and-click simplicity and build out
title tags and search structures, you have to have a content
management system. If you rely on your go-to geek to make those
pages for you, I’ve seen it time and time and time and time and
time again at nonprofit organizations.
What happens? Eventually the go-to geeks are affected by life. Life
happens. They have a third child or maybe they just had their
first child, maybe they graduated from college and now they have
a real job, or maybe their job is really busy and they just
don’t have time, or maybe their spouse has relocated, and then
we have to go find someone new to plug in and figure all this
out. It’s far more effective if you have a really professional
content management system that your website is built upon and
you have three or more people in your organization who have
access to updating and modifying that content with point-and-
click simplicity, you’ll be far more effective in your strategy
if you do that.
I would also encourage you to attend other free webinars that we do
at Firespring. We have sessions specifically on landing pages,
specifically on email marketing strategies, on fundraising, on
social media and blogging strategies, and the one that I think
is most important is the one where we dig in – we do a deep dive
on how to build a powerful and engaging website, which again is
the foundation of all these other things. Everything points back
there. So, I would encourage you to attend some of those
And visit the Nonprofit Hub. Love this organization and everything
that they’re doing. The curators at Hub have my dream job. They
sit around on the computer all day, searching Google and finding
really cool stuff that they can share with other nonprofits.
That’s what they do.
And they organize everything into categories. So, they take the best
of the best, the best bloggers, the thought leaders throughout
the nonprofit industry, and they optimize that content into
sections that we can use then to go in and learn more about
fundraising or grant writing or search engine optimization,
these kinds of things. It makes it really simple to find
information, so I would encourage you to check out the Hub.
And by the way, the Hub has the best email marketing newsletter. If
you want an example of how to do email marketing right, go and
subscribe to the Hubcap. It’s an organization. They’ve taken a
pledge to not share your information with anyone else. They’re
not going to sell your name or your list, but they’ll send you
one email a week with a digest of the best information and
articles that they’ve curated over the last week. So, it’s
really good stuff. I would encourage you to take a look at that.
I get asked all the time, how much should all of this be? How much
time and effort do we need to put into search engine
optimization? Well, it depends. I hate those answers, but it
really does. It depends on how far do you want it to take you?
How much do you want it to be found? You’re going to get out of
it what you put into it. And I’ve shared with you several
strategies today that you can literally put into deployment
tomorrow or this afternoon, even. These are things that you can
go start doing right now, especially with some of the link
building strategies. Simple to get started and it’s
straightforward, and I would encourage you to do that.
Before we pause for questions, I’m just going to take about two
minutes here, and I’m going to tell you a little more about
Firespring so you know what it is that we do. And I’m really
excited as part of this to share information about what’s going
on with the Digital Trinity Foundation. It’s a private 501c3
organization. They’re based here in Nebraska, in our home state
where Firespring is located. And they have a mission to educate
and empower nonprofits on technology.
They have a philosophy that aligns itself a lot with ours. We have a
mantra to “educate without expectation,” where we put our best
stuff out there, we share our best practices, all the good
stuff, and don’t try to hide behind a wall and say, “We’ll share
it with you if you become a customer.” We share it with
everyone, knowing that, in the end, hopefully all the good that
we’re doing to help will turn around and people will want to do
business with us as well.
So, what we do for a living is we build websites that are powerful
and on point with exactly what nonprofits need. They’re all
built on a content management system. They have donor pages,
landing pages built right in so you can add your own by clicking
a button, and it brings up a template. And you can put the
graphic here, put the call to action here – it’s really cool.
Email marketing tools built right in, newsfeeds, the ability to
manage all of your events, and of course, what we’re talking
about today – search engine optimization tools and tricks built
right into the website so you can manage it yourself.
And it’s very, very simple. We provide all of the support necessary.
You can call a toll-free number or watch a three-minute or five-
minute video to learn how to do things.
To start, it’s a matter of choosing the level of service that best
suits your organization. We’ve already pre-developed all of
these event management tools and the event calendars and all of
this stuff, and then we totally customize that for as low as
$1,600. You can take your existing website and evolve it to
something incredibly powerful by putting it on the Firespring
content management system and our platform.
You choose the theme. That’s basically the site structure that best
suits your organization. It’s not a template. It’s essentially a
structure, and then we totally customize that and build a design
on top of that that best suits your organization.
And one of the really cool parts about this is that everything is
optimized for mobile. So, if somebody logs in through a
smartphone or through a tablet, it’s going to optimize their
experience based on how they’re logging in. You don’t have to
worry about any of that. It’s all done for you and all built
part of the same platform.
So, that’s the Digital Community initiative and the program. Through
the foundation, we provide a very simple one-page application
process that you sign up, and they give a 20% grant for
nonprofits who partner with Firespring to build their web
presence. It’s a really cool program, and it helps pay for it
and get it done as well.
So, we’re going to go on ahead and pause here for questions. Before
we do, I want to make sure I get this said before we go to this
next session. I wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you to
Steven. And Jay Love is a very, very good friend.
I can’t even tell you how excited we are at Firespring to be part of
an organization like Bloomerang. We did our research for no less
than five years on trying to understand how to build the best
donor database tool in the world. And we had actually set our
sights on building one. We had our programmers developed and
everyone rallied in a room, and we were ready to start building
a donor database tool. And then we came across Bloomerang and
what Jay and Steven and their crew has built, and it’s nothing
short of remarkable.
The fact that they have constituent intelligence built right into it,
where if someone registers for an event on the website, boom, it
tags it as an engagement with that client. If they go to
Facebook and like something on the page, boom, it tags it as an
engagement. So, it makes it possible to minimize those
attritions and then to marry it all together with the website so
that there’s no redundant entry going on. You’re not manually
entering things in several places.
It’s been really an awesome opportunity and relationship. So, we’re
really excited to be working with and partnering with Bloomerang
on a lot of really great stuff and more exciting things to come.
But thank you to Bloomerang and major kudos to what you’ve built
and the contributions you’re making to our industry, making a
difference by helping so many nonprofits manage their donors.
So, Steven, I’m going to turn it back over to you, and see what
questions might be out there.
Steven: Thanks, Jay. I feel like it’s us that should be thanking you.
You just spent 90 minutes sharing a ton of information, and
there’s lots of chatter in the chat box. I’m not sure if you
could see that, but lots of questions, lots of discussion. And
it looks like we’ve got maybe 10 or 12 minutes for Q&A, so we’ll
try to get to as many as possible before the 4:00 hour here.
And, Jay, there was one topic that was getting a lot of discussion
during your presentation, and that’s landing pages. And that’s
sort of a tough concept to get one’s mind around. Would you mind
diving into that a little bit more and maybe explaining how a
landing page is different than someone’s homepage, and how a
landing page can help an organization?
Jay: Of course. One of the primary and fundamental differences between a
homepage, or any page on a website, a landing page – there’s
three different components that you’ll be able to pick out on a
good landing page. One I’ve already dug into and talked about
it, and that’s a call to action.
It has a singular purpose. And there’s not four or five different
things that you can do – five different things you can take
action on. There’s one thing. A landing page that’s done well
will always have a singular and very specific call to action.
This is what we want you to do as a result of landing on this
page, and it’s not always “give us money.” And that’s the key. I
shared a slide earlier, and there’s a copy that everyone will
get of all the different kinds of things. You can sign a
petition or a survey or engage or volunteer, whatever, but have
different action items.
So, the first of the three things that will be present on every
landing page is a call to action. The second thing is something
where there’s a lead graphic or message that’s very clear. In
addition to the call to action being clear, there will be a
graph or maybe even a video with an image tag where you can see
what the video is going to be about. Something that’s distinct
and provocative and engaging, that catches the eye of the person
that landed on that page and is saying, “Hey, I want to know
more about this.” That’s going to capture their attention. On a
good landing page, there’s always going to be an anchor graphic
or image of some sort that captures their attention.
And the third thing that’s really unique about landing pages is a
good landing page will always strip all the external navigation
out. So, when you’re typically on a page that’s nested inside of
another page – so you have the homepage of your website, and
then you have all these interior pages. You click on “About Us”
or “Contact Us” or whatever, it takes you to an interior page.
In the typical website page, all of the topline navigation and
the footer navigation will still be present. On a good landing
page, that’s all going to be stripped out, because you don’t
want to have the end-user have options where they can go do
Now, the reality is, they can always hit the backspace, and they can
go back to where they came from. And people are smart; they know
how to do that when they’re navigating a website. But stripping
out or clearing out all of it, especially the topline navigation
is really important. So, again, when somebody lands on this
page, however it is that they got here, we’re capturing their
attention. We’re not giving them all these outs, like “Go to our
About Us page,” and we’re giving them a singular call to action.
And it’s those three things working together on one page that
creates the magic.
The idea is to create landing pages that optimize your clicks. You
want more people to click and take action on whatever it is you
want them to take action on. And the more and more people you
can get to take action once they land on that page, the better
There’s some landing pages that have a 60% to 70% result – people
will click on whatever the action item is 60% or 70% of the
time. Sometimes, depending on what the call to action is, it’s
really great if you can get a 2% or a 3% click through. It
really depends on, again, what that call to action is and what
your standards are and what you want to accomplish.
But the typical way to wrap this up, the typical way that people find
out about landing pages is through search, and that’s why I
bundled that into this conversation today. They’ll click on a
keyword or a string of keywords like “help with Alzheimer’s,”
and they’ll land on a page where they can take action and
download a paper, report, watch a video, whatever, where they
can get help with how to cope with this.
And so the typical way that people are going to find that landing
page is not through the structure of navigating the website, but
it’s through clicking on a link on something that they searched
for online or an inbound link that someone else has posted for
you on another website that links into your website. And based
on the anchor text on that other website on that incoming link,
you’re going to give them a payoff on what it is that they were
looking for right here and let them take action on that.
Hopefully that’s helpful.
Steven: We’ve got kind of a fun question from Christina. She’s
wondering, for the small nonprofit, what are the three key
things that she should do before the end of the year to help her
SEO. So, what are your top three things? Is Google Grant maybe
in your top three things? What are the three things you would
recommend to her, being a small shop?
Jay: Well, if we’re talking about the end of the year, I would probably
have to strip out Google Grants, because it takes a couple of
weeks, if not sometimes five, six weeks to go all the way
through the process and get it launched. And then we would be at
year’s end. So, I would say although that’s really important,
it’s probably not one of the three things that would give you
the biggest payoff by the end of the year.
The biggest payoff by the end of the year would be to find one to
three really higher profile inbound links opportunity, like with
a university, with a newspaper of some sort, any organization
that has tons of credibility in the community or that posts a
ton of information like a newspaper. So, see if you can get one,
two, or three of those to link into your website and to your
organization. And be creative in terms of how you come up with
ways to convince them to do that. And you could pull that off by
the end of the year, to get a couple of people to agree to do
that. So, I would say that’s definitely one of them.
Another one, and I’m thinking really of the eleven juicy and low-
hanging links to boost your ranking section when I went through
that section. And again, we’ll send a copy of that to everybody
so you can access that and kind of review these.
But another one that’s really attainable in the next six weeks would
be to write an article or a post or some kind of editorial
content about a volunteer, a board member, or a donor of your
organization. Have somebody do a little story. Take a day, do an
interview with them. Why are they connected with the
organization and what do they do. Find something provocative or
interesting about their relationship with the organization and
And you’ll be surprised how many people in their network will link to
it. Their friends will talk about it. Their friends will post it
on Facebook or Twitter or whatever and you’ll create some
chatter. That’s a really simple thing to do, as well.
And if I had to do the third that’s going to have immediate and quick
impact, it would be the very first I shared with you, which
would be to do a listing in Yahoo! If you don’t already have
your organization listed on the Yahoo! engine. Again, there’s a
link in the handout that you’re going to get after this session
where you can go and do that, but it’s simple and
straightforward. It’s going to cost a few dollars. It’s not
free. It’s one of the three things that isn’t free. But it’s
going to get really immediate results.
Steven: Great. Good top three list. Very good. Hey, Jay, we’ve got a
really interesting question from our friends over at Child and
Family. They’re wondering, does it matter if you’re a .com
versus a .org? Do those things matter in terms of SEO – what
your last three letters are of your URL?
Jay: No, it really doesn’t matter between .com and .org. But it does
matter if you’re something other than .com or .org. So, for
example, a .org is going to do better, generally speaking. Now,
a lot of the search engines and the experts and the specialists
that work inside the companies will tell you it doesn’t really
matter, but generally speaking, a .org is going to have a higher
level of credibility than a .net or than a .biz or some of the
other alternative domains that are available on the marketplace.
But it’s not so much a result of the fact that you’re getting
downgraded for having an extension that’s not .org or .com. It’s
that most of the organizations that have those domain extensions
are newer and have been around less time, so generally speaking,
search engines aren’t giving them as much love.
So, there’s really not a big difference, though, between the .com and
the .org extensions. It’s really a matter of using the one that
best suits the name of your organization. I always recommend to
nonprofits that if you can get the .org domain name that
perfectly fits your name – that has your entire name in it or
the prefect acronym of your name – you can get that .org
extension. By all means, that should be your first priority.
But if you can’t, a second and a very close second is the .com. I
would avoid really going down any other path right now until
there’s more evolution that happens in terms of how we optimize
for search. Again, like the .biz or .net and things like that.
Steven: Cool. Well, we’re just sort of running out of time. We probably
have time for one more question. And I know there’s a few that
we didn’t get to, but I’m sure, Jay, you’re active on Twitter.
I’m sure folks would tweet you a question, and you would be more
than happy to answer.
Jay: Of course.
Steven: Well, why don’t we leave it with this last question from Tim?
And he’s wondering about keyword density. He’s wondering how
many keywords should you use on one page. I know this is a
question I see a lot in SEO discussions. What do you think about
keyword density, Jay?
Jay: Well, again, you want to avoid the issue of overloading a page with
too many occurrences of the same keyword. And basically, just to
make sure that everybody is clear on what this means. What
keyword density means is the percentage of times that a keyword
or a phrase of words appears on a webpage compared to the total
number of words on the page. That’s how keyword density’s
So, if you have a hundred words on a page, and six of those words say
“Alzheimer’s,” for example – to go back to the example that I’ve
been using – that’s probably an okay keyword density, as long as
it’s written in a natural style and it flows and the average
reader reading it will get a lot of that contextually. But if
40% of the words on that page are focused on that word, then
that’s a really difficult keyword density.
Now, SEO experts, when you ask the question, the optimum keyword
density – 3% or less. That’s just an optimum across the board –
all of your pages should have a 3% of less of the same keyword
being optimized on a page. That’s the optimum density from the
standpoint of the keyword specialists that are out there.
But there are occasions like the example I just gave – if you’re an
Alzheimer’s group and your name has “Alzheimer’s” in it, it’s
going to show up a little bit more than 3%. And again, if it’s
in your name, it’s okay to go a little bit higher than that. You
could go to 6% or maybe even as high as 7% or 8% and still get
by with it. But you want to try to keep it to 3% or less as a
Steven: Cool. Don’t go overboard. That’s probably a good rule of thumb.
Jay: Don’t go overboard, yeah.
Steven: Well, great. Well, it’s about 4:00. I’ll think we’ll end it
there just to be respectful of everyone’s time. And, Jay, just
once again, thanks for being here. Thanks for being here for 90
minutes and sharing all of your wisdom with everyone. It looks
like people really appreciated it based on the chatter I saw in
the chat box. So, thanks again.
Jay: Well, and again, we appreciate and value all of the great work that
Bloomerang is doing, and we’re happy to participate and provide
as much of these kind of educational content sessions as we can.
So, thank you, Steven, very much.
Steven: Yeah, we’re all about the education.
So, for those of you who joined us, thanks again for taking time out
of your day. When we do post this webinar, you’ll get a brief
review form. Please tell us what you thought of the webinar. You
certainly won’t hurt my feelings. I don’t think you’ll hurt
Jay’s feelings. He’s a pretty tough guy. Let us know what you
And look for the recording to hit your email inbox a little later
today. It might be tomorrow morning. And I believe that
Firespring will be sending out the slides to anyone who requests
them from that review form, so be sure to fill that out.
And lastly, we do these webinars once a week. We have a webinar next
week, so check out our website. I just sent it across there in
the message box. We’re going to be joined by Larry Johnson. He’s
going to share some fundraising wisdom with us. So, register for
that. And I think we’ll just call it a day there.
So, Jay, thanks again. Thanks to everyone who listened, and we’ll all
be in touch soon. So have a great rest of your afternoon.