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The Evolution of SEO: A Series for Nonprofits

SEO is Dead. Yes, it’s true. SEO as we know it is “dead-dead-deadski” (80’s movie reference… Google it). This revelation has likely left you scratching your head, asking questions such as:

  • Does that mean SEO Professionals are out of a job? (Not if they know what they’re doing)
  • Does it mean Nonprofits should give up on top organic rankings? (A resounding NO)

Organic rankings are still vitally important for driving traffic to your nonprofit’s site. However, it’s essential that your nonprofit’s strategy for improving your organic ranking evolves alongside Google’s ever-changing algorithms.

What is SEO?

For the last decade, SEO projects have focused on utilizing keyword density, title tags, alt tags, Meta Tags*, et cetera. Typical advice for improving organic rankings has included publishing as much keyword rich content as possible. Furthermore, websites have been formatted for optimal viewing on standard screen desktops and/or big screen laptops.

* Meta Tags (found in the dictionary next to useless) became obsolete in Google’s organic rankings in the last five years.

Forget it. Forget what you thought you knew about SEO. Forget what you’ve heard from your friend’s cousin’s spouse who built a website in 2005. Forget what you have been told by the recent college grad that majored in marketing. Forget it all, because it’s very likely outdated. Google’s algorithms were originally built from a highly technical standpoint, thus allowing the previously discussed SEO techniques to effectively improve organic rankings. Google is now focusing on quality content, in an effort to make the search engine audience oriented. To accomplish this, Google has tasked their engineers with improving algorithms to view the web from an audience perspective. Consequently, your nonprofit’s SEO strategy must adapt to match the new audience-oriented Google algorithms.

With these changes, it would seem that the name “Search Engine Optimization” is no longer appropriate for the practice of optimizing your nonprofit’s website in order to achieve high organic rankings in search engines. Considering that the recent advancements in search engine standards have resulting in a more audience-oriented user experience, it would seem prudent to rename the developing trade “Audience Optimization.” Audience Optimization will require you to focus on the way your nonprofit’s target audience uses search engines, rather than focusing on the search engine itself.

Over the next four weeks we will review the four factors to improve your nonprofit’s organic rank in 2014!

We will review strategies for you to continue, discontinue, to begin utilizing, and to enhance user experience to improve your site’s organic rank. So while this series will present tips and tricks of the SEO trade, it is important to note that SEO is now an audience centric tool. As such, let’s begin the series with approaches that will improve User Experience.

User Experience (UX) is an important component in creating a site that appeals to, and wins the heart of your audience. While most UX specialists don’t care about your website rankings, Google has recently incorporated the following best UX practices into their ranking factors:

Background to Text Contrast

While seemingly obvious, it is important to consider your site’s background to text contrast. This is particularly significant when your site is colorful or contains a lot of pictures, as your background affects the focus of the eyes on various elements — particularly text.

Text and Space

This feature is largely overlooked, since most web software includes word-editing elements. Nonetheless, make sure your font is of an adequate size and that you are offering comparable spacing between words.

Alt Tags

There are always individuals who refuse to update to the latest web browser and/or have their browsers set to use the least amount of bandwidth or computing power as possible. As such, it’s important to ensure that your videos and pictures have alt tags included in them so that you are accommodating all of your potential audience.

The 5 Second Rule

Once a user arrives at your site you have five seconds to make a positive impression, or they will click the back button. This detail is often unpalatable to site owners, but must be accepted and employed to offer an optimal user experience. To avoid the dreaded premature back button, your layout must be strategically designed to optimize ease of use for your audience. Avoid making your site too busy or too empty, and ALWAYS make sure that the most important site features are above the fold. If users have to work to find what they need, you will lose them.

Understanding your Goals

To provide your audience with the experience they desire, it is important to first understand your nonprofit’s goals. Is your goal to solicit for information, to get a petition signed, or to obtain donations? Your ultimate goal, or your macro conversion, will dictate how you want your audience to engage in your site. Once you have decided upon your ultimate goal (macro conversion), consider what steps (micro conversions) can assist you in driving your audience toward the ultimate goal. Examples of micro conversions include social media buttons or offering a free newsletter. Setting up a clear path to steer the audience toward your macro conversion is essential, while still providing the experience the user is seeking.

Clear Path to Contact Page

It is imperative that navigating to your site’s contact page and/or form is effortless for the user. Ensure that there are multiple options located throughout the site that allow for your audience to provide their contact information and/or find your organization’s contact information.

Relevant URLs

Ensuring that the URL matches the content of the page is both search engine friendly and will be appreciated by your audience. Keep the URL as simple as possible. For example, the contact page should simply be Example.com/contact.

Pop-Ups

While internal pop-ups have made a discreet comeback in the last couple of years, ad pop-ups are irritating for users. If you are trying to promote something for your own organization keep the pop-up as uncomplicated as possible and make sure your users can remove it quickly and easily.

The strategies above will help to enhance your organic ranking by improving User Experience. Read more articles by John Stancliffe, and more articles about which SEO practices your nonprofit should discontinue, and this post on what SEO practices your nonprofit should continue. John Stancliffe has also written articles on SEO and Google Analytics. If you’re stuck in an SEO rut, don’t hesitate to reach out to us or tweet us at @MediaCause.



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