Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Numbers Racket and Your Small Nonprofit

Art by Andrew Tosiello
Last week I mentioned I'd be attending a meetup on SEO and that if the info was good, I'd share. It was, so I will.

Search Engine Optimization is a fancy way of asking, "What can I do to make sure that when someone is doing a Google search* for my kind of stuff, that my stuff shows up on the first page of results?" Note that showing up on the first page of results is extra-special good because most people click on links there and don't bother with pages two through whatever.

Kevin Bates is an SEO expert, practicing from his website, We've Created a Monster. His job is to make your content (blog, store, company, etc.) more findable. Imagine the Las Vegas Strip, with its innumerable neon signs blasting away into the night. Kevin tweaks your sign to make sure that it stands out more than most of the others - if possible, more than all of the others. He's apparently pretty dang good at it, since he's in demand for talks to groups that don't understand SEO, except to know that they need it.

Two Rs and an A

The thing I liked about Kevin's presentation was that he didn't do the numbers thing - you know, 63 Things You Need to Know About Needing To Know.  About half of the blog posts I read have lately had those kinds of titles and I'm pretty sick of them. I hear numbered lists are popular with readers, but if I liked numbers I would have done better in algebra. Instead, Kevin presented these topics for focusing your SEO efforts:

  • Research - know what keywords (i.e., search terms) your audience is looking for

  • Relevance - ensure your content targets (uses) the high-opportunity keywords you identified in your research and make sure the writing is original (Google hates duplicate content)

  • Authority - quantity of visitors (numbers again) is nice, but quality is better. If high quality (which seems to equal numbers again) sites such as YouTube like you, your authority rises to match and so does your search ranking

Since he's the expert, you should get the details from him. He's got a blog with posts about SEO and he's sorta kinda planning a e-book. Those who subscribe will get the word first, if he does write one. Learn more about Research, Relevance, and Authority.

*Bing notwithstanding, Google remains the non plus ultra of search engines.

And Now For the Rant

It's possible that you understand search engine ranking or at least the need for it. It's likely that your small nonprofit's website and/or blog could benefit. SEO, like social media, can be great for improving your find-ability. But only you can determine how much effort to put into the numbers racket and how important those numbers are to you and what you're working to accomplish.

Among the numerous (get it?) blog posts sent to me this week were several focused on metrics - measurements that tell how many people are looking at/interacting with your page or site or Twitter account, etc. For large companies looking for conversion (converting visits to sales) or even large nonprofits (converting visits to donations or volunteers), using the array of tools for collecting bits of information and transmuting them through analysis to numbers in order to pinpoint trends and learn what sorts of content trigger conversions is a necessity. Business thrives on numbers.

But with a small nonprofit, metrics can be less strict in the sense that they can be less traditionally defined than in businesses. A rescue organization, for example, might define a program as successful if just one wild animal's life has been saved by it.

As I've said, numbers are not my thing, and I'm sure others will say I ignore them at my peril. But I don't ignore them. I recognize they have a place, it's just that in my system, their ranking is lower.

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