Search engines are critical to the success of your organization. Search engines connect people looking for information with websites that have it. In your case, this is information about local activities or services or help they need. It may also be people looking for charities to donate to or support with in-kind donations or to volunteer with. When your organization is right at the top of the search results more people come to your website and more people become donors, volunteers, or participants in your events and services.
Lets take a minute to talk about how search engines work. Why you care about them. And, then we’ll talk about three ways can get more visitors to your website.
How Search Engines Work
Search engines are in the business of matching people with relevant information. They specialize in understanding websites, how people use them, what they are about, and who gets the most value from them. With this information search engines create search results pages when someone is looking for information, and the order of the webpages is determined by all that information. Some of the specific data search engines collect about your site are:
- How many visitors your site receives on which pages
- How long visitors stay on your site
- How many pages they look at
- Which pages are selected by searchers on results pages
- What the words and images on your website are about
- Whether your website sells stuff or services or links to other websites
Search engines also scour the internet for information about your organization and website collecting information such as:
- Other websites that link to yours
- Social media accounts that have mentioned your organization or website
- News agencies that have covered your organization
With all this information your website is then ranked and its topics are determined so that when people search for something, the best matching websites are placed at the top of the search results page.
Why You Care
You care about how search engines work and what they know about you because the higher the rank your website is given, the higher your web pages will appear on search results… and we know that 80% of searchers look at just the top 4 search results. If you’re not in the top 4, you’re not getting many visitors.
Looking at the heat-map from Google you can see that most of the action is in the upper left section of the page. There is also a little action on the upper right section of the page.
To get more people coming to your website so that you can get more donors, volunteers, and participation in your program or service, you need to be at the top of the page for the people looking for your organization.
Three Ways To Get More Donors, Volunteers, and Participants
#1: Setup a Google Business Listing
Google Business Listings appear on the right side of the search results page on Google when the searcher is using a laptop, desktop, or tablet. On mobile searches it is often placed in-line with search results. These listings present extremely relevant information for someone who has searched for your organization by name or partial name. This is an excellent way to make sure you are placed at the top of the page.
To setup your Google Business listing visit: http://www.google.com/business
- Getting your information on the form takes about 5 minutes.
- Make sure to sign in to Google with your work email account, not your personal account
- Google goes through a verification process where they send you a post card if they are not already aware of your business. Your listing will not show until that process is complete, if it is needed
- Make sure to upload a cover image, profile image, and logo as these will attract searchers to the listing box
- Notice that Facebook reviews and GreatNonprofits reviews are shown right in the listing box. Other information will appear here over time.
#2 Provide Really Useful Content
Your website needs to provide people you want to reach with extremely good content. This matters because Google and other search engines are watching the visitors on your website and trying to determine if they found what they wanted. If real people are not getting really useful content from your website the search engines will know it and reduce your rank. If they see your visitors are extremely happy with your website they will know it and your rank will increase over time.
Some examples of really useful content:
- A calendar of events with great event descriptions
- Blog articles that speak to your target audience for your core service, to your donors, to your volunteers, and to people who don’t know about your organization
- Newsletters that you send via paper or email generally have really useful content and you can place that on your website too
#2 Seek Links To Your Website
One of the pieces of data that search engines use to understand the important of your website is the number of links to your website from other places, and the rank of those other places.
For example: If one of the top websites in the world has a link to your site, it is really going to help your website rank well in search results.
There are many, many ways to invest in gaining links to your website over time. What you need to understand is that this is an investment over time and you will only see the results over time.
Here are some ways you can seek out links to your website:
- Ask your sponsors to write an article for their website about your organization (or you can write the article for them) that includes a link to your site
- Form time to time, post a link to a page of really useful content on your social media account
- Ask your biggest fans and volunteers to share your website with their friends, social media accounts, or on their blogs
- Engage with local news reporters to have articles written about your achievements or events, often the online version of the articles will include a link to your website
Why Your Website Matters
Your website matters because the internet is how a huge portion of the internet-connected world finds information. When you have a website that is ranked well by search engines people who are looking to volunteer, donate, or participate in your core services will be able to find you. And that will help you grow your impact.