5 Local SEO Tips for Nonprofits

local seo for nonprofits
NOTE: As of December 2021, Google My Business (GMB) is now Google Business Profile (GBP). This article has been updated from the original postdate of December 1, 2020 to reflect this new name change. 

Everyone knows that marketing is disruptive—it’s meant to be. It’s designed to pull you away from whatever you’re doing, and distract you with a solution to your problems. It’s powerful, but can sometimes rub people the wrong way (if it’s not done well). Search Engine Optimization (SEO), though? It’s about the only marketing tactic that’s designed to offer value before asking you to take an action. It’s used to help people find what they’re already looking for. 
Searches online without the phrase “near me” have grown 150 percent over the last two years, according to Google. Do you know what that means? It means people expect that the “local” part of their search is implied. This is a great opportunity for you—the opportunity to reach your local audience, and people you know are already interested in you. You can use this to get donations, engage your established donors, and share your mission with the rest of the world. 
Before we get into our nonprofit tips, let’s look at the main factors that impact your local SEO rankings in the first place: trust, distance, relevance, and prominence. 
How trustworthy is your nonprofit—not to people, but to Google? This will be determined by things like donor reviews and how many high-authority websites link to your website. 
In terms of optimizing your local SEO, this one’s hard to change. But how close your nonprofit is to whoever’s searching for your services will impact how you’re ranked in the results. 
How well does your nonprofit match the search term someone’s using? Making sure that your website (specifically the copy) clearly conveys what kind of organization you are and what your mission is will go a long way in helping people find you. 
You want your name out there! The more often your nonprofit shows up on the internet, the more prominent it will be when it comes to ranking on Google. Maybe a local news outlet mentioned your organization in an article, or your nonprofit is listed on a directory site like Charity Navigator. Things like that make your organization more prominent and, therefore, more likely to show up in searches. 
Okay, okay—now onto the fun part! The tips!

#1: Google My Business, now Google Business Profile 

You probably get the hint at this point: Google is super important. It accounts for 88 percent of all online searches, after all. Plus, 46 percent of those online searches have local intent. 
If you don’t already have one, create a free Google Business Profile (GBP) page for your organization. With a GBP page, your nonprofit will show up on Google Maps, which means your odds of getting listed in Google’s local 3-pack increase. In other words, more people will find you faster. 
Creating a GBP page is one of the best ways to appease all four ranking factors. If you’ve made it this far in this article, you’re already in a good spot. 
Interested in more information about GBP pages? Click here

#2: Claim Your Local Business (Nonprofit) Listing

There’s a long list of places where you can create business (nonprofit) listings. These places, like social networking sites and websites like angieslist.com, present you with a lot of local citation opportunities. That’s a fancy way of saying opportunities to get your organization in front of more people. 
Claiming and managing your nonprofit listings can help you rank higher in local search. Make sure you’re creating complete, accurate, and engaging experiences for your audience wherever you claim a listing. 

#3: Develop an Online Review Strategy

Reputation is priceless, both on- and offline. This is especially true for nonprofits—people care about where their money goes, and want to know that they can trust you to do the right thing with it. Make sure you have a review plan in place—how to get more reviews, and how to manage the ones you get. 
Review quantity, recency, and quality are all things Google takes into consideration. Here are some tips for getting/managing reviews:
Make It Accessible
Don’t make people jump through hoops to leave you a review—most people will give up after even the smallest obstacle. Make sure it takes as few clicks as possible. 
Just Ask!
We know, it can feel like you’re pestering people to do you a favor. But 76 percent of people who were asked to leave a review did so, according to a 2019 study. That’s huge! It never hurts to ask. It does hurt to pester. You’ll figure out the balance. 
Make sure you’re responding to reviews. Yes, even the ones that made you cry. When you reply to a review, it shows everyone that you’re an active nonprofit, as well as a real person doing their best. Responding to reviews has also been proven to increase conversion rates. 
Bad Review? It’s Not the End of the World
In fact, 90 percent of people are open to changing their negative reviews if their problems are solved. Going back to our second review tip, sometimes all you have to do is ask. And sometimes, all people want is for someone to care. 
Some Things You Shouldn’t Do
Don’t ever ask for reviews in bulk. This typically means sending several requests at one time via an automated platform. Request reviews one-on-one instead to avoid going against Google’s policies. 
Also, don’t ever pay for reviews. This should be a no-brainer, and also goes against Google’s policies. 

#4: Keyword Research

It’s all about using the right keywords and avoiding the wrong ones. Sounds simple, right? Basically, you just have to get inside the head of your ideal donor. What are they looking for? What problems do they want to be solved? And, more specifically, what are they typing into Google to find the solution?
You need to figure out what they’re searching, for and what they expect to see once they’ve searched. That includes doing some research on your industry’s negative keywords. For example, if a company sells adult diapers, you might want to list “baby diapers” as a negative keyword. People will get frustrated if your product pops up when they aren’t actually looking for it. 

#5: On-page Optimization

This is the process of optimizing particular pages on your website for whatever keywords you’re looking to rank for. 
Google is constantly trying to figure you out—it wants to determine what exactly it is you offer, so it can show you to the right people. Optimizing your page content, page titles, meta descriptions, etc. can help out big time. Here are a few tips for optimizing well:
E-A-T Content
Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness—these are the things Google uses to determine whether content is high-quality or not. If it is, you get ranked higher! Click here to learn more about E-A-T content. 
Page Speed
Don’t forget about page load speed—that’s a search engine ranking factor. If your page loads too slowly, not only will potential donors bounce, but Google won’t rank you as highly. 
Keyword Cannibalization
Look out for keyword cannibalization. Sounds scary, but it’s easy to avoid—simply focus on different keywords for each page. You don’t want more than one page on your website competing against each other for the same keyword!

Have Questions?

Phew, we just threw a lot at you. We know digital marketing isn’t a one-person job, and we’re ready to help. Get in touch with us—we’ll grab coffee and get to know your nonprofit.