The Organizer #27 | Communications

How do I make sure my writing gets seen online? Practice good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to ensure that content you publish gets seen.

Search Engine Optimization means writing for robots

This article on Search Engine Optimization is the second in a two-part series about writing for nonprofits.

Good work is too important to be left up to chance

When you are trying to change the world, the nitty-gritty of search engine optimization can feel inconsequential. It can feel like a distraction from what’s “important”.

It’s not.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making sure that content you publish online gets found.

It matters.

Content that gets found online determines who wins elections. Your stories determine who goes to war. They determine which issues get addressed. Content makes and breaks families.

If you truly believe that your work matters and you need people to find you online in order to succeed, then you need basic SEO skills. It’s as simple as that.

So let’s dive in.

Your audience is more than just humans

When you think about your audience, you might think about donors or politicians or members or clients. You might think about the media or residents in a specific community. How often do you include “robots” on that list?

If you or your organization are posting content to the web, then you need to know about the robots.

The robots crawl the web looking for new web sites, or checking to see if old content has changed. These robots keep a log of legitimate web pages and the information they contain. Then, when people use search engines like Google, those pages show up in the results.

Entremission has prepared a Primer for nonprofits to help them understand Search Engine Optimization and how to do it (even when you don’t have a lot of resources). To dive in, skip straight to the Primer.

Managers, this part is for you

If you are a manager of any department in a nonprofit, you should know the basics of Search Engine Optimization. Here’s why:

Search Engine Optimization affects what your organization talks about online

You need to create your content calendar based on topics that matter most to the people you want visiting your website. This means you need to clarify what expertise you offer. It means you figure out what information people need from you. Then you focus your limited resources on creating content that serves those strategic needs.

Have you been posting content based on what you feel like writing about this week? Or maybe you write about the projects taking up the most staff time recently, or stories other nonprofits are talking about. If so, it’s time to rethink your approach.

Don’t just think about your website content from the perspective of “What’s new?” Think about your content from the perspective of “what’s most important?” Then watch how your priorities shift.

Search Engine Optimization affects how you edit your content

Many organizations use their websites to summarize technical information for a general audience.

Organizations that write about policy or science or systemic issues often relying on specialists to prepare content. Those specialists need to be familiar with the basics of SEO. This is the only way to ensure your organization can strike a balance between information that is technically sound and findable by non-experts on the web.

You might have some really, profoundly poetic writers and speakers on your team. They craft beautiful sentences and labour over each word and phrase. When it comes time to polish an article for the website, they may not appreciate seeing their headings or vocabulary simplified. Sadly, the rules of good aesthetic writing and the rules of writing for robots aren’t always the same.

Search Engine Optimization affects your workflow

Writing for the web isn’t the same as writing for print. The editing process doesn’t really begin until you get the content into the website and see how it looks on the screen.

Your communications team should be optimizing content when they post it. It’s impossible to do it all in advance. This means they need to rewrite headings, shorten sentences, and break up paragraphs after a piece has normally been approved. If you publish material in more than one language, they will need to do this for each individual version of the post.

Gone are the days when a manager could sign off on a post in a word processing file and hand it to a comms person to publish. If your organization needs final approval from a manager, that should come after the webpage is done, not before.

Your communications person also needs more time to post an article. They are not just copying and pasting the text from a document anymore, so managers need to leave space in the schedule for the SEO optimization process.

Similarly, once a page has been published, communications or outreach people need spend time circulating it within your community. For important content, they need to reach out partners and other authorities and ask for a backlink. Gone are the days when the comms person could be re-assigned to a new task as soon as the “Publish” button was pressed. Give your team time.

Search Engine Optimization forces you to think strategically

One of the best things about SEO is that it forces you to refer back to your organization’s strategy over and over again. To do SEO well, you need to know what you do, why you do it, and why it matters to other people. There is a list of some strategic questions in Entremission’s Primer to help get you started.

You can do this

SEO is a new skill for nonprofit managers to learn, but it’s one that makes all of your communications work stronger. Don’t be put off by the jargon or the change in workflow. When you embrace these practices, you reach more people, develop deeper relationships, and make a bigger difference with the same resources.

How to do SEO

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