Foundations, Nonprofits, Communications, Search Engine Optimization, Daniel Murphy, Electric Orange Creative, Google Adwords Keyword Tool, Longtail Keywords, GrowNYC, SEOMOZ. [caption id="attachment_370" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Foundations and Nonprofits Explore Search Engine Optimization"][/caption] The Wednesday, November 2, 2011 meeting of Public Policy Communicators NYC had members discussing search engine optimization. Specifically, we set out to explore how some of the most innovative methods being employed by the for-profit marketing sector to bring companies’ products and services to the top of search results could be employed by nonprofits and foundations to drive traffic to our own sites. Our discussion was lead by Daniel Murphy, the owner of Electric Orange Creative. His marketing agency provides businesses and nonprofits of varying sizes affordable online marketing campaigns. Prior to Electric Orange, Daniel was one of the first employees at YouCast Corp, one of the first social media agencies in NYC and now a division of IAC. While at YouCast he was the creative force behind marketing campaigns for Nike, Schick, Snapple, Twitter, and Kanye West. What SEO is – and ISN’T Search Engine Optimization is a process that increases the probability that Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines will find your site, and most importantly, push you to the top of search results. Without optimizing search, Murphy says, you are at a disadvantage with others competing with your ideas and your cause. SEO is not paid search, which is advertising using CPC traffic (pay-per-click) associated with Google Ad Words and other similar services. Using an example on a keyword search on real estate in a Manhattan neighborhood, Murphy said that the two big factors involved in SEO are the “page title” and the “meta description.” When you do a Google search these are the blue underlined title text and the longer “intro” text in black appearing beneath the title. The key to good SEO, Murphy said, is to make sure that the terms your users actually search on related to your issues are the ones that appear in your page titles and meta data (which is usually determined by the opening paragraph of your intro text, but can be altered). He noted that search engines don’t see pictures, they only see the code behind the visuals. So making sure your code has the right terms is essential. While our discussion would focus on what we could do on our own sites to maximize SEO, he said there were other factors involved in the algorithms search engines use to rank results that are weighted even more heavily. Those are the number of links to the given page or to your site and the “credibility” of those sites. So links from NYTimes.com, CNN.com and blogs with actual traffic and high domain authority will have a big impact on your SEO. That was a good reminder that story placement and traditional media relations are important aspects of creating good search results. (We spent probably more time than we should have talking about “follow” v. “nofollow” links. Only high traffic sites like NYTimes.com use nofollow links, but it may be worth your time, if one of their articles links to your organization to have the link be a “follow” link, which will improve your SEO.) Still, doing all you can do with SEO on your own site is important because 77 percent of users choose organic over paid listings when they search. He said 42 percent of users click the top-ranking link, only 8 percent click the second link and click rates diminish further and further on down the list. Most of Murphy’s advice presumes that the foundation or nonprofit is maintaining a blog on their site. His advice primarily centers on what communicators can do when crafting new articles to use the right words and coding to ensure that they have maximal SEO capacity. Getting started with SEO: Keyword research is the key. To truly understand how people search on the concepts associated with your cause and your issues, it helps to do some simple research. This is what you should do:
- In your own mind, boil down your article topic to its essence – just a few key words. These are the words with which you will start your research.
- Start a keyword “glossary.” This is just so you have a record of your research for future reference, since you will probably want to use certain terms that seem like good prospects many times in the future. Just create a table (can be in Excel or Google Docs or whatever spreadsheet program you like), and create column headings for “Keywords,” “Competition,” “Global Monthly Searches,” “Local Monthly Searches” and “Comments.”
- Start your keyword research. Go to Google Adwords’ keyword tool. Enter in the “Word or phrase” box the key words your article is about and hit “search.” Or, if you are wanting to refine the title and/or metadata for an already existing post on your site, paste the URL into the “website” box and hit “search.” This will bring up a long list of terms associated with your search criteria. This process can also be used when pulling search terms from your competitors’ sites, you simply enter the URL that is similar to your top and hit “search.”
- Determine which keywords have both high search volume AND low competition. The terms from the search returns you should be most interested in, says Murphy, are those that have “low” competition and high numbers of global monthly searches. (Murphy also noted the term “Longtail Keywords,” which is commonly used to describe these terms.) For those terms that have those indications, click the box on the right for each one and then use the “download” box at the top of the table to download a CSV for Excel file, then just open that up and copy and paste the information into your Glossary for safe keeping and future reference.
- Put those keywords into practice. Once you have done your keyword search, you not only have a better sense of what are the terms that people search on but also which have relatively little completion in terms of other sites that use those terms. Rework your article title and/or metadata/opening paragraph to give prominence to those terms.