Do’s and Dont’s: SEO Link Building Strategies for Nonprofits
Link building is a nightmare for SEO professionals. These days, unless a link building campaign is executed with extreme caution, an old fashioned campaign can have negative consequences just as easily as it can have positive consequences. Given the constant evolution (and tighter restrictions) of Google’s algorithms, it’s much easier to cop-out and say to clients (or supervisors), “just let it happen naturally.” This may very well be the right approach for some – but not all nonprofits are created equal. Some organizations are small and unbranded which could mean a matter or years before enough links are generated to have any effect on organic placement. How do we get around this?
On one hand it’s no longer appropriate to artificially populate the internet with deliberate link backs to your site, but on the other it remains imperative that Google index your site from sources other than your own. Fortunately there are solutions. Here are some dos & don’ts for SEO link building strategy for nonprofits.
Do Use the Blogosphere:
Im not talking about writing a company blog although that too can be an effective tool in SEO and brand marketing. In this case I’m referring to the dozens or hundreds or maybe even thousands of dedicated bloggers who in some way or another write within the purview of your nonprofit’s mission. Simply make contact and ask for a review. Should the blogger decide to publish great, if not it’s no loss. DO NOT pay bloggers to review your site and don’t stress out if the reviews turn out to be negative. If the blogger is professional it will read as constructive criticism which you can use to improve on your non profits website.
Don’t Use Link Farms:
For the seasoned readers this may be seem like an obvious, if not obsolete thing to say but beware – link farms still exist. Keep your eye out for sites that seem to have an inordinate amount of ads and appear unformatted. Some may even seem legitimate but link out to unrelated content. The simple rule of thumb is, NEVER submit your link to a site without a clear purpose that can benefit your audience. More often than not your own intuition & common sense is your best method of identifying link farms.
Do Go Local:
This may not seem relevant to the larger/national organizations but for local & community oriented non profits its absolutely essential. The web is full of locally driven resources both paid and free. Sites like Yelp, which rely on user generated content, can be a great way to wrangle reviews from those who utilize your non profits services or resources. Google for Business is a free service that lets you take control of your local listings on various Google products. It never hurts to encourage mobile app interaction with check-in services like Square too. Lastly, make sure to capitalize on community resources like local directories and your chamber of commerce.
Don’t Pay for Links:
There are some organizations that pull in enough traffic with cheap ads to offer you “value in page views.” Most are sites that use click-bait articles. If you’re unfamiliar with that concept think of those article ads in your Facebook feed with headlines like “Five things you didn’t know about…” or “…you’ll never believe what happened next.” These are often published within pages that are over saturated with banner ads and, somewhere below the fold contain “relevant” links to related content. Sound familiar? Think of it as the modern day link farm. For every algorithm update comes another evolution in black hat practices.
This doesn’t mean you should over burden your followers with constant links to your site. It does mean that your nonprofit absolutely must have a Facebook page, a Google+ page and more. There will be inevitable link backs to your site and these will be exceptionally valuable when they come from your followers. Keep your postings consistent & interesting and make sure that the static “about” information is always up to date.
Don’t Exchange Links:
It’s flattering when a writer tells their audience that your content is useful and it may seem courteous to return the favor. Although it feels like a legitimate exchange it can be a red flag to Google. Make contact, send your thanks and turn it into a networking opportunity – leave it at that. This doesn’t mean linking out doesn’t serve a purpose. When you write a blog it makes for a much better user experience when you can send your traffic to sites which offer content that can supplement or enhance your own. But don’t expect the owners of those sites to immediately return the favor if they know whats good for them.
The Future of SEO
While these serve as great dos and do nots in 2014, keep in mind that the Internet is always evolving. Whats considered a standard practice today, may be shady in a year. It’s important to remember that mobile is changing our everyday lives and companies like Google must evolve their products to keep up. Consider that a search for “ice cream” using Siri while about town would be best represented with local ice cream shop results (via GPS). However, a search for “ice cream” on your desktop while at the office would more likely entail informational results (flavor options and homemade how to articles, etc). These are important components to consider when conjuring a linking campaign (not to mention your site development).
You can find other great articles and resources about link building here and here. If you’re looking to optimize your site for organic placement you can read more about SEO strategies for non profits here, here, here and here.