Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fuhgeddaboudit – SEO and Your Small Nonprofit

Picture from Biblical Archaeology Review
In the search to build a better website for your small nonprofit, you’ve no doubt heard lots about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)and how you need to do certain things to improve your ranking in the search results. Some of the things you might have heard:

  • You need to include meta keywords in your HTML
  • You need to submit your site to the search engines
  • You need to use keywords in your content (and maybe even fill up whole paragraphs with them where they won’t be seen by the reader but will be indexed by the spiders)

Fugeddaboudit.

For one thing, SEO doesn’t work that way, anymore. Google pretty much won the search engine sweepstakes (unless you’ve found a way to still use Lycos or AskJeeves)and the jury is still out on Bing (which may actually be partially using Google search results, anyway – shhhh). Google has changed its formulas so the people who have tried to game the system have a harder time getting their entries into the first page displayed and is even penalizing sites they feel aren't playing fair.

One thing that’s remained true is that a lot of people don’t bother to search past the first page. Not me, of course. Even though I think I’m pretty good at coming up with the keywords that will give me the best return, I’ve found some pretty interesting stuff past page 1*. Still, with more than 10 billion pages indexed by Google, if I haven’t found what I want in the first few pages, I’ll probably revise my search terms.

Anyway, your small nonprofit’s website isn’t where the action is anymore, anyhow.

It’s in optimizing your social networking presence.

In other posts, I’ve talked about how you need to go where the people – your community – are: Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Stumbleupon. Yes, I know some of these are arguable; the landscape is always changing and only a short time ago the list of places to be might have included MySpace. What’s important is that you know where your community is and that you be there with them.

Does SEO Not Matter Anymore?

I wouldn’t go that far. But the importance might be more if you’re a company selling a national product than it is if you’re a small nonprofit with a community-based mission. You should have a social media strategy and the way you apply SEO to your social networking presence should be in-line with that strategy.

Brian Solis (a very smart man)wrote a couple of blog posts on this subject last year and you’d be wise to read the second one, especially. The big take-away I got from it is that how you want your small nonprofit to be seen and interacted with should be uppermost in your mind when you’re engaging with your community using social media. Every description of a photo taken at an event, every title of a blog post, every link you include should tie into that strategy. It’s not quite SEO and it’s not likely that, unless you somehow create a viral video or meme, your little nonprofit will rocket through the search results to Numero Uno, but it will hone your focus and provide a consistency and co-hesiveness to your communications. This can only be for the good, strengthening the bonds between you and your community, resulting in growth. And who knows? That growth could lead to a wider community and more growth so that someday that Google Search Results Number One Spot might be yours. But, even if that does happen, I expect you’ll be too busy doing good to notice.

*But then, I read dictionaries, too.

Tool of the Week - Sorry; couldn't find anything I liked enough to recommend a look at.

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