5 Tips for Choosing Keywords for Your Nonprofit Website

Choosing Nonprofit Website Keywords

Pinpointing the best keywords (more likely keyword phrases) for your nonprofit is the first step to successful search engine optimization (SEO).  After keywords are chosen, your nonprofit can begin optimizing your website to start your climb towards the top of search results.

But how do you and your nonprofit start thinking about which keywords to rank for?  Consider the following tips to start the process.

1. Know Your Nonprofit

Try making a list of words and phrases that are related to your organization and its work.  What are the services and opportunities that you offer?  This question may seem a bit basic, and for some organizations it will be pretty straightforward (a pizza shop can immediately answer, “Pizza, of course!”).  However, your nonprofit might be more complex because it offers volunteer opportunities, fundraising events, donation opportunities, public outreach, and more all at the same time.

Consider an animal rights organization as an example.  After brainstorming, they may come up with some of the following:

  • What animals they serve
  • What they do for those animals
  • Types of resources they offer
  • Ways donors can get involved
  • The specific activities donations support
  • Ways volunteers can help
  • Resources they offer to animal enthusiasts

At this point this animal rights organization will have a better idea of some keyword phrases they can explore to describe what it is they do.

Knowing what your nonprofit offers, why it’s valuable, and how it’s different from similar organizations can help you choose the right keywords.

2. Think Like a Searcher

Don’t just copy and paste your mission statement to your list of keywords.  Ask yourself:

How would the average person search for an organization like mine?

Consider asking your friends, family, coworkers, or others for how they would phrase what your nonprofit does.  While you might think “aiding literacy” succinctly covers your nonprofit’s cause, imagine all the other ways someone might phrase it.  Even a very specific keyword phrase like “aiding childhood literacy in the elementary school system” won’t cover every aspect.  You can add more keywords by thinking like a searcher: kids reading, curriculum development, books for children, make reading fun, elementary school reading list, teaching children to read, great kids’ books, etc.

And get creative.  Don’t just think of the obvious aspects of you organization.  Instead think of what someone interested in your organization would potentially be typing into that search engine.

3. Avoid Jargon

Part of thinking like a searcher is avoiding the specialized vocabulary the folks in your industry use.  Your website visitors – the people you want to volunteer or donate – likely won’t be searching the Internet for how they can “promote favorable outcomes by supporting breast cancer research initiatives.”  However, they might be more likely to search for “how can I help to fight breast cancer” or “donate to breast cancer research.”

Strip out the jargon when brainstorming keywords.  Remember to think like a searcher.

4. Get Specific

While it might seem like a good idea to have broad keywords that cover your domain of expertise (like “volunteer opportunities” or “places to donate”), choosing more specific terms like “volunteer work with horses” or “shoe donation boxes in St. Louis” gives your nonprofit a better chance of showing up in the top results of these searches.  Very broad keyword phrases are often very competitive as well, making it hard for you to rank.

When you’re brainstorming specifics, ask yourself some questions:

  • What differentiates your nonprofit from others doing similar work?
  • Do you serve different locations of the country?
  • Do you serve different sections of the population?
  • What types of events do you host?
  • What makes these events unique?
  • Do you raise money to benefit a specific organization?
  • What specific activities will your volunteers be involved in?
  • What skills might volunteers be looking to develop?
  • How do your volunteers’ experiences differ from those of other organizations’ volunteers?

Knowing the answers to these questions and ranking for these specific keywords can help your nonprofit not only rank well, but drive website visitors that are interested specifically in what your organization is doing.

5. Do Your Research

If this is starting to get overwhelming, if you’re looking for extra help tackling the above steps, then Google has a tool for you: Google’s Keyword Tool.  This handy website allows you to expand the list of keywords you’ve started to develop, as well as evaluate and tweak the terms you already have.

For each prospective keyword you enter, this tool will give you more keyword ideas.  For example, if you enter “helping war vets find jobs” the keyword tool suggests keyword ideas like “jobs for disabled veterans” and “military vets jobs.”  This tool, coupled with knowing your nonprofit and thinking like a searcher, can help you extend your list.

Once you are satisfied with the size of your keywords list, you can start to evaluate its quality.  As shown below, for each keyword you enter Google’s Keyword Tool will give statistics for three factors: the number of global monthly searches, the number of local monthly searches, and a competition rating.

Google Keyword Tool

  • Global Monthly Searches: This number approximates how many times this keyword is searched per month on all devices, in all locations, and in all languages.
  • Local Monthly Searches: This number approximates how many searches are executed per month in the locations, languages, and devices that you specify.
  • Competition: This three-value competition rating (Low, Medium, High) is based on how many organizations have paid to advertise with that keyword.

You can use this information to decide which terms you should focus on, and which might not need as much attention. By balancing these factors, you can choose the keyword that will work best for your nonprofit.

Remember, picking keywords for SEO is about connecting your nonprofit with your target audience.  You want to choose the keywords that match what a lot of people are searching for; but you also want to choose keywords that represent what your organization has to offer.  That is, if you rank for “donating to new york charity” because Google’s Keyword Tool said lots of people execute that search, it won’t help very much if what you really want to do is fill volunteer openings in St. Louis.

At the end of the day, choosing keywords is about knowing your nonprofit and knowing your audience.  The tips above can help you start to think about what phrases to use as you begin writing your website content and optimizing your site.

Are there any other tips you’ve found helpful when brainstorming keywords for your nonprofit?  What obstacles have you come against when choosing keywords?  I’d love to hear your keyword experience in the comment section below.

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Image courtesy of Scott Schiller, Flickr