Keyword Research – Nonprofit Industry

1. Understand your Organization

Make a list of words and phrases that are related to your organization and it’s mission.

What are the services and opportunities that you offer?

In the corporate world this is an easier concept to grasp, for example; a clothes shop in Dublin. However, your nonprofit might be more complex because it offers volunteer opportunities, fundraising events, donation opportunities, public outreach etc simultaneously.

Consider a children’s rights organization. There are a number of things we need to look at:

  • What children do they serve? (age, issue, location etc)
  • What they do for the children?
  • Types of resources they offer
  • Ways donors can get involved
  • The specific activities donations support
  • Ways volunteers can help
  • Resources they offer to donors

At this point the organization in question 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. Be the Audience

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 “saving the planet” succinctly covers your nonprofit’s cause, imagine all the other ways someone might phrase it.  Even a very specific keyword phrase like “saving the planet by petitioning to lower carbon dioxide output” won’t cover every aspect.  You can add more keywords by thinking like a searcher: reduce carbon footprint, fuel efficient vehicles, driving style, bike to work, car pool, anti deforestation etc

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. Beware of 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 raise awareness for depression” or “donate to mental health awareness”

Strip out the jargon when brainstorming keywords.

4. Get Specific

While it might seem like a good idea to have broad keywords that cover your domain of expertise, more often than not it is actually the opposite that is true; choosing more specific terms 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.

I recommend making a list of 200 Key Words (Yes, I said 200!)

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 (Type Key Word tool into Google :p)  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 the homeless find jobs” the keyword tool suggests keyword ideas like “jobs for homeless people” and “homeless jobs.”  This tool, coupled with knowing your nonprofit and thinking like your audience, can help you extend your list.

Once you are satisfied with the size of your keywords list (remember 200!), 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.

  • 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.

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