If you want to bring in more online donations for your nonprofit, developing and implementing an SEO content strategy can help. In this blog, I’ll show you exactly how to do that.
Why Is SEO Important?
There are 3.5 billion searches on Google per day. Even more important than the number of searches, though, is the mindset of those searchers. By using an SEO content strategy to rank for the right keywords, you can get in front of your target market right when they’re looking for a nonprofit like yours. If your nonprofit sponsors children in Africa, for instance, then ranking for the keyword, “sponsor a child in Africa” can get you in front of thousands of users per month who want exactly what your nonprofit offers.
Why Is An SEO Content Strategy Important?
Amazing content is the cornerstone of SEO. When Neil Patel (recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations, and one of the top voices in the SEO community) surveyed 1,141 marketers on Twitter about the importance of content for SEO, 89.5% said that content is king.
Content is the engine that drives SEO growth, and without an SEO-driven content strategy your odds of ranking for important keywords goes down dramatically.
So here’s what we’ll be covering in this article:
– Why is an SEO content strategy important?
- Keyword research
- How to optimize a page
- Top of funnel content
- Middle of funnel content
- Bottom of funnel content
- Conclusion: the human touch
The first step to developing an SEO content strategy is keyword research. You want to build a big list of the kinds of search queries that your target market is entering into Google.
This list is critical because it should inform your content strategy. Let’s continue with our example from above, and imagine that you work for a nonprofit that sponsors children in Africa. You might notice from your keyword research that 3,600 people are searching for, “Poor kids in Africa” every month. That tells you that writing a blog about child poverty in Africa could reach a big audience.
How do you do keyword research?
You’ll need to use a tool, and there are a few great ones on the market. I’ll show you my process using SEMRush, but you can easily adapt this for other tools.
1) Competitive Research
Identify 5 of your competitors and plug them into your keyword research tool (if you’re using SEMrush, go to Competitive Research–>Organic Research). It helps if these are large competitors who rank highly for a lot of keywords.
When you enter these competitors into SEMrush, you’ll get a list of all the keywords they rank for. You’re not trying to copy what your competitors are doing with this step; you’re just getting lots of data about the kinds of things your target market is searching for.
2) Casting a Wide Net
Once you have your competitive research, go through the list of keywords your competitors are ranking for. Look for keywords that are short, have high search volume, and tie in to what your nonprofit offers. For instance, “sponsor a child” (4,400 searches/month) could be good. Grab 5-10 of these head terms.
Next, plug in each head term and your tool will give you a big list of keywords related to that head term (if you’re using SEMrush, you’ll enter your head term into the Keyword Research–>Keyword Magic Tool). This lets you cast a wide net. For example, plugging in “sponsor a child” will give you thousands of related keyword ideas ranging from, “become a child sponsor” (40 searches/month) to “hungry children” (1300 searches/month).
Once you export your related keywords, and add it to your list of competitors’ keywords, you’ll have a big list of keywords you can look through for content ideas.
3) Keyword Mapping
Once you have your list of keywords, start looking through it for ideas for content you want to create. As an example, you could write a blog post about poverty among children in Africa, targeting the keyword, “poor kids in Africa.” You could also create service pages for each country you serve, listing children available to be sponsored in that country; that would let you capture traffic from keywords like, “sponsor a child in South Africa,” “sponsor a child in Kenya,” “sponsor a child in Uganda,” and more.
Map each of your chosen keywords to a page (which can be an existing page on your site, a new page, or even a video or podcast). I like to use a format like this, using Excel:
How to Optimize A Page
Just because you map a keyword to a piece of content in Excel, doesn’t mean that Google will rank that content for the mapped keyword. You have to actually use the keyword on the page you’re writing (or in the video or podcast description, if we’re talking about multimedia content).
Here’s how to optimize a written page, whether it’s a blog post or services page, for a keyword:
Title tag: Use your keyword once in your title tag.
Meta description: Use your keyword at least once in your meta description.
URL: Use your keyword once in your URL.
H1 tag: Use your keyword once in your H1 tag.
Body of the page: Use your keyword in the 1st 200 words, and occasionally throughout the page. I aim for a keyword density of 0.5-1% on average, but one reason I love SEMrush is that they’ll give me a target keyword density for each search query based on what Google is already ranking for that query.
(The formula to calculate keyword density is below, courtesy of SEO software blog Alexa Internet).
Length and comprehensiveness: Look at what’s already ranking on page 1 of Google for your target keyword, to get a sense for what Google thinks users want. Also, put yourself in the mind of a user: if you were searching this keyword, what kind of content would you want? An in-depth guide with lots of data? A personal story putting a human face to the problem? Write the kind of content you think would best serve your audience.
Use these tips to optimize your written pages for your target keywords. Bear in mind, optimizing a Youtube video or a podcast is a little different; you can find excellent optimization instructions for YouTube here and podcasts here.
Semantically related keywords: Google uses semantically related keywords to check how relevant and how in-depth / authoritative your page is. For instance, a page about sponsoring a child in Africa might not be seen as complete without using terms like “orphan” “schooling” etc. This is the part of SEO that I personally find hardest to do manually, and where it’s most valuable to have a tool to recommend semantically related keywords that Google puts a lot of faith in.
Next, we’ll go into the types of content you can create to help your nonprofit get in front of the right audience in Google.
Top of Funnel Content
Top of funnel (TOFU) content is content that doesn’t try to sell your target market on the services you offer. Instead it educates, answers questions, and helps your audience to understand the problem you’re working to solve.
The benefit of TOFU content is that it can light a fire under your target market by bringing the problem you’re working on home to them. It can also boost brand awareness, so that your nonprofit is top-of-mind when the person wants to donate. The average digital journey from awareness to payment takes 7-13 touchpoints, so getting in front of your target market early and often (in a way that answers their questions, rather than annoys them) is critical to generating more online donations.
For example, 3,600 people per month search for the keyword, “poor kids in Africa.” An SEO-optimized blog post that uses statistics and human stories to showcase the problem of child poverty in Africa might be exactly what those searchers need (and want!) to see. And if the content resonates with them, they’ll remember your nonprofit when they’re further along the donor’s journey and want to contribute financially.
It’s important to note that TOFU content can be multimedia. What about a YouTube video that tells the stories of three starving children in Africa, and then uses statistics to put those stories in a wider context? Or how about a podcast episode where you interview an economist in Africa about child poverty?
Middle of Funnel Content
Middle of funnel (MOFU) content should talk about how you’re solving a specific problem. You’re reaching people who understand that it’s a problem, are interested in helping to solve it, and want to learn more.
The benefit of MOFU content is that you’re meeting your audience where they are and gently nudging them along the donor’s journey. You’re offering additional touchpoints in a way that respects them and gives them what they’re looking for. You’re also talking about how your organization solves XYZ problem, which is hugely valuable to a target market that wants to help solve XYZ problem; you’re planting the seeds that donating with your organization can help them make a difference.
For example, you could write a blog post around how to become a child sponsor, that lays out the obstacles and benefits of sponsoring a child.
Bottom of Funnel Content
Bottom of funnel (BOFU) content is content that engages the user in solving XYZ problem. You’re targeting people who know that XYZ is a problem, who want to help, and who have passed from the “learning” phase to the “let’s take action” phase of the donor’s journey.
The benefit of BOFU content is that you can get in front of people right when they’re most interested in solving the problem your nonprofit was created to solve. Talk about striking when the iron is hot! This type of content can be a powerful way to generate donations, especially among users who already know and trust your brand because they’ve consumed your TOFU and MOFU content.
For example, if your organization sponsors children in Africa, you could create a services page around, “sponsor a child in Africa,” that has the profiles of children in Africa that the user can sponsor. You’re getting in front of users right when they most want to sponsor a child, so this type of page (properly SEO optimized) can generate a lot of sponsorships.
Conclusion: the Human Touch
Whether you’re creating TOFU, MOFU, or BOFU content, the most important thing to bear in mind is: write for humans. You’re not trying to write for Google. Think about your target audience at each step of the donor’s journey, and give them the content (which can be written, audio, visual, or a combination) that they’re looking for.
That’s how you build an SEO content strategy that doesn’t just rank in Google, but actually converts interested users into online donors.
If your team doesn’t have time to develop a strategy, write content, SEO-optimize pages, publish them, and update the strategy regularly, I can help. I’m a 6-year SEO veteran, and I’ve delighted clients like The Bariatric & Metabolic Center of Colorado, Assured Assisted Living, and Girl Rising. I’m also an award-winning writer and I’ve written for outlets like National Review, The Hill, and Free Together. If you’d like to work together, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch here.