Craig Van Korlaar (TopNonprofits) Q: How do you explain SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to someone who is not familiar with it?
Kris Reid (Ardor SEO): Interrupt marketing is the old world, the “traditional” forms of marketing. TV, radio, newspaper, and even Facebook ads are interrupt marketing. People are watching their favorite show, listening to music or catching up with friends and then interrupted by your marketing message. At least with Facebook, advertisers can target a much tighter audience, rather than screaming your message to a vast audience in the hope that you’ll hit a few potential customers.
SEO is the polar opposite. You are not interrupting anyone. These are genuine, real people that are actively searching for exactly what you do. They are looking right now, for you to solve their problem.
Every business or organization, whether for-profit or nonprofit, was created to solve a problem; and Search Engines (primarily Google) are the places that people go to, more than any other place online or offline to find the solution to their problems. To find, you.
Q: Why should SEO be a part of every nonprofit’s online strategy?
Kris (AMF): Even if you were able to get the same return on your investment from interrupt marketing or SEM (Search Engine Marketing or Google Adwords paid search results) as you were with SEO, SEO would still win as its results are compounding.
Let’s say you spend $1,000 per month on SEM or Facebook marketing. On average this generates 100 clicks and ten donations. As long as this is profitable for your organization, great! Do it and don’t stop as long it is profitable. But remember that $1,000 will only ever generate ten customers. As the market becomes more competitive over time (as every valuable niche does), you’ll need to pay more per click – those ten customers will become more and more expensive.
Now with SEO, you invest the same $1,000 per month into your strategy. The first month it may only generate 50 clicks which result in five customers, but unlike the other strategies, SEO is compounding. That increases will still be there next month, and as you continue to invest, you rank better and better each month, for more and more keywords. Month two may net you 75 clicks, month three 100 clicks, month four 125 clicks, month five 150 and it will just continue to grow, with long-term exponential consistent predictability.
Q: How has SEO changed over time?
Before Google, there was a host of other Search Engines. Yahoo!, Altervista, Excite to name but a few. Google destroyed them all by providing more accurate, more reliable and more consistent search results.
The Search Engine world is extremely valuable, and for Google to stay on top, they need to continually strive to provide a fantastic user experience and present the most accurate, reliable results.
Google has some of the best minds and engineers on the planet working on this, and their algorithm updates continually improve results. But the fundamentals are always the same:
- Have a technically sound website, that is reliable and loads decently
- Have great content that speaks to the user and solves their problem
- Have authority in your niche/market. Google needs to be able to trust what you say.
Q: What are backlinks and why are they important?
Before Google, all Search Engines were based on text. They would parse the text on your website, and if you had “Buy Blue Ski Boots” written more times than anyone else, you would be the top spot. As you can imagine, this worked out terribly!
Google doesn’t implicitly trust what you say. If you write an article on your site about “How to Buy Blue Ski Boots” they’ll parse the text but if no one else cares about it, neither will Google.
Think of it like a man screaming alone in a forest, no one is there to hear or listen and so neither will Google. Rather imagine you write your article on buying ski boots, and it starts getting traction. Skiers Daily likes your article and links to it. Skiers World follows suit, followed by Winter Sports Chronicles. Now Google knows it can trust your content. Credible, industry authorities have vouched for you so Google knows they can safely rank your content as the solution to their user’s problem of buying blue ski boots.
Q: What should a nonprofit do to monitor their SEO?
For standard nonprofits, there is an easy calculation that can be used
- What is the average donation size?
- What is the net value (after costs are subtracted)??
- What’s the current conversion rate of your website or particular landing pages
- How much search traffic does your website currently receive?
- How many more customers do you want?
From this, you can calculate a predictable strategy for stable, consistent growth.
Say a new online donation results in an average of $100 net (after expenses) for your nonprofit. Your conversion rate for your donation landing page is one in ten visitors (10%), and your page receives 1,000 visitors per month. That 1,000 visitors equates to 100 donors and $10,000 net donations(1000 visitors x 10% x $100 average value=$10,000).
You now have two levers to play with:
- Increase the conversion rate
- Increase the traffic/visitors
Increase the conversion rather to 20%, your profit increases to $20,000.
Increase the traffic from 1,000 to 2,000 and you get the same result, $20,000.
It certainly depends on your starting point as to which lever should be utilized first. If your conversion rate is terrible, less than 1 in 1000, I would start there. Increasing your conversion rate does have a finite limit, where traffic is practically infinite.
Q: What danger signs should someone look out for when considering someone to help with their SEO?
When you get sick, you don’t go to med school; you hire a doctor. I strongly believe it should be the same with your digital strategy. Understand it enough so that you know that the cure aligns with your goals but stay focused on what you do, your business, and let a professional help design and implement the strategy.
People don’t always buy the best product, the buy the one that is easiest to understand. This is why many SEO companies have set packages, small, medium and large. I believe that these kind of packages are good for the SEO company, but do not have the customers best interest at heart.
Every nonprofit is different. They have different goals and different starting points. I would recommend working with someone that takes the time to understand your business, understand your goals and then provides a tailor-made strategy to help you achieve those goals.
Also, you want to avoid someone that participates in shady SEO practices that try and game Google’s algorithm in an unnatural way. These “black hat” tactics might work in the short term, but Google has invested interest in catching these and can even penalize a website that violates its guidelines.
Q: What key performance indicators are most important when it comes to SEO and inbound marketing?
At the end of the day, no one cares about Search Engine rankings. They don’t even care about traffic. They care about new business, new customers.
The only indicator that really matters is conversion rate. How many new customers did we get and at what cost? For any business to grow, you need to have a consistent and reliable stream of customers at a predictable investment that makes sense for your business.
About Kris Reid
Kris is an author, speaker, and educator. Helping businesses owners understand the digital world and build consistent, reliable growth for their business.
If you would like to discuss a digital strategy to help grow your business, please book a free consultation with Kris himself.