In a 2022 study conducted by HubSpot, organic search was ranked the top source of website traffic for all of the 1,600-plus participating organizations. Organic search, or natural search, refers to the results on a search engine that are not influenced by paid ads. In other words, these results are the content that appears first on the page (or the “top-ranking” pages) that isn’t marked with a “Sponsored” flag.

To attract more organic search traffic, your website should have high-quality, useful content that includes keywords relevant to your mission to encourage the search engine to rank the pages for those terms. Then, potential supporters search those keywords, click your top-ranking page, and, ideally, donate to your campaigns.

In this guide, we’ll explore how you can effectively communicate with donors via SEO-optimized content to secure top-ranking positions for keywords related to your mission—and bring in more funding for that cause.

1. Perform in-depth keyword research.

SEO keyword research is the process of identifying and exploring what your target audience is searching for on search engines. These keywords should hit the sweet spot between high search volume and low competition. You want enough people searching for the term that your nonprofit attracts donors, but not so many that you’re unable to break into the top three positions on the search engine results page (SERP), which receive the lion’s share of traffic.

Some basic tips to keep in mind as you begin your keyword research journey include:

  • Studying the intent funnel. This funnel includes three key stages: awareness, consideration, and conversion. Each stage is a part of the donor’s journey toward donating (i.e., conversion). Pay attention to where the keywords you choose fall on this funnel. For example, prospective supporters in the awareness phase would search the keyword “cat rescues near me” while those in the conversion phase might search “Kitty Angel Cat Rescue donation page.”
  • Considering long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are more specific keywords made up of a long phrase. Typically, they have a lower search volume because a smaller group of users with a more specific need is searching for them. This means you’ll have less competition for the term and will attract more potential donors. Broader keywords, on the other hand, attract a broader audience—not as many of these clicks will end in a conversion.
  • Using keyword tools. Keyword and SEO tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Moz, and Semrush can help you see what your site is currently ranking for and identify related terms. Additionally, they’ll reveal metrics for each potential keyword like monthly search volume, how difficult it is to rank for that keyword, and what the SERP looks like for the term.

Before we move on to the next step—creating compelling content—take a moment to evaluate the technical state of your website. Even if you choose the best keywords and write amazing content, a poorly structured site, a difficult-to-use content management system, or other technical SEO issues can inhibit your ability to drive traffic to key web pages. An SEO professional can help you diagnose and treat these issues so they don’t hinder your progress in the search rankings.

2. Create compelling, helpful content.

Quality content benefits your nonprofit in two ways. First, it signals to the search engine that your webpage deserves to rank highly for the target keyword. Second, it keeps users that click through on your website for longer, which makes them more likely to engage more deeply with your organization.

To create compelling content, Allegiance Group + Pursuant’s guide to digital marketing recommends using clear and concise copy, engaging graphics and visuals, social proof, and inspiring calls to action. For SEO content, we also recommend keeping these tips in mind:

  • Study and address user intent. In this context, intent refers to what users are hoping to get when they search for a keyword. Determine what that intent is by studying what content is currently ranking highly for the term. Then, emulate the standout features of those pages, expand on those attributes, and add your own unique spin to create even stronger content.
  • Try creating ranch-style content. This content strategy involves creating very targeted pieces of content that are driven by your organization’s unique stance or perspective. It contrasts against the skyscraper method, in which you would write longer, very comprehensive content that takes a more neutral stance.
  • Keep content evergreen. This simply means that content remains useful to readers long after publishing. Content like news articles, seasonal topics, and pieces on trending topics won’t remain relevant for long; while how-to guides, FAQs, or impact stories will. Don’t be afraid to cover more topical subjects your supporters care about—just know that they won’t be top-performing, SEO powerhouses.

Just as you need to meet users’ intent with your content, you need to work within the search engine’s algorithm to secure those top-ranking positions. For example, Google released its AI Overviews feature in May 2024, which had a major impact on SERPs. You can stay up to date with updates Google makes to its platform by browsing blogs from trusted thought leaders in the SEO space like Search Engine Journal.

3. Focus on link-building.

Link-building is a critically important part of successful SEO strategies—this step is what sets SEO apart from content marketing. In the SEO world, there are two types of links you’ll need to get familiar with:

  • Internal links: These links point users to another page within your website domain. For example, a supporter is reading a blog post and clicks on a link that takes them to a resource about becoming a volunteer. The goal of internal linking is to help users navigate your site, find additional helpful content, and eventually convert.
  • External links: Also called outbound links, these links point users to a webpage outside of the domain they are visiting. For your SEO strategy, you’ll want to secure external links from relevant, reputable websites to establish credibility. This could look like a thought leader in your space linking to your website in one of their blog posts. Or, you might write a guest post for one of these blogs that contains links to your content.

A solid linking strategy can help you build trust within your community, boost digital donor acquisition, form stronger relationships with leading organizations in your space, and increase your online visibility.

4. Take advantage of local SEO.

Have you ever Googled something like “dog daycare near me” to find a business in your local area? Local SEO can help you take advantage of potential supporters who are doing the same thing.

Local SEO is the process of optimizing your content and web presence to attract more local traffic to your site. This can be particularly helpful for small, community-oriented nonprofits that rely on the support of local donors, volunteers, and event attendees.

To get started, you’ll need to create a Google Business Profile. This shows Google that your nonprofit is reputable and helps you maintain accurate information about your organization (e.g., address, website, and phone number).

These profiles also allow you to post photos, collect feedback, and attract new supporters. Plus, your nonprofit will start to appear for location-based searches, such as “animal shelters near me” or “cat rescues in Atlanta,” driving even more organic traffic to your site.

5. Monitor performance analytics.

Throughout your SEO campaigns, you’ll need to closely monitor your content’s performance. Studying this data will help you identify which strategies work well and which ones don’t resonate with your audience or the search engine algorithms. Then, you can course correct by refreshing content, switching up your keyword strategy, or revamping your calls to action.

To accurately measure campaign performance, 360MatchPro recommends defining specific goals, identifying the proper KPIs, setting up conversion tracking, and comparing your performance against relevant industry benchmarks. Most organizations track metrics like organic traffic, click-through rate, keyword rankings, backlinks and referring domains, and organic traffic conversions to measure the success of their SEO efforts.

While the world of SEO may seem unfamiliar and intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. It starts with useful, mission-aligned content that gets supporters excited about your mission and ready to take action. Additionally, you don’t have to go it alone. If you work with a marketing agency that is skilled in SEO, the team there can leverage its expertise and resources to make your results skyrocket.