To get a feel for the importance of SEO (search engine optimisation) for charities, try tapping ‘charities in Australia’ into Google, the first few results are marked as Google ads (paid search), with the organic results, or the non-paid listings sitting just below. Roughly 3,600 people search this, or close variations each month. If you’re not doing things with one eye on SEO then you’re clearly going to be missing out on potentially valuable traffic.
For those that are new to SEO it’s worth us giving a very quick refresher of what it’s all about. The organic (non paid) results are pages that Google have ranked as the most relevant and accurate based on whatever the individual searched for.
There are a tonne of factors that contribute to getting your site into the top positions. The truth is that nobody knows the precise combination of factors that will guarantee position number 1 – these change all the time. So when we talk about SEO we’re really talking about a HUGE toolkit of techniques that we can use to help our content rank better, some of them are proven over time, others may be more experimental based on the latest research and testing.
A big chunk of your success with SEO is down to the content on your site. However. even if your website is informative and helpful, with ineffective technical SEO and backlinks pointing to your site your content may remain invisible to those looking for it!
Search engines want the page with the most accurate answer to a users search to be the easiest to find. The most common advice is write for humans and you’ll be rewarded with results! If you can apply this customer centric approach then you’ll be on the right track.
What About SEO and Charities?
Google’s guidelines emphasise the importance of E-A-T which stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. Therefore, to get those top spots for searched pages, you need to naturally earn your place as the most relevant spot.
Depending on how you’re ranking for your target search terms right now, you might need to reach into your SEO toolkit and start prioritising production of new, original, and frequently updated content.
Or you might find your existing site is slower than a slug to load so you may need to focus on improving your page load speed. Maybe you aren’t using keywords in the right way.
It is down to E-A-T to ensure that the user has the best and most accurate experience on a search engine. This is important, good SEO is mostly about providing users, yes PEOPLE, with a good quality experience that answers their question in a fast and clear manner.
This is all especially important for charities as many sites run by non profits fall into the Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) category.
What is YMYL?
You may not have heard of the term Your Money or Your Life (YMYL), it sounds like something you might hear from a street thug ready to rob you of your hard-earned cash. However, in SEO circles it means something completely different.
You probably use YMYL websites daily. They range from news sites to online shopping, health information to government sites. Google defines YMYL pages as: “Some types of pages or topics could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. We call such pages “Your Money or Your Life” pages, or YMYL.”
Essentially, if a page can impact a person’s financial situation or general wellbeing Google will view this site as a YMYL site and have even higher Page Quality rating standards.
These high rating standards aim to protect people from low-quality YMYL pages that could have the potential to negatively impact a person. A low-quality YMYL page could be a page that is malicious or harmful, like a page deliberately spreading misinformation. But it could also be a page that is simply unmaintained with not enough quality content. Google ensures that pages are scrutinised accordingly to provide the best experience for its many users.
Although your page may have the best intentions, by not following Google’s guidelines appropriately, your page may be penalised and ranked lower. As a consequence, your nonprofit page could be harder to find, with fewer people donating to your cause.
What’s the impact of YMYL on Charities and their SEO Plans?
The fact is that most non-profits will find that their content falls into the YMYL category, especially if you’re offering advice or support for people directly using your site.
You may not think that your non-profit or charity falls into the category of a YMYL page, but the scope of what has been considered one of these pages is large. For example, a charity site that provides information about specific groups of people (e.g. ethnic groups, race, sexuality, religion) would be classified as a YMYL page. This could include a charity that aims to support people living with a disability. Despite having a positive cause and legitimate content, the site might still rank poorly.
So if your charity is regarded as a YMYL, your page may have been penalised by Google’s ranking system simply because your page is held to a higher ranking standard. Because of this, it can become more important to invest in SEO to effectively increase E-A-T. Improving E-A-T is a marathon, not a sprint. SEO is something that takes a while, yielding results slowly but surely.
What else can SEO do for non-profits?
SEO can help people easily find your charity, but can also generate leads, increase exposure, and enhance the user experience on your site. Every nonprofit needs outreach, whether you need volunteers, donations, or you want to provide information. You might unknowingly be going unnoticed to a large section of your target audience.
Google offers grants ($10,000USD in online advertising every month) for nonprofits to help charitable organisations increase their reach. Check out some of the benefits of the Google Ad Grant programme here.
If your nonprofit qualifies for this grant, it can become an extremely useful part of your SEO toolkit. The grant gives you visibility in the paid results, but it is also a great source of keyword research before you invest in SEO. Additionally, the grant not only lets you assess search volumes by displaying ads and getting traffic from those searching, but it also lets you see how that traffic performs on your website in terms of conversion rates and user actions. By using Google Ad Grant in the right way you can get clarity as to where you should focus your investment when it comes to SEO and how much you stand to benefit from SEO.
What Should Your Charity Do Next?
Most charities and nonprofits have enormous untapped opportunities when it comes to SEO. The challenge is made slightly tougher as you’re likely to be categorised as a YMYL page.
SEO can provide benefits and increase reach for virtually any business. The tangibility of outcomes you get from SEO will depend on where you focus your investment.
It’s important to remember that SEO is not something that yields overnight success, with results from a sustained investment typically taking 3-6 months to show.
The key benefit that charities seem to reap from SEO investment is the long-term competitive advantage once their rankings start to improve, with high-quality traffic literally flooding into the site. Even if you can’t afford to invest in SEO via a professional (like us) then you can start taking steps towards improving your rankings now by putting in place a clear, sustainable plan to produce high-quality, market-leading content on an ongoing basis.
You should start by making sure you’re maximising your Google Ad Grant account and then feeding these learnings into your long-term SEO plans. Get started with the Google Ad Grant today.