Tag Archives: SEO

Nonprofits and the power of search

McKinsey has a new report out quantifying the gargantuan value of search worldwide (a free download if you register but not a must-read).  It serves as another reminder to nonprofits to pay attention to how people use the Internet and use search find and create communities of cause.  All of us who communicate about nonprofit organizations need to remember to “think keywords” — those phrases people use to search and find out about issues, ways to get involved, or consider donations.  And beyond the need to keep websites fresh and interesting, we need to remember that much of what we do now is to create content that can be “broadcast” in one-way communications or used to pepper social conversations.

A few tidbits:

  • In 2010, an average Internet user in the United States performed some 1,500 searches.
  • Some 90 percent of online users use search engines, and search represents 10 percent of the time spent by individuals on the Web, totaling about four hours per month. 
  • Some 30 percent of US Internet users now use social networks to find content, and 21 percent use them to find videos. 
  • When people search online, they are signaling information about themselves: what they are looking for, when, and in what context—for example, the Web page they visited before and after the search. Such information can be harnessed by those seeking to deliver more relevant content…

There’s some good stuff in the report about the future of search.  It starts to feel like Carl Sagan’s “billions and billion” (or “billions upon billions” depending on which account you believe)… only it’s about trillions and trillions of gigabytes of data.  How will search remain relevant when there is so much stuff out there — and so many SEO experts chasing your attention?  Will people turn more to aggregated (or vertical) sites that they trust?  What will that mean for nonprofits?

Those questions are out there in the cosmos for nonprofits, at least for now.  But McKinsey’s report is a salient and current reminder: as you choose communications media and messages, bear in mind that search is firmly embedded into most people’s daily rhythms.

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Filed under Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Uncategorized

Blogs: not close to extinction yet (what I want is “Friend Suck”)

Steve Rubel's Future of Blogging Mind Map

Steve Rubel's Future of Blogging Mind Map

Steve Rubel of Edelman Digital has taken a shot at describing possible evolutionary futures of blogging in the following mind map.  His prognostication, expanded in his Mashable post:  “One possibility is that blogs remain the primary social hub for many of us on the web but turn into lifestream sites that syndicate our content to and/or aggregate it from anywhere.”

Now, to be honest, that was a bit of a “huh?” for me.  Especially “lifestream sites.”  (I betcha Edelman has service marked that one already.)  But let me ‘splain what I think he means with this example.  Right now, I have several tools that I use to support my relationships in various spheres of my life including Facebook for friends and family, and LinkedIn for professional relationships.  LinkedIn is my professional hub.  I installed their wordpress tool so that this blog shows up in snippet form on my public LinkedIn profile.  I joined a couple of LinkedIn groups, such as the Social Media Caffe.  Highlights from that group show up on my LinkedIn page, as do publications and recommendations that are posted by people in my network.  I’ve found some of these updates and recommendations to be useful, although there’s a bunch that I consider to be SPAM.

I’d love it if there was a way to see all of my social media at once.  Thus far, I haven’t seen anything that, in one screen, gives me windows into the various social media places I hang out.  I’ve seen people experimenting with their own RSS feeds/displays (kind of like Mashable, but personalized).   Tools like TweetDeck are nibbling around the edges by allowing you to see real-time status updates from Facebook (it shows up in an added column), but you can’t feed LinkedIn updates that way.  And, of course, TweetDeck wants you to love Twitter best and just bring other social media as second fiddle.  Amplify and Friend Feed let you share stuff you’ve read and liked across social media platforms, but they don’t work in reverse.  I guess what I need is a social media vacuum, but something called “Friend Suck” just doesn’t sound right.

In foreseeing the possible demise of blogs, Steve ignores the important role they play in Search Engine Optimization.  Blogs keep website content fresh, and have a big effect on natural search results, at least the way that the Google algorithm works right now.  Blogs as we know and love them aren’t going away any time soon.  But I can hardly wait for “Friend Suck” to deliver my favorite blogs and social media status updates in one place.

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Filed under Blogging, Social media, Uncategorized

Microsites to promote a cause? Not so fast! (And microsites, explained)

I’ve recently noticed two examples of websites that were established by specific organizations using separate campaign identities (and URLs) rather than the parent organization’s website URL and identity.  Both are really cool campaigns — the Sacramento Tree Foundation has staked out its goal of planting 5 million trees, while CARES has established the ambitious goal of eradicating new HIV infections in 5 years:

Here’s the Sac Tree Foundation campaign, greenprintonline

And here’s the CARES campaign, areyouthedifference

I could think of pros and cons associated with separate websites, but I decided to reach out to Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz.  (My Monday post included an excerpt from one of Rand’s recent posts on SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog.)  Busy as he is, Rand weighed in.

The verdict:  from a search perspective, go with a subfolder (e.g. www.sactree.com/greenprintonline) rather than a separate microsite (http://greenprintonline).

Rand pointed me to two recent posts on SEOmoz’s blog describing the distinctions between subdomains, subfolders and microsites in this post, and this post.

Here are the pros and cons I saw when thinking about the use of microsites:

Pros

Flexibility – the sponsoring organizations may have limited flexibility to modify their main site; it may be easier to build a functional microsite, with links

Enables a national organization to set up a tool that can be used/modified by a local organization

If the organization has limited brand recognition and appeal, could attract new interest

Possibly could be used as a transition to a new brand

Enables collaborative effort with more than one non-profit (less arguing about who “owns” benefits of halo)

Cons

If you click through a link from the main site, it could take a whole lot of clicks to find the information (wears out patience of user)

Challenge of managing two sites instead of one for resource-constrained organization

Could muddy image of main brand

Split traffic

Some could wonder who the sponsor really is; lacks credible image of established NFP

At breakfast recently, I batted around the idea of a website that could serve as a clearinghouse for information about human service agencies affected by the potentially humongous Sacramento County budget cuts – kind of a virtual coalition.  I’ve thought about the same thing as a way of pooling information about the incidence and effects of hunger in the area.  That still might be a good idea, but I’d recommend against establishing campaign microsites if there is only one sponsoring non-profit.

PS The Sacramento Tree Foundation also includes a subfolder/page on its main website.

I’d be very interested in any experience that you want to report – pro or con – with cause-related microsites.

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Why your website matters more than social media

Since starting The Philanthrophile back in October, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, thinking and writing about social media… along with the rest of the world.  Social media is hot, steamy hot.  While I think it’s important and MUST be a part of the tactical mix, it shouldn’t be top priority for a small non-profit.  Presuming that your organization has its mission and strategy figured out (hint:  that comes first), and knows what outcomes it is trying to achieve…

Da da da daaaaah!  (Marine Corps band trumpets here)  Your website should be top priority.

Why?  Social media doesn’t yet compare with the power – and numbers – of search.   We now Google for everything, even the stuff that might just as easily be found in the contacts section of Outlook. 

As Rand Fishkin, CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz posted today on the SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog:

Social media is great for:

  • Connecting with your users (assuming they’re already on social media platforms and talking about you)
  • Building another channel for communication, branding & messaging
  • Appealing to early adopters
  • Wasting time on non-business essential communication 🙂

But it can’t do what search/SEO does:

  • Answer a direct need precisely when it’s requested in a scalable fashion
  • Gain visibility from virtually all Internet users with an interest in your brand/product/sector/content at once

if you’re ignoring other important fundamentals of online marketing, like:

  • Building a website with a unique value proposition
  • Create amazingly useful content that people want to share
  • Conduct effective email marketing
  • Find ways to scalably acquire new users & retain existing ones

A website is home base, the platform for your marketing and communications efforts.   Here’s another blog post worth checking out from the Non-profit Tech Blog that puts websites into a “Maslow’s hierarchy” of needs.  Note that Customer Relationship Management (e.g. database/campaign management) and social media are ranked as less important than websites.  NEXT:  HOW TO TIPS FOR EVALUATING AND POSSIBLY RE-VAMPING YOUR WEBSITE, AND THEN:  ARE MICROSITES A GOOD IDEA FOR NON-PROFITS (AND WHAT ARE THEY, ANYWAY?)

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Part 2 of 2: What keywords do people use when they’re looking for a cause or non-profit organization to support?

If you’re doing a news release this holiday season – and many non-profits are, given that many organizations collect about 40% of their donations in November and December – you should consider keywords that play well in search engines.  My last post dealt with a hypothetical charitable organization that seeks to ease the burden of suffering dogs everywhere.

 

Like most non-profits, our hypothetical organization needs not only to provide services, but it needs to raise money to support its mission.  We want our website not only to attract people who would use our services – which are available as a community service – but people who want to give money to support suffering dogs.

 

Thought of the day:

Websites for charitable organizations can’t just concentrate on keywords related to their mission or even those they serve.  They also have to attract people who are actively “shopping” for a source for their charitable or volunteer impulses.

 

A lot has been written about the growth of the donor marketplace.  While there are websites that seek to channel the energies and interests of those who want to do good, but who are not already loyal to a cause or organization, presumably there are also people who will skip Charity Navigator and similar sites, and directly look for organizations related to their interests.

 

Using the same process described in Part I, which relies on the free WordTracker tool here are some findings about keywords related to charity that may be of help as you write website copy and news releases:

 

“Charity” received the largest number of searches in the past 100 days, with 7,809 searches.  Interesting that the top term within the related search group was for “charity ratings”, with 657 searches.  Potential new donors are out there doing their research.  “Rating charities” followed just behind that one in popularity.  “Charity” was searched for 651 times, and “charities” 400 times.  Some of these were phrases where someone was looking for a charity to donate something specific, like “charities to donate…” or “donate XYZ to charity.”

 

“Donate” was a close second, with 7,355 related searches.  Note that the most popular searches were “donate for…” where someone wanted to donate things like a car, furniture or toys.  Didn’t see “donate money” in the top 100 searches.

 

“Relief”, which might be a useful term for aid-related organizations, had 5,718 searches, but many of them were for physical or mental relief rather than charitable types of relief (and there are the dogs again – 121 searches were for “pain relief for dogs”).

 

“Donation” had 5,293 searches

And this was interesting.  Looking at the individual terms that were most popular, “donations” outranks “donation” in searches.  It’s wise to write copy with both singular and plural versions of the same term.

 

“Support” wasn’t very useful because most of the searches were for support groups of one type or another, or physical support, like ankle support.  Likewise with “aid”.   These terms might be included in a keyword phrase but they aren’t specific enough to be useful.

 

Charitable donation” was too specific – only 16 searches were conducted in the past 100 days.

 

And what about the way we refer to our non-profit organizations?  Those are keywords, too.

 

Charity, noted above, can be used in several contexts – as in “gift” or as in “organization.”  Charitable organizations” had 80 searches within the last 100 days.

 

Non profit without a hyphen received 1,690 searches, 89 of which were for “non profit organizations”

 

Non-profit with a hyphen yielded 1,372 searches, of which 189 were for “non-profit instiutions” (misspelled) and 124 were for “non-profit institutions.”  116 were for “non-profit”.

 

No, people don’t search much for 501 c 3 (49 searches) or variations thereof.

 

 

Keep in mind that WordTracker captures searches from only the last 100 days.  Since giving is highly seasonal, terms related to giving would likely be under-represented.

 

“Give” had a lot of matches, but they were mostly pornographic terms….

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Filed under Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Part 1 of 2: When keywords go to the dogs…

In doing research into the best words to improve search results for three organizations (two related to non profits and one for a commercial site), I stumbled into the apparent popularity of searching for problems related to dogs.  Eight-four people in the past 100 days have searched for information on “dog separation anxiety” while 121 searched for “pain relief for dogs”, for example.  (In fact, far more people search for info about dogs’ separation anxiety than children’s.)

 

My message du jour is this (441 people searched for something “du jour”)…

If you’re trying to promote non profit organizations and causes, you need powerful keywords because you want to come up high in a search when someone starts typing words into his or her favorite search engine.

 

Quick “keywords” def:  Those golden little words – or phrases —  that people (and reporters) type into search engines to find what they’re looking for.

 

Why you should care:  Most of us either never think about how well our elegant copy performs in Internet searches, or we guess.  The consequence is that we lose out to other organizations when people surf the Internet for resources or places to make charitable donations.  This post talks about a free tool that can help you expand your list of potential keywords, so that you can make a strategic choice about the words you build into website pages and news releases.  (News releases are an excellent tool for increasing website traffic, and they aren’t bad for attracting media attention either.)

 

For this post on keywords, I’ve created a hypothetical non-profit that aims to ease the burden of suffering dogs everywhere.  I’ll call it the Suffering Dog Society.

 

Our hypothetical Suffering Dog Society needs to think about two things.  Step one, we need to figure out what words people use when searching for help with dog problems.  Tomorrow, we’ll talk about step two:  identifying keywords related to the fundraising aspects of our charitable organization.  No money, no mission, after all.

 

Initially, our keyword list might include “suffering dog,” “suffering dog relief”, “dog support agency” and so on.  (You can guess a list of 25 or so words or phrases, and if there are other similar organizations, you should see what terms they’re using.)  But how do we know which terms people are really using in searches?  How do we crawl into the minds of suffering dog owners everywhere?

 

Enter a free tool offered by WordTracker (http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/).  You plug in the keyword or phrase that you are considering, and it will tell you how many searches in the last 100 days used that word or phrase.  It will also show you, in descending order of popularity, related terms that people used.  WordTracker is a metacrawler system that checks multiple search engines for you, and combines the results.  Supposedly there are 100 million searches a month, so it’s got a whole bunch of data that can inform your keywords decision.

 

Turns out that “suffering dog” and “dog suffering” aren’t very popular terms.  There were only nine searches in the last 100 days using either term.  Let’s say we broadened our thinking to certain kinds of problems that dogs might suffer from:  “dog anxiety”, “dog stress,” “anxiety in dogs,” and “dog behavior problems.”

 

I type “dog anxiety” into the free keywords tool and press “hit me”.  Ah!  It tells me there have been 202 related searches in the past 100 days.  The top term is “dog separation anxiety”, for which there were 84 searches, followed by just “dog anxiety,” with 22 searches.  Note that “dog seperation anxiety” (incorrectly spelled) had 12 searches.  Because people often misspell when searching, some people intentionally put misspelled words into website meta-tags (coded info picked up by search engine robots behind the scenes of a website, but which can’t be seen by us mere mortals unless we know how to view source code).

 

I try a variation on the theme:  “anxiety in dogs”.  57 searches.  The most popular is “separation in dogs”, followed by “seperation in dogs.”  (By the way, the free tool will periodically make you verify that you’re a human and not a robot…)

 

I doggedly labor on and try “dog stress”.  While there are 36 related searches, “dog stress relief” had only 11 searches in the last 100 days.  Not good enough.

 

I think a little more broadly and try:  “dog behavior problems”.  That phrase had 40 searches, of which the exact same phrase was the most popular with 28 searches.

 

So what’s it tell me?  If I was working on a website or news release for my Suffering Dog Society, I would want to be sure that I find a way to smoothly write copy that includes “dog separation anxiety”.  Or given that not that many people seem to be struggling for help with suffering dogs, I might give up on the idea of starting a non-profit to help them.

 

There’s more I could do to identify the very best phrases, but I’d have to buy the WordTracker service for at least a few days.  The big thing is this:

Expanding our thinking about keywords that people use in searches would have saved us from using terms that either no one uses (in the case of the Suffering Dog Society), or that so many organizations use that we would be lost in the noise as a small, start-up non-profit.  That is the bigger risk for small organizations and causes.

 

Next:  Keywords to assist in fundraising – what keywords do people use if they want to give money and are searching for opportunities to “give”, “donate,” “support,” etc.?

 

Disclaimer:  I am a dog lover (but I still poked a bit of fun at dog owners in this post)!

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Straight from Google: Free guide to improving website performance

Save your money.  You don’t have to rush out and buy “Search Engine Optimization for Dummies,” at least not right out of the chute.  People helping small organizations and causes – who have to do-it-themselves when it comes to online communications — should check out a guide that Google just sent to subscribers of the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog:

Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide

 

It’s 22 pages, an Adobe Acrobat file, and it’s clear and succint.

P.S. When the browser opens, note the URL:  they follow their own advice by making the URL descriptive of the document, and yes, they recommend naming documents with dashes in between as they did to provide this uploadable document.

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Website Title Tags: What They Are and Why The Heck You Should Care

Now that anyone who’s under 35 turns to the Internet as their first means of finding anything (not Mom, not the phone book and not even 4-1-1), websites are almost as important to a non-profit as the building they occupy.  They’re infrastructure.  If you care about how well your non-profit attracts donors, volunteers, corporate sponsors and the media to your website, you might be interested in today’s musings.

 

All non-profits want the same thing:  to come up #1, #2 or #3 on a Google search for their cause.   The question I was asked today bears directly on search performance:  “Our web designer is telling me that title tags should be the same as the text titles on each page to optimize how we rank with search engines.  Is that true?”

 

If your reaction is “Wha?” don’t go away because you really should know about this if you care about people finding you through searches.  Here’s the short answer for those who already care:  best practice seems to be for the title tag to clearly describe what’s to be found on that page, and for the page title to use the same or very similar words.

 

But let’s back up.  In the example below, above the brown background area, there’s a light blue area that looks like a file folder tab.  The wording in that tab is the title tag (“River City Community Services”), and it’s coded by the webmaster (in this case a wonderful volunteer).  The page title is “Volunteers are always needed.”  Notice something?  Yup, the two don’t match very well.  That’s something we’re going to fix.

Google and other search engines are interested in delivering the most relevant match when users type in what they’re looking for.  Google’s staff experts will tell you that title tags are one of the things that they factor in to their 200+ item algorithm used to drive searches.

The title tag is the organization name; page title is "Volunteers..."

The title tag is the organization name; page title is

 

 

 

How’d I get to the answer about best practice?  I checked out what three of the highest traffic non-profit sites do, and I looked at a great source, High Rankings Advisor.  I figure if the following sites are getting around one million unique visitors per month, they must be doing something right.  Here’s what I observed:

 

American Heart Association:

Exactly matches the title tag to the title on the page, e.g.

     Both say:  Donate Now and Help Save Lives

But the American Cancer Society and American Red Cross do something different:

American Cancer Society:

Puts the abbreviation of the organization before the wording on the title tag, and the page title is identical to that wording, e.g

     Title Tag:  ACS:  Patients Family and Friends

     Title on the page itself:  Patients, Family and Friends

American Red Cross:

Puts the organizational name as the title tag and does not have different title tags for different pages (same as the River City Community Services example)

     Title Tag:  Red Cross

     Title on the page itself:  Disaster Services

 

Here’s what I learned from High Rankings Advisor’s site.  A forum member wondered if it’s bad that each page of his website had the same page titles.  The consensus of commenters was that using identical wording on each and every title tag doesn’t facilitate search as much as changing the title tag on each page. I liked this comment from “Piskie”:

“If you (were a librarian and) were faced with all the reference books having the same title, would you be able to catalogue the information to allow your readers to locate their specific Information requirements?”

 

Didn’t know you should care, did you?  Until a few months ago, I was blissfully ignorant as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Help me help you”; or is that help you help me?

What do you know?  What do I know?  What does anyone know?  No, this is not a philosophy blog…

 

I’m launching this “philanthrophile” blog in the hope it may help you to more effectively market and communicate about ideas and causes, and in the selfish hope that it will help me as I try to support some important and needy causes – like hospice, hunger and troubled youth.  I pledge to try to make the topic of each post clear at the outset so you can decide if you want to read on or press delete.  You can decide after reading the bullets below if you’re interested in the same general stuff, or not.

 

You may know my backstory.  Career in healthcare marketing and strategy, with a thread of innovation on behalf of consumers.  I’ve worked in advertising agencies, public relations agencies and been a marketing/strategy exec in two very large organizations.  Then three years ago, I retired to care for my now 92-year-old Dad, who is something of a walking miracle given the three heart attacks, two open heart operations and two strokes that he has survived quite nicely.  My jump off the corporate freeway has not quelled my appetite for marketing, or for community service.

 

So, this is my “Captain’s log” (apologies to Trekkies) about what I’m exploring and learning in my latest iteration:  pro bono marketing capability developer for selected causes.  Since philanthropy is a new application of my professional skills, I am on a binge, drinking in everything I can get my hands on.

 

Here are a few examples of things I’m interested in:

 

  • The philanthropy sector’s interest in systematic approaches to innovation, which look an awful lot like the innovation/new product development model my team and I created at my last corporate gig
  • How small, unsophisticated not-for-profits can improve their website’s “natural search” rankings (cheap and basic Search Engine Optimization techniques) as well as improve useability
  • Ideas about the life cycle of a donor, and how one develops a relationship from the first gift… through more major contributions (Customer Relationship Management)
  • The power of story — through words, photos and video story telling – as a means of engaging constituents and encouraging donations
  • Innovative partnerships between business people and philanthropic causes, and efforts of MBA programs to offer management guidance on a pro bono basis (such as the Kellogg Action Lab)
  • Digital communications opportunities, from website functionality to blogging, to e-newsletters, social networking and online engagement
  • Evaluation and tracking of online campaigns (particularly web analytics), as well as benchmarking studies
  • The emergence of donor marketplaces such as NetworkForGood
  • The intersection of traditional public relations and online marketing techniques

 

As you can see, my interests are about a mile wide and an inch deep.  As I pass along new nuggets, I’m hoping you’ll share what you’re seeing and learning.

 

And if you’d prefer not to ever, ever see this blog again – no harm, no foul.  Just unsubscribe!

 

As for schedule, I’ll blog when I think I have something worth sharing.  Let me know if it gets to be too much.  Thanks for playing!

 

Quote for the day:  “While the range of issues they can support is almost limitless, the number of tools that philanthropists have at their disposal is rather small. They have really 7 things to bring to the table: money, knowledge, time, expertise, connections, patience, and independence.”  Lucy Bernholz, Philanthropy 2173 (a favorite blog)

 

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