GET EXPOSURE: MOVE UP IN GOOGLE SEARCH RANKINGS
Episode aired April 21, 2021: SEO For Nonprofits
Tatiana Morand of Wild Apricot is a content and SEO smartie. Knowing what is necessary to help your organization rank high in Google search results is her expertise. In this episode Tatiana discusses
- how to improve your SEO efforts
- the elements of high quality content
- the importance of the user experience
- why it’s important for your organization to rank high in Google search results
- keywords research and how to do it and
- how to manage your website content for success.
Below you can listen, watch or read this podcast episode.
Ephraim: Welcome to this edition of the Your Weekly Dose of Nonprofit podcast, the podcast that delivers actionable items you can implement at your organization right away. I’m your host Ephraim Gopin of 1832 Communications. Today I’m really happy to have with us a nonprofit SEO and content smartie, Tatiana Morand. Tatiana, how you doing today?
Tatiana: Good. We’re finally getting some warmer weather over here in Canada. Spring is coming I think. So I’m pretty happy about that.
Ephraim: Woohoo! Let’s introduce you to our listeners, watchers and readers.
Tatiana Morand is the SEO manager for Personify’s SMB unit, managing content and website optimization for both the Wild Apricot and Memberclicks products, to provide helpful content for nonprofits, associations and clubs of all shapes and sizes. In the past year, she’s increased conversions through organic traffic to the Wild Apricot site by 60%.
In her spare time she enjoys working on her fantasy novel and exploring the streets of Toronto to discover all the best cafes and brunch spots. Very important!
What Is SEO
In today’s episode we’re going to discuss SEO. Let’s dive right in. Tatiana, we’ll start at the beginning. What exactly is SEO?
Tatiana: So when I’m explaining my job, I like to tell people that it’s just all about getting their web pages to show up on the first page of Google. So SEO actually stands for search engine optimization. It’s basically just all about getting your content found, indexed, both via the content side- creating good blog posts and great web pages that are tailored towards the search intent of someone searching for something in Google. It’s also all about the technical side, making sure your website is correctly formatted in terms of web page speed, in terms of loading, in terms of site structure, all of that kind of stuff.
How SEO Helps Organizations
Ephraim: Excellent. So how can SEO help an organization raise awareness, market itself and fundraise?
Tatiana: Googling something is basically a verb now, right? All of us have said, okay yeah, just go Google it if you don’t know the answer to a question or if you want to find something. It’s the source for a lot of information and it’s often people’s first thought when it comes to finding out something. So when someone goes to look for something in Google, you want your organization to show up. So depending on the searcher’s intent, this could lead either to increased brand awareness, like if they’re just looking for something general or it could even lead to increased volunteers and additional donations. For example, let’s say I wanted to donate to a food bank. My first thought would be food banks in Toronto. So basically then whatever would show up on that first page of Google would probably be where my donation would end up going, just because it’s the first one that presented itself to me. You really want your organization to be wherever your potential audience is and Google is definitely one of those places.
Elements Of High Quality Content
Ephraim: Okay. So you talk about the importance of publishing high quality content in order to move up in the search results and certainly appear on page one as high up as possible. What are the elements of high quality content and what types of content would you consider to be high quality?
Tatiana: So there’s a few different things that kind of go into that. One of the most important things is subject matter expertise. Google considers content more valuable if they can see that the person who’s writing about it obviously knows more about it. This is really important especially for topics that deal with health for example. They want to rank content that’s created by a doctor, someone working in that space rather than just someone random like me writing about it. Obviously this is an area where nonprofits can really shine because if you’re writing content or putting a web page together, that’s obviously something that you have a deep knowledge of. You know more about your mission and your organization and the community you serve than anyone else. You’re really well placed to create high quality content there.
There’s also some issues that go into it, like website formatting. Basically pretty simple stuff like including headers in all of your content, including titles in all of your content, making sure that all of the links that you have in there are relevant and are also linking out to other high quality sources, including images and videos and other type of multimedia content. If you have a podcast too, including that in your content is really valuable and that’s because people often find alternative forms of content more engaging than just reading something. I’m a big reader obviously since I’m also working on a novel, but I know some people prefer videos, some people prefer audio. So really catering to that with your content can also help you be seen as more high quality. This is also because Google really wants people to stay on your pages for as long as possible. If they can see that someone has scrolled through your whole page, has watched the video, has clicked on some other links, they’ll be able to see that your visitors consider this content high quality.
Improve Your SEO Efforts
Ephraim: That’s awesome. That is excellent advice, all of it. Let’s build on that. Today’s actionable item:
Many nonprofits lack funding to hire someone or to hire an SEO expert. Could you tell us three to four things that an organization can be doing on their own to improve their SEO efforts?
Tatiana: Well one thing I forgot to mention in the last section that’s really easy in my opinion is just making sure that your content is legible. No typos. Please try to fix those grammatical errors before hitting publish. Making sure that your content makes sense is I think something that most people are pretty much able to do on their own or with a proofreading buddy. So that is one thing that you can kind of start to make sure that… I’m sure your web pages are already great but just give them that last proofread just in case.
One of the things that I think is really important for nonprofits or other organizations is making sure that that Google My Business box is set up properly. So again, if someone searches like food banks near me or anything like that, your organization will show up properly in Google Maps and with that little box and will show up on the side of Google search results with a little bit more information about your organization. Your address, your hours of operation, how they can contact you. Just making sure that all of that information is up to date and is correct is something that’s pretty easy to do. But that will show that your organization is aware of this and you know that people are able to actually find you by searching. That’s really important.
Number two I would say is make a quick list of the key terms that you want to show up for in Google. Whether that’s something that you think would be more likely to generate donations for your organization, like a key term that relates to your mission that you want to show up for if someone’s searching. You can use Google Keywords Planner, which is a free tool offered by Google Ads to see if any of these terms have a decent search volume. It’ll show you how many people every month are actually searching for that keyword and then you can decide whether or not it is actually worth going after that keyword and creating content around it. Or you can say, hey, maybe… it’ll also offer you some other keyword suggestions, so you can be like, oh actually, maybe even though this is the term we use, no one else is really using this term or people in our audience won’t know what this term is, so we’ll actually modify it to use this other term that’s a lot more search friendly instead. If you have content on these topics, then you can update it and try to make it better so it’s more findable. Or it might be time to create some new content.
Finally, if you haven’t already done this, make sure that you have Google Analytics and Google Search Console both set up for your site. Both of these are also free tools, so there’s no excuse and both of these will allow you to see some things, like which web pages people are coming in on from your site, which ones they’re staying the longest on, which ones they’re clicking around on the most, which ones they’re exiting the most from. That’s super valuable so that you can know which content on your site visitors are currently really resonating with.
Google Search Console in particular will also show you if there’s any errors on your site that you need to fix. For example, if content isn’t showing up properly, if Google is unable to identify what some content is and it will also allow you to see what keywords your pages are already ranking for. So that means you’ll be able to see if you have any keywords that are maybe on the second page of Google so you could be like, maybe I’ll just improve some copy on those ones or add a few images to help it rank better. Or you’ll be able to see which ones are already on page one, the ones you’re doing a great job on and basically this is really important because if you can see the ones that are showing up on page two, it’s a lot easier to get content to rank on page one if it already exists than if you’re creating something from scratch. So basically going in and editing that content that’s on page two is just kind of the lowest hanging fruit that your team is able to do without any additional resources going into creating new content or anything like that. So that was a few different kind of comments depending on where you’re at in your SEO journey. I think that’s probably enough to get people started for now.
The Importance Of The User Experience
Ephraim: That was an awesome, awesome answer. And now let’s talk on… we’ve talked about organizations. Let’s talk for a second about Google itself. Part of Google’s rankings include the user experience. So they’re looking at the experience users have when they come to and navigate an organization’s website. What items are on your quality website checklist that ensure users have a pleasant experience?
Tatiana: One of the most important things is mobile friendliness, making sure that your website looks the same and loads properly no matter what platform someone is accessing it from. Whether that’s a laptop, whether it’s a phone, whether it’s a tablet. Just making sure that Google can crawl your website and that your visitors are able to look at your website the same way no matter how they’re accessing it is really important. Especially now that… I use my phone for everything, so if it’s a quick search I’ll be totally likely to look at my phone rather than my computer. But if your website isn’t formatted properly, that’s a big no-no.
Something else that’s really important is that it’s easy to fill out any forms that you have and that information is really easily accessible on your site. So if someone comes to one page and they’re clicking around, you have a button that says ‘membership’ that it should be pretty clear that that page will be about membership. They shouldn’t click on it and come to something that’s not about membership, for example. Obviously that’s a really simplistic example but the point here is that it should be really easy to find content on your website. Everything should be labeled properly, everything should be clear so that both Google and users can see how it all relates to each other and they’re easily able to follow the links from a to b to c without getting lost along the way by confusing naming conventions or anything like that.
Finally it’s super important that your website is https and not just http. So that means that if it has that “s” at the end, that means that your website is secure. You have an SSL certificate to show the internet that you’re not a hacker, you’re not trying to steal anyone’s information. That just is a really big signal both to Google and to users that your website is safe. If someone sees that your website isn’t safe, why would they give their credit card information to you to make a donation online? Just wouldn’t make sense. So making sure that you have that security in place for your users is really important, so that they continue to have faith in your content.
Learn More About Tatiana
Ephraim: That last one is great in terms of how one letter can make all the difference between getting a donation and not getting a donation. That’s an excellent answer. So let’s move on to the lightning round and learn more about you. What got you started on your nonprofit career path?
Tatiana: So my first job was actually at a literary journal which is not really what people think of when they think of a typical nonprofit but it was one, so I think that kind of inspired me to continue working in the field in a way that would help people. And even though now I currently work at a tech company, so it’s obviously kind of different, I do think that our software helps make people’s lives easier. Not that I’m trying to turn this into a pitch but it does make me feel better because a lot of tech companies are really like… sometimes kind of soulless or it’s like what does this… does this software really help make someone’s life better or make their job that much easier. I kind of doubt it. So even if I’m not directly working at a nonprofit on the ground, at least I’m able to help people with my SEO expertise, experience or marketing expertise and also work at a company that is still helpful
Ephraim: Fantastic. So given that you’ve worked at a nonprofit and you work for a business that deals with many many nonprofits, if there’s one thing you could shake up in the nonprofit world, what would it be?
Tatiana: I think just the expectation that you have to do everything and commit yourself like 100 percent to your mission. I think it’s just not always very helpful. I know a lot of people in the nonprofit space really struggle with maintaining a good work-life balance and it’s like, you’re not a superhuman. It’s not feasible for everyone to do everything all of the time but it’s almost like if you have a nonprofit, you’re kind of expected to have that mentality. I think that just sometimes taking a step up back and being like yes, we do want to do our best for the world and really help with our mission but it’s not… you need to take time for yourself and make sure that you’re able to take care of yourself before you take care of everyone else. I think just having a better sense of that mentality and of work-life balance would be really helpful in the long run, so people don’t burnout and leave the sector altogether.
Ephraim: Excellent advice. Well said. What’s the Toronto Brunch Club?
Tatiana: Like you mentioned in my introduction, I really like going to brunch spots. I’m also just really passionate about supporting local businesses. I think that they’re really vital to the community and to the atmosphere of any place. So I started an Instagram account and a blog to chronicle my journey through brunch spots and then it kind of evolved into also cafes and talking about local clothing stores and local makers and all of that, because it’s just something I’m really passionate about and it’s just a fun way to express my creativity. Or to work on other things that are I guess kind of marketing related but more about the photography or the videography side of things and yeah, it’s kind of a fun hobby. I love it now.
Ephraim: Follow up to that. What’s your favorite and least favorite breakfast food?
Tatiana: So I’ve been really into shakshuka lately. There’s something about the combination of the eggs and the tomato and the cheese with some naan or some sourdough. It’s so good so I’ve been eating a lot of that. I would also say… I also love sweet brunches, so like pancakes with different toppings. Very good. But I don’t like when there’s chocolate in sweet breakfast food. I find that weird. If I want to eat chocolate, I’ll eat a chocolate bar. I don’t want chocolate chip pancakes or something like that. Which I realize is weirdly specific but there you go.
Ephraim: No it’s fine. I’ll just have to disagree because the only pancakes I eat are chocolate chip pancakes but it’s all good.
Ephraim: It’s the only kind I’ll eat. That’s it. It has to have chocolate chips. Yes, chocolate chips. Among everything else you’ve done, you were also a music journalist. Which band were you most excited to cover and why?
Tatiana: So I don’t know if this is a super well-known band by any means but it’s a band called Diet Cig. They’re kind of like an indie pop punk duo and I got to interview their lead singer beforehand and it was really cool to get that insight into her creative process and into how she created music. So then when the time came to actually cover their show, I was even more excited than I had been because I had that kind of insider knowledge and that was just a really cool experience for me.
Ephraim: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Lastly we will turn the table. You get to ask me one surprise question. I have no idea what’s coming. Go ahead.
Tatiana: Okay. Well you know I have to just turn that question back on you. What’s your favorite and least favorite breakfast food or what kind of brunch do you like to eat?
Ephraim: Okay, so I’m gonna surprise you a little bit and tell you I haven’t had breakfast in 20 years plus.
Ephraim: More than 20 years. This is not necessarily a diet thing. This is just more that in the morning I do not need a meal until about noon, 1 pm. So I don’t by choice eat breakfast. However, now I will qualify that statement. When I travel and I get to North America, I have a very sweet tooth for sugar cereals. So there is an excellent chance you will find me munching on a box of Apple Jacks or Frosted Flakes and probably downing half the box in one sitting and it’s very possible that will happen in the morning. I’m not gonna say it won’t happen in the morning. But I don’t… it just it just worked out that way, the last… what, it’s even more than 20 years at this point. I just haven’t… I just never… the truth is when I did eat breakfast, it was always always always sugar cereals. As a kid it was always Cheerios and milk and then Sundays we were allowed sugar cereal. So I have a very sweet tooth for all the sugar cereals But no breakfast… breakfast is just… if you’re talking brunch at 11:30, 12, okay but for me that’s already lunch, so then I’m having salad. Okay it’s not really lunch… but listen, I appreciate the question because it gave me a chance to talk about Apple Jacks, so now I really want a box. It’s all good. I’ll have to have it for lunch tomorrow. That’s alright, not for breakfast.
Thank you very very much for appearing on the podcast. You can learn more about Wild Apricot at wildapricot.com They offer membership management software that will simplify your nonprofits day-to-day operations. I also encourage you… don’t forget to connect with Tatiana on LinkedIn so you can learn more about the work she does and learn from her smarts. Tatiana, it was a pleasure having you here as a guest. Thank you so much.
Tatiana: Thank you so much for having me. This is really enjoyable.
Ephraim: A pleasure. Have a great day.
Tatiana: You too.