Search engine optimization is a marketing strategy that nonprofit organizations sometimes take for granted. But doing SEO correctly can provide tangible benefits in the form of fundraising.
The challenge is that “doing SEO correctly” can require a long-term investment in content production, keyword research and link building – an investment that nonprofits often don’t have the spare change to make.
However, there is one area of SEO that can be the low-hanging fruit for nonprofits: technical website optimization. And fixing website performance has become even more critical thanks to an upcoming algorithm update called Google page experience.
HOW SEO WORKS
SEO involves a series of complex factors that weave together to tell search engines like Google and Bing where your page should rank in search results. Not to be confused with paid search advertising, SEO affects only the organic (or natural) search results – not the ads that appear around them.
Over the years, algorithms have gotten more and more complex in how they evaluate websites and webpages. But there are three basic elements to building a strong SEO strategy:
- Consistent, regular updates to your content
- Links from respected websites to your pages
- A speedy, error-free website performance
The first two factors involve a well-planned approach to the keywords you want to target, the content (blogs, videos, research, etc.) you build around those keywords, and the respect your content receives from others in your area of expertise. This is why we hear the term “content is king” so often.
But a new challenger to the crown has emerged.
WHY WEBSITE PERFORMANCE MATTERS
SEO is getting more technical and complex.
Content is still king. However, the page that is rendering the content needs to perform well.
This is an area that many nonprofits ignore, and there’s a lot to lose here in a competitive online landscape.
A nonprofit with a mission to cure a particular disease (e.g., arthritis) may be competing for attention in this area with several other like-minded organizations. If each group produces high-quality, respected content, then the technical factors will make a difference in how Google ranks their pages.
Building up authority through content takes months and years to climb to the top of the mountain, but a website that falls behind technically will erode away at the foundation you’ve built.
Why should nonprofit development teams care about this? If pages rank lower in Google, fewer people find a nonprofit’s content. And content funnels people to donation pages.
If nonprofits aren’t proactive about fixing their technical issues, they will most likely lose organic traffic from Google, which could negatively impact conversions.
WHAT GOOGLE’S ALGORITHM UPDATE MEANS
In May, Google announced a new algorithm update called Google page experience that will go live in 2021. With this change, Google will measure and evaluate websites based on a host of factors called Core Web Vitals.
These factors include how fast your page loads, whether people interact with your page, secure connections and more. For a more in-depth look, click here.
These technical requirements will be too steep for many nonprofits to do on their own.
Some may need to change their web host in order to improve their page speeds, but some of these metrics are impacted by the site code itself. In some cases, changes might be as simple as a new WordPress plugin that forces the page to optimize image sizes.
Once these fixes have been made, nonprofits must then develop processes that will help them maintain as many best practices as possible.
With year-ending giving on the horizon – not to mention all the challenges of fundraising during a pandemic – nonprofits won't have the bandwidth for this issue in December. Now is the time for organizations to take a deep dive into the technical aspects required to prepare for these critical changes coming from Google.