How do people get to your website? A lot of people are going to use a search engine to find a website. They simply type what they are looking for into a search bar. Most of the time, the website they are looking for is at the top of the list.
I say “most of the time” because there are instances where this is not true. The top result might be an article written by the local newspaper about your organization in which case your website might be listed second or even third. The order of search results when a user types the name of your organization into a search engine can tell you a lot about the quality of your website and interactions on social media sites.
Note: For the purpose of this post I will be talking about Google as the default search engine as it widely recognized as a leader in search.
Google is constantly changing and perfecting the algorithm they use to determine how pages are listed when a user searches for something. For example, recently they added “Search Plus Your World” which personalizes results based on your social network connections. The good news about this new feature is that you can help Google figure out how your site gets listed.
Before any of that can happen, you have to find out where your nonprofit agency currently stands in the rankings. Here’s how:
- Make sure you’re signed out of your Google account
- Go to www.google.com
- Type the name of your organization (or other search term associated with your mission) into the search box
- Record the top ten results
What came up? Was your site first? Maybe it was your Facebook site. Or your Twitter feed. Maybe it was a Yelp review of an event you held. Was a third-party site listed where you were mentioned?
Make sure you pay attention to the order as they are listed in popularity. A study in 2011 found that the site listed at the top of the Google search results was clicked on 36% of the time. The site listed second was only clicked on 12.5%. The tenth site on the list was only clicked on 2.2% of the time. If your site is not listed at the top of the page, you’re going to want to change that.
Now, how can you improve the Google results standings for your website?
- Tell Google about it. Google wants to tell people about you, but first they need to know you exist. You can tell them by submitting your content. This will ensure that Google has your site in their index. In most cases they already do, but you want to make sure.
- Describe things in detail on your page. The crawlers that Google sends out to the internet can only read text. Every word on your page can be used in the algorithm to send a person to your page. If you have wonderful photo on your site that includes words, Google is not going to know about it. Make sure all photos have captions or use ALT text when posting a photo.
- Create quality content for your users. If you do this, people will want to visit your site again and again. This is the main basis of the rankings on the results page. Yes, putting words on your website that are associated with what you think a user might enter into a search engine to find your website will help people find your site once, but will it make people want to come back?
That’s it. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Just kidding! Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a huge business and a very complicated subject. For more information you can check out Google’s guidelines by clicking here.
Ok, so we’ve talked about what you can do for your agency’s website, but what about all of those other results. In a perfect world, I would like to see my organization’s website listed first followed by all of the associated social media sites.
How does that happen? Again, the key is to get people to visit your sites, and being active on your social media sites will do exactly that. Also, make sure that all of your social media sites are listed everywhere you can. The description section in most social media sites is a great place to list your other sites if you are not given any other options.
Implementing changes to ensure that your site is at the top of the results list can dramatically increase the number of people (aka prospective donors) that know about your organization. Schedule time to Google yourself from time-to-time and stay on top of it!